The situation surrounding Elton Brand's last minute departure from the Clippers to the Philadelphia 76ers over the summer to this day remain a bit murky. There was a lot of he-said, she-said that went down between Brand, Clippers' coach (and acting GM) Mike Dunleay, and Brand's agent, David Falk. There's one thing that's certain though, and that's that the coach and his former player are both harboring some lingering resentment, as the two haven't spoken since the contract negotiations broke down a few months ago.
An article in today's New York Times stirs up those bad feelings again, and I guess it really was kind of crazy the way the whole thing went down. Everything seemed to be going just fine, when Brand was negotiating himself with Dunleavy. Things were very informal, with lots of back and forth communicating happening via text message, which ironically, was the way that the two last communicated. It seemed that David Falk, Brand's agent, had stepped in by telling Brand in no uncertain terms to stop it, and that's pretty much where the talks stopped.
“My last correspondence with him was July 1 at 7:57 p.m.,” Dunleavy recently said in a telephone interview. “He texted, ‘Hey Coach, I have some problem with some language and the E.T.O.’
“By the next morning, I texted him back and said I got it taken care of and to call me. I haven’t heard from him since.”
At that point, Brand recalled, his agent, David Falk, told him: “Turn your phone off. You’re not talking to them anymore. I’m your agent. Let me do my job.”
I'm not going to turn this into an "agents are bad" story, because the fact is, they usually do a lot of good for their clients. And Falk's actions in playing hardball with the Clippers and steering Brand in Philadelphia's direction was him doing what he must have believed to be in Elton Brand's best interest. But Brand cutting off all communications with the team -- even after the decision was made to leave -- seems unnecessarily harsh, and isn't something that can be pinned on his agent. Not surprisingly, Dunleavy feels a little betrayed by how Brand left town.
“It was an issue how Elton left. To me, it was that he didn’t even call or explain it after the time we had together. I basically did all I could for the guy. He could have called me up and said this is better for my family and I would have said O.K. What could I do with that?
“After being with somebody for five years and being as close as I thought I was with someone and a guy gives his word, that’s all it would have taken as far as I’m concerned. It’s just one of those types of things.”
So did Brand owe Dunleavy an explanation after playing seven seasons for someone who he called the best pro coach he ever played for? Probably, and obviously Dunleavy thinks so too. You can't fault Brand for leaving if he felt it was a better situation for him personally and financially in Philadelphia. But after the way he chose to leave town, the broken relationship he now has with Dunleavy is nobody's fault but his own.