Pretty sneaky – slipping Elton Brand into the game midway through the first quarter  a day before his scheduled return. 

EB's first bucket of the season comes on an awkward high S/R with Smush Parker.  It’s not the side job we’re used to seeing from Brand, but a drag toward the hole, where Parker finds him before Francisco Elson can. Elton hits a clunky layup falling away – but it’s the most beautiful finish of the season.   The second hoop – with only two seconds remaining in the 1st period – is decidedly more Eltonian:  He finds a soft spot in the Seattle zone at the FT line, flashes up from the block, and hits the jumper. 

Brand was slated to play only about five minutes, but he goes 26 minutes: 19 points, 7-15 FG, 5-5 FT, 5 rebounds, and a block.  

How great is it to see Brand at 5:58 in the 4th quarter, setting up at his favorite spot at the left elbow where he shoots his face-up J over Nick Collison to stretch the Clipper lead to 11?  Or how about a few minutes before that, when he works the high S/R with Parker: He's able to elude Collison on the roll, receive the ball in stride down the lane, then glide for the layup and draw the foul?  And do you remember what life is like when you have an actual power forward defending an opposing post player on a pick-and-roll?

Elton is clearly rusty.  And it’ll probably be a while before he’s able to get the kind of separation and space we’re accustomed to seeing when he bounces off a screen.  And he’s not yet getting full elevation on his turnaround jumper, though he finally nailed it over Collison on his third attempt from the same spot off the mid-left post [4th, 3:17]. 

Overall, though, any fears that the injury would be irreparable to his game have been quelled. 

UPDATE: Good to see that the LA Times employed "Staff and Wire Reports" to cover Brand's long-awaited return last night. 

When it comes to the demise [self-immolation?] of the daily sports page in America, sometimes you don't know whether to laugh or cry.