It might be time for Elton Brand to ease off the accelerator.
The All-Star power forward's work ethic is second to none in the league, his teammates and opponents say, but Brand has often appeared out of sync in the Clippers' first four games.
Brand has not been as active on offense after his heavy workload last season and in the summer with the U.S. national team, Western Conference scouts following the Clippers said. Moreover, opponents are double-teaming Brand more than they did at the outset of last season.
The seven-year veteran's high energy level was evident as he averaged a personal-best 24.7 points, 10 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots last season, but the scouts have said that Brand hasn't displayed a similar spark this season.
Brand has started slowly with an average of 14.8 points and 8.3 rebounds in the first four games. He failed to score in double figures for the second time in the last three games in Monday's 102-89 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers at Staples Center.
In Monday's game, Brand missed six of eight shots and had only eight points and four rebounds.
Coach Mike Dunleavy says he has noticed.
Out of respect for Brand, Dunleavy hasn't insisted that the Clippers' franchise player alter his intense post-practice routine of shooting and weightlifting. Dunleavy, however, recently encouraged Brand to reduce his workload after practice "just until he gets his second wind."
The Clippers need Brand for the long haul, Dunleavy said.
"I told him that we know he's got great work ethic," Dunleavy said. "Nobody is going to question his toughness or anything about him based on what he's done.
"He just needs to understand that the most valuable thing he could do for us is give us himself as close to 100% on the floor at all times. That's the main thing."
Corey Maggette would have been a part-time starter had he not volunteered to come off the bench for the remainder of the season, Dunleavy said.
Maggette would have started in the season opener against the Phoenix Suns but suffered from food poisoning before the game. Dunleavy also planned to put Maggette in the opening lineup against Portland.
On Monday, in his first official game as the sixth man, Maggette played 28 minutes, scored 20 points and grabbed nine rebounds. He made seven of 14 shots and committed only two turnovers.
"One of our strengths is that we can exploit a lot of matchups, so we're going to have different starting lineups," Dunleavy said. "And what Corey offered to do just makes us more versatile to get the matchups we want."
vs. Dallas, FSN Prime Ticket
Site -- Staples Center.
Radio -- 710.
Records -- Clippers 3-1, Mavericks 0-3.
2005-06 record vs. Mavericks -- 1-3.
Update -- The defending Western Conference champion Mavericks are off to a slow start. "They're a very good team with a lot of pride, so I'm sure they didn't expect to be in this position," Dunleavy said. "We have to be that much more focused and intent on winning." Forward Josh Howard, who suffered a sprained left ankle in Monday's loss to the Golden State Warriors, did not accompany the Mavericks on a three-game trip and is expected to be out for two weeks.