Hawes missed a couple of weeks during the preseason with a back injury that he says is fully healed now. But that time off the court was a major setback, according to Collins.
"He's just struggling right now and I think a lot of it has to do with missing the time and not being able to get used to his teammates and get comfortable with what we're trying to do," Collins said. "It's not easy to miss time the way he did with a new team, a new coach, and then jump right back in. It's going to take some time for him, but we're hoping he comes around quickly."
Picking up the slack on the inside has been power forward Elton Brand, who has scored in double figures in each of the three games so far (14.7 average) and is pulling down nine rebounds a game.
"He's got the heart of a lion," Collins said of the 6-9 Brand. "He fights every night. Saturday, he was playing against Roy Hibbert [7-2], who has him by 5 inches, and he gave him everything he got. Elton probably missed five or six jumpers from 8 or 9 feet that all hit the front rim. He usually makes those shots, but I think he was a little tired from playing [38 minutes] the night before [in loss to Atlanta]."
Brand had 12 points and 10 boards against the Pacers, and also blocked four shots. His work ethic is something Collins considers a positive for his teammates, if they take the time to notice.
"Guys see how he's out there working and it should have a huge effect on the younger players," Collins said. "That's the importance of veteran leadership, especially with a team like this that is so young and will be battling and scratching with teams with more talent."
"I have complete confidence in my body," said Brand, now completely healed from Achilles' and shoulder injuries. "I want to touch the ball. I want to get it. I want to help this team succeed."
The Sixers visit the Washington Wizards tomorrow night. The Wizards are 0-2 with road losses to Orlando and Atlanta . . . The Sixers have shot 42.8 percent from the floor (107-for-250) while their opponents have made 46.5 percent (106-for-228) . . . Backup center Tony Battie
suffered a quad strain on Saturday and is listed day-to-day . . . Andres Nocioni
replaced Jason Kapono
in the starting lineup and contributed six points and seven rebounds in 31 minutes, 32 seconds. Kapono, who started the first two games, did not play . . . The Sixers are averaging a dismal 16.7 points in the third quarter . . . Rookie big man Craig Brackins
and second-year guard Jodie Meeks
were scratched for the third straight game . . . Reserve center/forward Marreese Speights
saw his most minutes of the season on Saturday, though he still played a little more than 8 minutes.
Daily News sports writer Phil Jasner contributed to this story.
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