Very quietly, Hawes is getting off to best start of his career

Posted: November 14, 2013

SPENCER HAWES' 7-year NBA career has been marked by inconsistency and whispers that he's soft.

Last season, for instance, he had only three games in which he pulled down at least 15 rebounds. And he went through a stretch of 29 games in which he registered single-digit boards in 27 of them. And on five occasions, he followed up 20-point-plus performances with six-points-or-fewer stinkers.

Watching Hawes play could be frustrating, not knowing what you're getting from one game to the other.

But this season, while rookie Michael Carter-Williams has been compared to everybody from Oscar Robertson to Magic Johnson, and Evan Turner has turned into one of the NBA' top scorers, Hawes has limboed under the radar, putting up his best-ever start to a season. Yes, it's only eight games, but these are games in which no one ever thought the Sixers would be 4-4, and expecting Hawes to average 15.8 points, 10.8 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, while shooting 53.8 percent from the field, including 48.3 percent from three, would have been just as incredible. Did we mention he's third in the league in double-doubles, with five, and barely missed a sixth?

Could it be that Hawes, only 25, is finally coming into his own? Or could it be that new head coach Brett Brown has arrived at just the right time to bring out the best in the 7-foot, 245-pound center? Maybe a little bit of both.

As for Hawes maturing, Brown said: "I haven't spent enough time with him to make that judgment. But I know from my 3 months with Spencer, he's been A-plus on and off the court. He's an intelligent person, he's a smart basketball player and his is one of the voices I listen to.

"For me, personally, I'm grateful to be able to come into my first year and have somebody that has been as professional as he's been with the start of our year."

As for Hawes, he's shooting threes consistently well, knocking down at least 50 percent of those shots in seven of his eight games. He looks comfortable on the court, at ease, in control.

"It's finally having that comfort zone," Hawes said, "the chemistry of the guys around me and comfort zone of being able to play to my strengths and not worry so much about the weaknesses; just go out there and take it in stride."

Brown has followed the same formula with Hawes, letting him do what he does best.

"I think it starts with the knowledge that we need him in a bunch of ways," Brown said. "We need his leadership, we need his skill package. I hope that we've created an environment that can cater and extract his best in both those areas.

"He's been really, really good for me in a bunch of ways. And I think that his oncourt performance speaks for itself."

No longer under the heavy hand of Doug Collins, Hawes is flourishing under Brown, at least through eight games.

"The system he runs, if you get out and run as a big and rebound and run, he really wants to reward you,'' Hawes said. "And he put me in a position to space the floor more than I've done in the past and let me play out there."

But playing out there gives the perception that Hawes is soft. Brown dismisses that notion.

"People can confuse [being soft] because he'll step out and shoot a three," the coach said. "People will think 7-foot and you're not getting 15, 14 rebounds? What they should look at is that he has an unusual skill set that we should exploit and create an environment where he can succeed. And secondly, it's not like he's 300 pounds and he's going to get in there and push other bigs around. So I hope that we put him in the best possible place that he can be in so the team can reap the benefit of it."

As for that maturity thing, Hawes said, "I think you kinda get to that point where you feel it starts clicking a little bit better, and the game slows down and gets a little easier."

He then added, "The cliché is big guys always develop later. I don't know if that's necessarily the case, but I guess it was with me."

Hawes smiled and laughed, knowing better days are ahead.

Michael Carter-Williams tweaked his left foot during Monday's loss to San Antonio. "I think I just stepped on somebody's foot," the rookie said. He rested the foot yesterday and said he should be ready to go tonight in Houston . . . In their first nine games, including tonight, the Sixers will have played against a team that suits up a No. 1 overall pick. Tonight, it's Dwight Howard.

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