Hawes showing consistent versatility

Posted: November 22, 2013

THERE IS not a lot, if any, looking back for the 76ers organization this season. The model being put into place is one whose pieces are aligned for the future, and many of those pieces haven't even been obtained yet.

But Wednesday night you couldn't help but think what could have been.

With Thaddeus Young away from the team due to personal issues, coach Brett Brown moved Spencer Hawes to the power forward position and started Daniel Orton at the center. Hawes properly responded by pouring in his Sixers' career-high 28 points on 10-for-13 shooting. He also snared 10 rebounds and dealt three assists.

Remember before last season the plan was for Hawes to be the starting power forward alongside Andrew Bynum? Doug Collins envisioned Hawes prospering by sliding down to the four spot, as long as he was paired with someone who could bully the middle on the offensive and defensive end, one of the trio of Bynum, Kwame Brown and Lavoy Allen.

Of course, that never came to fruition because of the kickstand knees that Bynum brought to Philadelphia, and Hawes was plugged into his normal center spot. He has had his ups and downs during his three prior seasons as a Sixer, showing incredible promise at the beginning of the 2011-12 season, only to be hampered by an Achilles' injury that negated him getting back to the early season form.

Now, with the help of coach Brown's up-tempo system, Hawes is playing the best and most consistent basketball of his career. He has scored in double figures in all but one game this season for the 5-8 Sixers, including three games of 20 or more. He has accumulated eight double-doubles and is averaging 16.2 points and 10.2 rebounds. He is making 51.6 percent of his shots, including 23-for-47 (48.9 percent) from three-point range, to go with 41 assists to 28 turnovers and a team-leading 22 blocks. Hawes, Thaddeus Young and Evan Turner have suddenly become the veteran leaders of a painfully young team.

"He's surprised me all over the place because what I see is an extremely versatile player that is a hell of a teammate," said Brown of his 7-footer. "His ability to pass - look at the backdoor passes he's hit our guys on. His ability to go to the three-point line and change games like that, we've seen. [Wednesday] night without Thaddeus we went to him and made him more of a target out of the post and he showed a range of skills from hook shots to drop steps and so on like that. He's a really good player that is young. His better days are ahead of him."

Where those better days happen is another question. Hawes is a free agent after this season, in which he is making $6.5 million. His numbers will probably guarantee him some nice paydays over the next three or four seasons.

"I'm a young/old 25-year-old," Hawes said. "There's always stuff that you can improve on, but as much as you can say, 'This is what I'm going to bring every night,' and then go ahead and do it, it makes it easier on everybody. The things that I wanted to get better at in the offseason I've done a good job of early, and I just have to continue pressing forward to do so as the games keep coming and we keep plugging forward.

"I think as a whole this is the best that I've been playing. It's continuing to improve and having the opportunity to show what you've been working on. A lot of guys kind of get comfortable and in the offseason you have to take every opportunity to really improve one or two facets of your game and continue to have that mindset that it pays dividends down the line, and sometimes guys come out at different stages."

After the team's practice yesterday, Brown worked some one-on-one drills with injured rookie Nerlens Noel. As he approached the media to talk, I asked if Hawes playing at the four is maybe his ideal spot.

"I think if you put me in a box, yes, but it needs to be answered when you know who the center is," Brown said. "He's so versatile where he can do what we all know what he can do. When you put him next to a legitimate center he's a little bit, or a lot of bit, different. Inevitably, for me, you just go straight to matchups. Is he guarding a mobile, quicker four? He might have some problems. Chasing Ryan Anderson around the gym isn't a great matchup for Spencer. I can see how if you paired him next to a legitimate center he probably would have a natural position as a four man."

"Could he be paired with Noel?" I asked.

"I think so. I think that offensively, yes," Brown answered. "Defensively I see [Noel] being able to roam. I think that because he's so young and at this stage, thin, he may struggle initially with bigger type of players. But yes. Could those two play next to each other? Yes they could."

With Noel probably not slated to see the court until next season as he recovers from his torn ACL, the only way it could happen would be for the Sixers to sign Hawes after the season.

That might be looking a little too far ahead. But that's what this organization is about this season.

Dribbles

UPCOMING GAMES

Milwaukee Bucks at Sixers

When: Tonight, 7 o’clock

Where: Wells Fargo Center

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WPEN (97.5 FM)

Game stuff: The Bucks (2-8) have lost six straight games. They have used eight different starting lineups through their first 10 games. They are a very good three-point shooting team at 41.3 percent, though they have scored more than 80 points just once in the past three games.

Sixers at Indiana Pacers

When: Tomorrow, 7 p.m.

Where: Bankers Life Fieldhouse

TV/Radio: Comcast SportsNet/WPEN (97.5 FM)

Game stuff: The Pacers are playing some of the best basketball in the league right now and are perfect at home, 6-0. They won their first nine games of the season before losing in Chicago. Heading into tonight’s game they led the NBA with 97 blocked shots.

Sixers at Orlando Magic

When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Where: Amway Center

TV/Radio: Comcast Network/WPEN (97.5 FM)

Game stuff: This will be a battle of two of the youngest teams in the league as the Magic’s current roster boasts one rookie, four players with 1 year of experience and three players with 2 years in the league. Former Saint Joseph’s star Jameer Nelson is now in his 10th season, all in

Orlando.

BY THE NUMBERS

136: That’s how many three-pointers Spencer Hawes has hit for his career, which ties him for third all-time among players 7-feet or taller. He trails only Dirk Nowitzki (1,363 going into today) and Andrea Bargnani (593).

30: That’s Hawes’ career high, collected on Jan. 1, 2010, as a member of the Sacramento Kings against the Los Angeles Lakers. He came close to that on Wednesday with 28 points for the Sixers against Toronto.

14.3: That’s Evan Turner’s average over the past three games. He was averaging 23.4 over the first 10 games of the season.


On Twitter: @BobCooney76

Blog: ph.ly/Sixerville

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