Hawes an unexpected weapon for Brown, Sixers


Hawes an unexpected weapon for Brown, Sixers

In the summer of 2010, the Sixers sent a disgruntled Samuel Dalembert to the Sacramento Kings for Andres Nocioni, who was beyond his prime, and a 7-foot center with three years of NBA experience in Spencer Hawes.

Three and a half years later, Dalembert is playing for his fourth team in as many seasons and Hawes is one of 11 NBA players averaging a double-double with 16.2 points and 10.2 rebounds per game.

It would appear the Kings gave up on the 10th overall pick of the 2007 NBA draft too soon, which has turned out to be a gift for the Sixers.

First-year head coach Brett Brown has been pleasantly surprised by the veteran center, who, by the way, is just 25 years old.

“He surprised me all over the place,” Brown said. “I see an extremely versatile player that is a hell of a teammate. And his ability to pass -- look at the backdoor cuts he's hit our guys on -- his ability to grow to the three-point line and change games like that, we've seen.

“Without Thaddeus [Young] we went to him a lot more, made him a target out of post. We saw a range of skills, from hook shots to drop steps and so on. I just think that he's a really good player that is young. His better days are ahead of him. I always feel guilty calling those guys veterans. They're not veterans. They're young players that have a decade left of good basketball in them.”

Hawes scored a season-high 28 points in the Sixers' loss to the Raptors on Wednesday, two shy of his career high. He also grabbed 10 rebounds in the defeat.

Hawes is absolutely a skilled passer, as we have seen over the past four seasons. But, the outside shooting Hawes is displaying this year is remarkable.

The seven-footer is shooting 48.9 percent from three-point range and he has made a team-high 23 threes. When Brown was hired, word quickly spread that his preferred style of play would be fast-paced with layups and threes being the goal.

Hawes decided at that point to work on his long-range jumper and that has paid off.

“Having the opportunity to show what you've been working on. A lot of guys get comfortable in the offseason and I think every offseason is an opportunity to improve one or two facets of your game,” Hawes said. “You continue to have that mindset and it pay dividends down the line, and you know sometimes guys kind of come out at different stages."

Doug Collins used to say that big guys need more time to develop into their NBA potential than guards. Hawes' development would certainly support the beliefs of the Sixers’ previous head coach. And when it comes to Hawes, there might be even more potential to tap into.

With Young tending to personal matters on Wednesday, Hawes shifted over to the starting power forward position. The move proved beneficial for Hawes and the Sixers, which is why Brown may use Hawes at the four spot more often moving forward.

“I think if you put him next to a legitimate center that he's a little bit or a lot a bit different,” Brown said. “Inevitably for me you just go straight to matchups. Is he guarding a mobile, quicker four? He might have some problems, like chasing Ryan Anderson around the gym isn't a great matchup for Spencer. But I can see how if you paired him next to a legitimate center he probably has a natural position as a power forward.

“Like I said last night, defensively is where there's more of a difference playing the four versus the five. Offensively they are pretty interchangeable with the way we play,” Hawes said. “The biggest thing is minutes, that's what people always say. So having the continued opportunity and the trust of the coaching staff and of the other players pays dividends."

Point guard Joel Embiid? Sixers' big man works on leading break

Point guard Joel Embiid? Sixers' big man works on leading break

CAMDEN, N.J. — Toward the end of Sixers practice Monday, Joel Embiid participated in a fast-break drill … by himself.

Embiid brought the ball up the floor in a one-on-none situation against members of the Sixers' coaching staff. 

He's already showed off his three-point shooting skills and now he’s running the break? 

“I’ve always thought I was a point guard,” Embiid joked. “So that’s something that I want to do.”

In all seriousness, Embiid worked on his ball-handling skills during his two-year rehab from foot injuries. It’s not that he wants to become an unconventional point guard, it’s that he is striving to be an all-around threat. Embiid focused on recording his first assist, as an example, during the preseason. 

“I think I’m a complete player,” he said. “I think I can do everything on the court. Doing that shows I think it can help my team, too, in other aspects.” 

With running the break comes attacking the basket in traffic. It could be an anxious moment for a coach to watch a player fresh off two years of foot injuries to drive in a crowd. Sixers head coach Brett Brown said he has to be past the feeling of holding his breath whenever he watches Embiid do so. 

“We are so responsible with how we use him and play him,” Brown said. “It’s like us with children. They go out for the night. You’re nervous, but they go out for the night. He plays basketball for a living, and so he plays. We’ve just got to keep putting him in responsible environments and monitoring his minutes.”

As a point guard, T.J. McConnell appreciates Embiid’s skills, especially given his size. 

“To the people that try to pick him up when he brings the ball up the floor, good luck,” McConnell said. “It’s pretty incredible to see.” 

Robert Covington watched Embiid practice his ball handling during his lengthy recovery. He has seen improvements and likes the dynamic it creates for the team on the break. 

“His handle is really tight and then he’s really strong with it as well,” Covington said. “We’re very comfortable with him pushing the ball.”

That being said, Brown isn’t about to anoint Embiid into a point-center role. He knows Embiid’s desire to be active all over the court, but just as he’s said he doesn’t intend for Embiid to become a go-to three-point shooter, he also wants Embiid to focus on his true position. 

“Joel likes to be a player,” Brown said. “He wants to be a guard. He wants to shoot a three. He wants to be a post player. He wants to play. And we all have seen enough to think he actually can. 

“There are times that he rebounds and leads a break, we want him being aware of get off it, get it to a point guard more than not. I don’t mind him coming down in trail if he’s got daylight, him shooting some. He’s got a wonderful touch and I’ve seen it for two years. 

“... All over the place, I want to grow him. I’m not just going to bucket him up. I still say, like I say to him, 'At the end of the day, you’re a seven-foot-two post player. Post player.'”

Watch Embiid running the floor here:

Sixers cut Brandon Paul, Dionte Christmas, 3 others to set 15-man roster

Sixers cut Brandon Paul, Dionte Christmas, 3 others to set 15-man roster

In a preseason full of unexpected turns, the Sixers' final cuts were as anticipated.

The Sixers on Monday waived guards Cat Barber, Dionte Christmas, Brandon Paul and forwards Shawn Long and James Webb III to trim their regular-season roster to 15. 

Long, Paul and Webb had been with the Sixers since summer league. Barber signed with the team for training camp. Philadelphia native Christmas was the newest addition. He joined the Sixers the day of the deadline (see story)

The Sixers own the D-League rights to Barber, Christmas, Long and Webb. They are expected to land with the affiliate Delaware 87ers. 

Paul’s D-League rights are owned by the Cavaliers. He has received interest from other NBA teams, according to a source, and has not discussed playing in the Development League. 

Long appeared in each of the Sixers' preseason games. He averaged 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds. Webb posted 4.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in six games. 

Paul averaged 7.3 points (36.4 percent from three) and 2.3 rebounds in four games. Barber was sidelined during the preseason by a right hand/wrist injury. He played two games, averaging 5.5 points, 1.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists. 

Christmas, 30, had planned to play this season in Greece and decided on Sunday to sign with the Sixers instead of returning overseas. 

The Sixers waived 17-year veteran Elton Brand last weekend after he announced his intention to retire. 

Here's the Sixers' complete roster:

2016-17 Sixers
Robert Covington, SF, 6-9/215
Joel Embiid, C, 7-2/250
Jerami Grant, F, 6-8/210
Gerald Henderson, G, 6-5/215
Richaun Holmes, F, 6-10/245
Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot, G/F, 6-6/205
T.J. McConnell, PG, 6-2/200
Jahlil Okafor, C, 6-11/275
Sergio Rodriguez, PG, 6-3/176
Dario Saric, F, 6-10/223
Nik Stauskas, G, 6-6/205
Hollis Thompson, G/F, 6-8/206

Inactive list
Jerryd Bayless, PG, 6-3/200
Nerlens Noel, PF/C, 6-11/228
Ben Simmons, F, 6-10/240