Hawes an unexpected weapon for Brown, Sixers

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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."

Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor to play Sunday, Joel Embiid out (right elbow)

Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor to play Sunday, Joel Embiid out (right elbow)

CAMDEN, N.J. — Two bigs back, one big out.

Nerlens Noel will make his regular-season debut Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Noel has been out since the preseason after undergoing elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October.

Jahlil Okafor also will return following a bout of gastroenteritis, which sidelined him for the last three games. Neither Noel nor Okafor will have minute restrictions. 

Joel Embiid, on the other hand, will not play Sunday. He will miss the game because of minor inflammation in his right elbow, which he suffered in Thursday’s game against the Pelicans. The decision also is in conjunction with the load management plan the Sixers have mapped out for him. Embiid did not practice Saturday and will not travel to Detroit. 

“It’s very minor and we expect him back soon. Not much concern at all,” Brett Brown said of Embiid, adding, “I think it’s far more precautionary than anything people should get nervous about.”

With Embiid out, the addition of Noel will help the Sixers when they battle the Pistons and big man Andre Drummond, who is averaging a dominating 15.0 points, 13.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks this season. Noel will come off the bench as he gets reacclimated to the team and the flow of the game. 

“I felt great [to be cleared to play],” Noel said. “I was anticipating it so I got my mind right and this is what I’ve been working for throughout the whole rehab process. I’m feeling good and looking forward to it.” 

The Sixers are mindful of the fact Noel has not played in a regular season game since the finale last April. He has been working on getting his wind back up, and the Sixers will watch it closely in-game when determining his playing time. Noel said he has a “good starting foundation” with his conditioning. 

“You can do as much as you want on a treadmill,” Brown said. “You can do as much as you want one-on-zero … but there is nothing that’s like an NBA game. Everything goes faster, everything goes quicker, you have emotions involved which can also drown how fast and how long you can go. Those things are just part of him coming back into it, and we’ll manage him accordingly.”

Noel’s debut is the first step for him, regardless of how many plays. His athleticism will give another look to the lineup. Brown foresees having Noel back will allow the Sixers to play faster and protect the rim with a greater “bounce.” 

“We miss playing with Nerlens, just his presence,” Okafor said. “He’s an athlete. Obviously we miss him on the defensive side. We miss him as a leader vocally. It’s just going to be great having him back on the floor.”

The Sixers could counter the Pistons with the combination of Noel and Okafor, a duo they struggled to utilize together last season. Brown’s decision will be based on matchups. He pointed out a situation in which Drummond and Jon Leuer are on the court would be more favorable than one in which Tobias Harris is playing power forward. 

“You just try to pick your moments where you can maybe pair those guys up,” Brown said. “I think it will be a more genuine conversation as Nerlens starts playing more with us. He’s just really come back into it. But we come back and you play Toronto and you have all three bigs available, then it becomes another level of a conversation. I do look forward to it when we have an opportunity to intelligently match up with other people and we’ll play it out like that.”

The Sixers' next game after Sunday is Wednesday against the Raptors, when they expect to have their bigs ready to go.

Sixers' game vs. Kings rescheduled for Jan. 30

Sixers' game vs. Kings rescheduled for Jan. 30

The NBA has determined a new date for the Sixers home game against the Kings, which was postponed on Nov. 30 because of unsafe playing conditions on the court.

The game has been rescheduled for Monday, Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. This will create back-to-backs for both teams.

The Sixers are playing in Chicago on Jan. 29. They will play consecutive games against the Bulls and Kings, then have a road back-to-back against the Mavericks and Spurs on Feb. 1 and 2.

The Kings will be on what is now an eight-game road trip. They will play a back-to-back against the Rockets the next night in Houston.