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."

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

NEW YORK -- John Wall had 29 points and 13 assists, scoring Washington's final four points in the last 32 seconds as the surging Wizards beat the New York Knicks 113-110 on Thursday night.

Otto Porter Jr. made six 3-pointers for the second straight night and added 23 points, but the Wizards needed big plays from Wall down the stretch to win their fourth in a row.

He made two free throws to put Washington back on top after New York had rallied to take a 110-109 lead, then rebounded Carmelo Anthony's miss and left all the Knicks in his dust as he raced down the floor for a dunk with 13.7 seconds to play.

Anthony finished with 34 points but Wall stole the ball from Brandon Jennings to prevent the Knicks from attempting a 3-pointer that could have tied it (see full recap).

Leonard scores 34 to lead Spurs over Nuggets
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points, rookie Dejounte Murray added a season-high 24 and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a pregame injury to Pau Gasol in beating the Denver Nuggets 118-104 on Thursday night.

Denver's three-game winning streak was snapped despite a career-high 35 points from Nikola Jokic.

Leonard had his fifth straight 30-point performance, right after learning he will start for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season.

The Spurs were unexpectedly without Gasol, Tony Parker and then coach Gregg Popovich. Gasol and Parker were both late scratches due to injury, and Popovich was ejected for the first time this season.

Gasol broke the ring finger on his left (non-shooting) hand by jamming it against Kyle Anderson's shoulder during pregame warmups while attempting a running hook. The 16-year veteran center immediately clutched his hand and left the court.

X-rays revealed the break, and the Spurs said there is no timeline for Gasol's return.

Irving, James lead Cavs over Suns
CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselves at home in a 118-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

The Cavs were back in Quicken Loans Arena following a six-game road trip (their longest of the season) that concluded with an embarrassing 35-point loss at Golden State. But on their home floor, they had better offensive balance and ball movement while improving to 30-11 -- the same record Cleveland had at the halfway point of its 2016 NBA championship season.

Channing Frye scored 18, Iman Shumpert 17 and James Jones 14 while filling in for star forward Kevin Love, still bothered by back spasms.

Tyson Chandler had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in five games (see full recap).

Joel Embiid not named All-Star starter, can still make it as reserve

Joel Embiid not named All-Star starter, can still make it as reserve

Joel Embiid will have to hope NBA coaches trust the process.

Embiid on Thursday was not named a starter in the 2017 NBA All-Star Game. LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jimmy Butler locked in the three Eastern Conference frontcourt spots. Kyrie Irving and DeMar DeRozan rounded out the backcourt.

James (25.6 points, 7.8 rebounds, 8.1 assists) and Antetokounmpo (23.7 points, 8.7 rebounds, 5.6 assists) were locks as starters. That left Butler, Kevin Love and Embiid as the next in contention. Butler is a two-time All-Star averaging 24.8 points, 6.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 36.8 minutes for the 21-22 Bulls. Love is posting 20.7 points, 10.8 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 31.6 minutes per game on the Eastern Conference-leading, 29-11 Cavaliers.

The Western Conference starting spots went to Stephen Curry, James Harden, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and Anthony Davis. 

The voting was made up of fan votes (50 percent), player votes (25 percent) and media votes (25 percent). Embiid has a chance to be voted in by the NBA coaches, whose reserve selections will be announced on Jan. 26. 

Embiid would have been named a starter had the results been based on fan voting (50 percent). He finished third ahead of Love and Butler.

Embiid was in the running for a starting role during a breakout rookie season. He is averaging 19.9 points, 7.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 25.4 minutes per game. Even though his playing time is capped at 28 minutes, he ranks seventh among all players in scoring per 48 minutes. He is eighth overall in free throw attempts per game (7.9) and 10th in those made (6.2).

Embiid had obstacles, though, when it came to the voting: rookie status, 28-minute restriction, limited games played (29) because of his allocated workload, and the Sixers’ record.

Even though the All-Star Game highlights individual achievements, team record is often taken into consideration. The Sixers have won seven of their last nine games (see story), but still stand well below .500 at 14-26.

When it came to the players’ vote, it is hard for a rookie who hasn’t even competed against every team in the league to make a strong enough impression for another player to influence their perception of the top talent. Embiid finished outside of the top five in the players' vote, behind James, Antetokounmpo, Butler, Paul George and Kristaps Porzingis. Meanwhile, the Sixers' big man finished fifth in the media vote.

Embiid and the Sixers were very active in pushing for the fan votes. Embiid received the social media support of celebrities including Triple H, Kevin Hart and MLB MVP Mike Trout, among others. The Sixers promoted Embiid through a Shirley Temple campaign based on his favorite drink.

Embiid picked up major steam in the last week of voting. He had trailed Love by 16,028 fan votes in the second returns on Jan. 12.

He took to Twitter to express his gratitude.