Injuries won't get Spencer Hawes down this year

Injuries won't get Spencer Hawes down this year
October 1, 2013, 2:45 pm

At 25, Spencer Hawes is the third-oldest player at Sixers training camp. (USA Today Images)

Spencer Hawes took the day off from the Sixers’ first practice of the training camp session at Saint Joseph’s University on Tuesday afternoon to rest his twisted knee. During Monday’s practice, Hawes slipped on a wet spot on the floor and wrenched his knee a bit.

The knee injury is nothing that a couple of days of rest won’t cure.

In the meantime, Hawes is handling it with aplomb. Why not? He’s been through this before. At age 25 and headed into his seventh NBA season, there isn’t much Hawes hasn’t experienced during his career. In fact, Hawes is headed into a free-agency season — his second since joining the league.

One would reason that a free-agency season would give Hawes more nervousness about missing practice time. After all, there is a lot at stake for him this season. When injuries surfaced during the 2011-12 season when he was headed into free agency, it got Hawes down and affected his play.

All that hard work spent preparing to play was wiped out by little nagging injuries that blossomed. This time, though, Hawes knows how to deal with it.

“Last time around I fed into all the contract-year stuff and psyched myself out during the offseason and then you end up realizing that it is what it is,” Hawes said. “I’ve gone through it before and I’ve changed my mindset.”

Yes, experience helps. But Hawes also understands that the circumstances of the season could lead to higher production. The last time Hawes was a free agent he went into the season on a team that had All-Stars like Elton Brand, Jrue Holiday and Andre Iguodala. He also shared minutes with Thad Young, and rookies like Lavoy Allen and Nik Vucevic were vying for playing time.

Those Sixers teams had plenty of options. These days, Hawes, Allen, Young and Evan Turner are the only holdovers from the team that pushed the Celtics to seven games in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. At age 25, Hawes is one of the oldest players on the team. Along with that comes more responsibility, playing time and the fruits that go along with it.

Hawes says the Sixers’ new up-tempo offense might play well to his strengths.

“[Coach Brett Brown] is big on stretching the floor out, much more than we were in the past,” Hawes said. “He kind of has that Spurs mantra where he get threes or shots in the paint. Trying to adapt to that has been an adjustment for us, but guys are receptive.”

Hawes appeared in 82 games last season, averaging a little more than 27 minutes per game with 11 points and 7.2 rebounds. He also had career-highs in field goals, free throws and free-throw attempts as well as assists, which shows an ability to play in the low and high posts.

But a young team may defer to Hawes on offense, especially considering that the seven-footer showed up for camp in top shape. Given that the new coach will lean on his veterans like Hawes, Turner and Young, the big man will be in the middle of things all season long.

“I treat them like Timmy (Duncan), Tony (Parker) and Manu (Ginobili of San Antonio),” Brown said. “I have empowered them.”
 
In the meantime, Hawes wonders where the time has gone. Drafted by Sacramento with the 10th pick in 2007, Hawes is not only going into his second free-agent season, but also is the third-oldest player participating in the Sixers’ training camp.

The old man at age 25?

“It goes quickly from being a young guy to being a vet,” Hawes said.

Injury updates
Sitting out of practice along with Spencer Hawes was Jason Richardson and Kwame Brown. Richardson likely won’t return until the new year and Brown, headed into his 13th NBA season, has yet to practice with the Sixers.

Brown was held out of the final 30 games of the 2013 season by coaches’ decision and battled a litany of injuries for the past two seasons. In other words, don’t expect much production again this year from Brown.

Also, third-year guard Darius Morris has been wearing a face mask during practice because of a broken nose suffered during a workout session last Monday. Morris caught an errant elbow from Thad Young, had surgery on Tuesday and then had the stitches removed on last Friday.