Sixers Notes: Hawes, Turner seek badge of honor

slideshow-040913-sixers-hawes-turner-uspresswire.jpg

Sixers Notes: Hawes, Turner seek badge of honor

NEW YORK -- When reminded that Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner were the only two players for the Sixers who had appeared in every game, head coach Doug Collins felt like being a party pooper.

“I’m going to hold Spencer and Evan out so they can’t [play all 82],” Collins said.

Collins was kidding, of course. Chalk it up to a moment of levity in a season short on such moments. Still, Collins talked in the past about “the badge of honor” for a player to play all 82 games in a season. As a player, Collins topped out at a career-best 81 games and played 77 or more in just three of his eight NBA seasons.

Collins learned first-hand what a prideful thing it was for a player to make it through all 82 games when he was coaching the Washington Wizards, and Michael Jordan, at age 40, appeared in every game in his last season.

“It’s when you’re nicked up a little bit and it would be easy to take the night off and mentally you’re a little fatigued, and every night those guys are putting that uniform on and playing at a high level,” Collins said before Tuesday night’s loss to the Nets at the Barclays Center (see game recap). “There is no greater compliment that a player can give a coach than to play every game.”

For Hawes, who missed 29 of the 66 games last season with a host of injuries, playing all 82 games is a special benchmark. Last year, the Sixers needed Hawes, going 13-16 without him. This year, Hawes has been one of the few reliable and consistent players for Collins.

“It’s huge. Last year, with how he struggled with the Achilles and everyone was saying, when is he coming back?” Collins said. “Spencer is not only going to play all 82, but he’s finishing the season with a flourish. He’s really comfortable, he’s comfortable with his teammates, and you can see him growing in every way. I’m very proud of him.”

Hawes was shooting 51.6 percent from the floor over his last 10 games entering Tuesday, including 52.9 percent from three-point range during that span. Hawes also has eight double-doubles in his last 13 games and was averaging 15 points and 10 boards in his last 10 games prior to Tuesday.

Those are decent numbers for a guy who struggled mightily during his first 42 games of the season. When Collins put Hawes back into the starting lineup, the production increased, too.

To be playing all 82 games is no small feat for Hawes.

“That’s always something you want to do, especially if you never have done it. If you talk to some of the guys who have done it then they don’t strive for it as much or they take it more in stride,” Hawes said. “But it would be good to play all 82. I’ve never been injured like I was last year, so I prefer it a lot more like this.”

Hawes played 81 games in 2010-11 during his first year with the Sixers, but should post career highs in all major statistical categories. As the season winds down, Hawes wants to put down a solid last week with the hope that it carries over into next season.

“There’s always something that you can get better at with yourself or going forward with the team,” Hawes said. “Whatever we’re asked to do in these last six games or whatever role we’re asked to play, I think you have that responsibility.”

Said Collins: “[Hawes is] still a young guy and we’re very excited about where he’s come from and where he’s going. To me, he has a very high ceiling.

Turner, who played in 78 games in his rookie season and missed just one game last year, says he was ready to go all 82 during his first year. Problem was, a couple of things came up.

“My first year I was ready to play all the games, but I got some of those DNP-CDs,” Turner said with a wry smile. “Last year, I missed one game, but this year I’ve been fortunate to play them all.

“You take advantage of the health you have.”

It’s been a career season for Turner, but not one without bumps in the road. The offseason is sure to be eventful for the 2010 No. 2 overall pick, too. Turner can be signed to an extension or be allowed to become a restricted free agent after next season.

But whatever happens, Turner said being able to play all 82 games ought to be beneficial. For one thing, Turner definitely has felt the brunt of a full NBA season.

“I feel like how I should feel after 76 games, but that’s all good,” he said.

D-Will on a roll

For the Nets, Deron Williams has filled up the stat sheet since the All-Star break. He has scored at least 30 points in his last two games entering Tuesday, and has 117 points with 35 assists in his last four games prior to facing the Sixers. Williams is averaging 23 points and eight assists per game since the All-Star break compared to 16.7 points and 7.6 assists before the break.

What has been the difference? Try a lot less Williams, says Collins.

“Yeah, 15 to 18 less pounds. He made a real commitment before the All-Star break to get into great shape and he’s done that,” the Sixers' head coach said. “The bounce in his step, how quick he is and how he’s shooting the three. He’s playing with quickness, he’s playing with speed and he’s shooting the ball well. He’s lost weight and he’s in great shape.”

Elton Brand on national anthem protests: Sixers working with NBA, having 'discussions internally'

Elton Brand on national anthem protests: Sixers working with NBA, having 'discussions internally'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Pockets of NBA players have increasingly started to speak up about what they believe to be racial and social injustices taking place in the United States.

With San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick's decision to kneel during the national anthem sparking protests from other players around the NFL and various sports, now the NBA as a whole is preparing for potential protests prior to games.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association union executive director Michele Roberts came together last week to formulate a joint letter to players to express how the two sides plan to take "meaningful action."

Whatever that action is, Sixers veteran Elton Brand is all for it and the overall discussion of issues going on around the country.

"There are e-mails and direct texts from the NBPA. We’re working with the NBA. They’re going to talk to us soon,” Brand said. “My thing is if you want to stand up for something, that’s a good thing. Especially in America, the tensions and the injustices that are going on right now. 

“Even in our locker room we’re discussing who feels like this, who feels like what and ways that we can display how we feel about things. I’m all for it. I stand behind it and stand with other athletes and people that want to stand for a cause. Whatever their cause is, they want to stand for a cause. Our cause may be different.”

The NBA is significantly more diverse than the NFL, and Brand even admitted it’s been an eye-opening experience having talks about issues affecting African Americans inside a locker room with players from around the globe.

“We have a lot of international players,” he said. “I’m looking around the room and there are seven people that aren’t from this country. So you talk about the flag, talk about the constitution and to them it’s like, ‘I represent America because I’m working here, but I’m pro-Spain and I have problems there, too.’ We’re all sorting it out. We’ve had discussions internally also. I’m looking forward to what the NBPA and the NBA have to offer."

What the league and players association come up with will likely serve as something other than protesting during the actual anthem. Unlike the NFL, the NBA has a rule in place that explicitly states players, coaches and trainers must stand on the foul line or sidelines in a dignified posture during the playing of national anthems.

If Sixers players do ultimately decide on some sort of protest before games, they will have the support of the organization to express their rights.

"We haven't been together collectively long enough to have a real robust discussion about it," Sixers president Bryan Colangelo said. "I think we just addressed it briefly this morning with the players in an opportunity to say the following. Basically, we as an organization are going to be supportive of the views of our players. As the league and the players association formulate perhaps an approach, they've already circulated some information to teams. Things are probably still at the discussion phase. I hope to think that's where things are with our players, that they're still at the discussion phase. 

"Once again, I'm assuming that there will be a desire to express an opinion or viewpoint. I've always been supportive of people in society having freedom to express a viewpoint. Again, going back to the league and the players association, in a positive way I think they've always been out in front of some of these social issues and if they can affect social change in a positive way they probably will. You can just anticipate that there's still some unknowns to this, but you can estimate that we will be supportive as an organization as to how our players want to express their views."

Joel Embiid expects to play in Sixers' preseason opener

Joel Embiid expects to play in Sixers' preseason opener

CAMDEN, N.J. — The long wait could be over next week.

Joel Embiid expects to play in the Sixers' first preseason game Oct. 4 at UMass-Amherst against the Celtics, he said Monday at media day.

“The first thing for me is just get back on the court,” Embiid said of his expectations this season. “It looks like in a couple days I’m going to have the chance to do that.”

Embiid has missed the past two seasons since being drafted third overall because of foot injuries. Even though he is taking his rookie year one step at a time, he has a positive long-term outlook given how healthy he feels. 

“I’m confident that I’m going to have a long, successful career,” he said. “From what it looks like right now, I’m going to have a 20-year career.”

Embiid has grown as a player and a person during his recovery. He noted had he been competing in an 82-game season, he would not have had as much time to dedicate on his development. As a result of the specialized workouts and the hours he has spent in an individual practice format, he has improved his shooting and gained strength and speed. 

“What I was two years ago, I’m not even close to what I am right now,” he said. “My game has gotten so much better ... I’m not the same guy. I’m different.”

Embiid has been following a well-mapped out rehab plan during which he has had to adhere to restrictions, and will continue to do so this season. He admits the restrictions have been frustrating, but he now understands they are being implemented for his best interest long term. The lengthy recovery has forced him to change his outlook on maintaining his health. 

“The main thing I learned about myself is, I could be patient,” Embiid said. “When I was first doing my rehab, going through that, the only thing I thought about was getting back on the court. I would try to get back on the court and play more than I was supposed to. After the doctor [said] you had to heal well and I needed the second surgery, that’s when I told myself be patient and do whatever I can and make sure I listen to what people have to say.”

Head coach Brett Brown wants Embiid to become the “crown jewel” of the defense. Embiid, who stands at a towering 7-foot-2, 275 pounds, is ready to embrace those expectations. He has studied tape of Tim Duncan, Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing, among others. Embiid likes the game of Marc Gasol and appreciates how DeAndre Jordan communicates as a big man. 

“I love playing defense,” he said. “I hate when the other team scores.”

Embiid's debut will be the culmination of years of work. Now that the season is approaching, he is eager to count down the days. 

“I’m really excited,” Embiid said. “I’ve gone through a lot and it’s been two years. The fact that I’m healthy now and ready to get back on the court, I just can’t wait.”