Sixers Notes: Hawes, Turner seek badge of honor

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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.”

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”

Best of NBA: Bulls hand Spurs first road loss of season

Best of NBA: Bulls hand Spurs first road loss of season

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 20 points, and the Chicago Bulls handed San Antonio its first road loss after a 13-0 start, hanging on to beat the Spurs 95-91 on Thursday night.

San Antonio fell one win shy of matching the NBA's best road start set by the Golden State Warriors last season. The Spurs cut an 18-point deficit midway through the third quarter to four in the closing minutes, only to come up short.

Kawhi Leonard scored 24 for San Antonio. Patty Mills added 16 points, hitting 4 of 6 3-pointers. Former Bull Pau Gasol had 13 points and 10 rebounds in his first game in Chicago since signing with San Antonio in the summer, but the Spurs lost a road game for the first time since Oklahoma City knocked them out in the Western Conference semifinals last season.

Jimmy Butler scored all of his 13 points for Chicago in the second half. Rajon Rondo added 12 points, nine assists and 10 rebounds, and Chicago picked up the win after dropping three in a row and six of nine.

The Spurs hadn't dropped a regular-season road game since Denver beat them on April 8 (see full recap).

Scoreboard malfunction, quiet crowd don’t stop Wizards’ rally
WASHINGTON -- Overcoming a sluggish start in front of a sparse, silent crowd and with a malfunctioning scoreboard, the Washington Wizards came back to beat the Nuggets 92-85 on Thursday night, thanks mainly to Bradley Beal's 26 points and Denver's season-high 29 turnovers.

John Wall scored only 15 points one game after a career-best 52, but nine came in the fourth quarter for Washington, which trailed by as many as 14 in the first half.

With starting point guard Emmanuel Mudiay inactive because of what the team said was a sprained right ankle, the Nuggets went 5 1/2 minutes without a point in the fourth quarter.

In that final period, they had 10 of their turnovers and shot 1 for 14 on 3-pointers -- including 0 for 4 in one last-minute possession (see full recap).

Gasol, clutch free throws lift Grizzlies over
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol scored 36 points and Toney Douglas made two free throws with less than a second left to give the Memphis Grizzlies an 88-86 comeback victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

Douglas finished with 11 points, scoring the game's final six points to seal Memphis' fifth straight victory.

Gasol was 13 of 24 from the field, including 4 of 6 from outside the arc. But Douglas, signed by Memphis this week because of injuries, took over down the stretch. The guard scored on a 19-footer with 34 seconds left, then converted two pairs of free throws in the last 20 seconds.

CJ McCollum led the Trail Blazers with 24 points, and Damian Lillard had 19 on 6-of-18 shooting. Evan Turner had 15 points and 10 rebounds (see full recap).