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.”