Sixers Notes: Hawes, Turner seek badge of honor


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.”

Jahlil Okafor eager for more minutes as knee heals

Jahlil Okafor eager for more minutes as knee heals

CAMDEN, N.J. — Jahlil Okafor has been patient with his right knee. He was disciplined with restrictions and recovery during the preseason, recognizing the goal of being ready for opening night. 

At the same time, once he got back on the court he wanted more. Okafor played eight minutes Friday against the Heat, his first game since Feb. 28 before undergoing surgery to repair a right meniscus tear. 

“I don’t think I’m going to do eight again,” Okafor said Sunday. “They kind of heard me complain about that a lot. I think it’ll definitely be more than eight, but it won’t be much more.” 

Okafor has been limited since reaggravating his knee during the final day of training camp. He practiced “to tolerance” on Sunday, according to the Sixers. Okafor did not participate in the team scrimmage and worked out individually with assistant coach/head of strength and conditioning Todd Wright. 

The second-year big man did not feel soreness on Saturday following the game. On Sunday, he felt “kind of stiff” during practice. Brett Brown has been watching Okafor’s movement closely. While Okafor considered it to be “good,” Brown was a tougher critic. 

“I think he looked OK,” Brown said. “He didn’t look great to me today. I’ll give him a B-minus … It’s always how do you move? East, west, north, south, how do you move?” 

Okafor scored four points, one rebound, one assist, one block and one turnover in Miami. He focused on his defense during the game. When he subbed out, he checked in with Elton Brand on the bench to receive feedback from the now-retired veteran. Okafor plans to continue to tap into him for advice throughout the season. 

With opening night three days away, Okafor still plans to be on the floor for it.

“I am optimistic about it,” he said. “I should be ready to go.” 

Robert Covington sprained his right ankle in Friday’s game and did not practice Sunday. Brown anticipates Covington, who has been starting at small forward, also will be ready to go Wednesday. 

“I do (expect him to play),” Brown said. “But we won’t know that for sure yet.” 

Sixers waive retired Elton Brand
The Sixers waived Brand on Sunday, making his retirement official. Brand announced his intentions to walk away from the game Thursday. The Sixers' request of waivers was a procedural step. The roster currently stands at 19. 

“It’s been an honor, it’s been a privilege to play this game, the game that I love, and I’m certainly going to miss it,” Brand said last week (see story). “But it’s definitely time now.” 

Brand celebrated his career with his teammates at Komodo in Miami on Thursday night ahead of their preseason finale against the Heat. 

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

It appears the Sixers' frontcourt logjam may not be an issue early on.

Nerlens Noel, who is having surgery Monday for an inflamed plica in his left knee, will miss the first three to five weeks of the season, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Noel suffered a left groin injury in the first preseason game against the Celtics and missed the rest of the preseason. While undergoing treatment, Noel reported left knee soreness, which led to the discovery of the inflamed plica.

It's been an odd start to the season for Noel. The big man was outspoken about his displeasure with the Sixers' frontcourt situation early in camp. With the deadline for Noel's rookie contract extension approaching on Oct. 31, the team has not had conversations about it, according to a report.

The Sixers are already without No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons as he recovers from surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot. The team will also be without their starting point guard Jerryd Bayless who is dealing with a ligament issue in his left wrist. Bayless won't require surgery and will be reevaluated in two weeks.