Gang's All Here: Spencer Hawes Accepts Qualifying Offer

Gang's All Here: Spencer Hawes Accepts Qualifying Offer

Amidst all the turmoil in the NBA right now, the Sixers continue to stay
far out of the fray, content to bring back the same group that made an
unexpected run at the playoffs last year. After re-signing Thaddeus
Young and Tony Battie (yes, really) since free agency began two days
ago, the team has now also secured their starting center from last
season, Spencer Hawes. Spence accepted the team's qualifying offer, of
just over four million dollars, to stay with the Ballers for another
year.

Extending Hawes the qualifying offer was kind of a no-brainer for the
size-depleted Sixers. Battie was the only other potential center on the
roster (unless you count Elton Brand, which, not really), and it's
unlikely the team would've found a starting-caliber big man for such a
reasonable price elsewhere.

Of course, whether or not Spence actually is a starting-caliber center
remains up for debate. He wasn't exactly a dynamo for the team last year,
averaging just 7.2 points and 5.7 rebounds in 22 minutes a game, while
shooting 47% from the field and an abysmal 53% from the line (though
that was somewhat moot, since he only shot about one free throw a game)
and playing sporadically porous defense. Still, Hawes is young—though
he's already been in the league for four seasons, he's only 23—and he
has enough talent that, for a low price in a year where the team isn't
exactly expected to contend anyway, it's worth it for the Sixers to take
another look at what they have with him.

And generally, I like the team's strategy of getting the band back
together, while generally staying out of most trade and free-agency
discussions. True, this has been the team's strategy for pretty much
every post-season since they splurged on Elton Brand, Lou Williams and
Andre Iguodala back in '08, but it especially makes sense this year to
make consistency a priority, with such a short training camp and
pre-season.

“With the signing of Spencer, we now have our core returning - a group
that is very familiar with each other, their roles and Coach Collins’
system and philosophies," said
de facto team GM Rod Thorn of Hawes' signing. And though it's not
exactly the '83 squad that they're bringing back together, this group of
players does seem to click very well with each other and with Coach
Collins, a chemistry that only seemed to grow as the season went along.

Re-signing Young and Hawes aren't the kind of moves that put the team
over the top as a title threat, but they should stabilize the team and
make them a likely playoff threat, at the least. Until the team gets out
from Brand and possibly Andre Iguodala's contract and starts building
in earnest towards a group that may one day contend for a championship,
they should at least be a fun, competitive group to watch in the
meantime. We're looking forward to watching them this year, anyway.

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

Best of NBA: Wall, Wizards top Knicks for 4th straight win

NEW YORK -- John Wall had 29 points and 13 assists, scoring Washington's final four points in the last 32 seconds as the surging Wizards beat the New York Knicks 113-110 on Thursday night.

Otto Porter Jr. made six 3-pointers for the second straight night and added 23 points, but the Wizards needed big plays from Wall down the stretch to win their fourth in a row.

He made two free throws to put Washington back on top after New York had rallied to take a 110-109 lead, then rebounded Carmelo Anthony's miss and left all the Knicks in his dust as he raced down the floor for a dunk with 13.7 seconds to play.

Anthony finished with 34 points but Wall stole the ball from Brandon Jennings to prevent the Knicks from attempting a 3-pointer that could have tied it (see full recap).

Leonard scores 34 to lead Spurs over Nuggets
SAN ANTONIO -- Kawhi Leonard scored 34 points, rookie Dejounte Murray added a season-high 24 and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a pregame injury to Pau Gasol in beating the Denver Nuggets 118-104 on Thursday night.

Denver's three-game winning streak was snapped despite a career-high 35 points from Nikola Jokic.

Leonard had his fifth straight 30-point performance, right after learning he will start for the Western Conference in the All-Star Game for the second consecutive season.

The Spurs were unexpectedly without Gasol, Tony Parker and then coach Gregg Popovich. Gasol and Parker were both late scratches due to injury, and Popovich was ejected for the first time this season.

Gasol broke the ring finger on his left (non-shooting) hand by jamming it against Kyle Anderson's shoulder during pregame warmups while attempting a running hook. The 16-year veteran center immediately clutched his hand and left the court.

X-rays revealed the break, and the Spurs said there is no timeline for Gasol's return.

Irving, James lead Cavs over Suns
CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving scored 26 points, All-Star teammate LeBron James had 21 points and 15 assists, and the Cleveland Cavaliers looked more like themselves at home in a 118-103 win over the Phoenix Suns on Thursday night.

The Cavs were back in Quicken Loans Arena following a six-game road trip (their longest of the season) that concluded with an embarrassing 35-point loss at Golden State. But on their home floor, they had better offensive balance and ball movement while improving to 30-11 -- the same record Cleveland had at the halfway point of its 2016 NBA championship season.

Channing Frye scored 18, Iman Shumpert 17 and James Jones 14 while filling in for star forward Kevin Love, still bothered by back spasms.

Tyson Chandler had 22 points and 16 rebounds, but the Suns lost for the fourth time in five games (see full recap).

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

Best of NHL: Surging Capitals rock Blues in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS -- Andre Burakovsky, T.J. Oshie and Evgeny Kuznetsov each had a goal and an assist to lead the Washington Capitals to a 7-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night.

Jay beagle, Brett Connolly, Marcus Johansson and Justin Williams also scored, and Alex Ovechkin and Daniel Winnik each had two assists to help Washington earn at least a point in its 12th straight game (10-0-2) for an NHL-best 66 points.

Braden Holtby bounced back from his roughest outing of the season with 22 saves. Holtby was pulled after giving up a season-high five goals on 26 shots in an 8-7 overtime loss at Pittsburgh on Monday. He improved to 22-8-4 and 5-0 lifetime against St. Louis (see full recap).

Grabner scores 2 goals, Rangers top Leafs
TORONTO -- Michael Grabner scored two goals against his former team, helping the New York Rangers snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-2 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.

Pavel Buchnevich, Brady Skjei and J.T. Miller added goals for New York, and Henrik Lundqvist made 23 saves following a series of rough outings.

Tyler Bozak and Zach Hyman scored for Toronto, which had a three-game winning streak stopped. The Maple Leafs had earned 21 of a possible 26 points in their previous 13 games (10-2-1). Frederik Andersen gave up four goals on 40 shots (see full recap).

Tavares leads Islanders to shutout of Stars
NEW YORK -- Getting a new coach this week didn't change things much for the Islanders -- and oddly enough, that's a good thing for New York.

John Tavares narrowly missed out on his second hat trick in a week, Thomas Greiss got his second straight shutout and the Islanders beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Thursday night in their first game since firing longtime coach Jack Capuano.

New York canned Capuano in the middle of his seventh season Tuesday, replacing him on an interim basis with Doug Weight (see full recap).

Niederreiter, Wild dodge letdown, edge Coyotes
ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Nino Niederreiter had two power-play goals and an assist, including the go-ahead score for the Minnesota Wild with 7:06 remaining in a 4-3 victory over Arizona on Thursday night after the Coyotes came back from a two-goal deficit.

With Shane Doan in the penalty box for hooking, Niederreiter knocked in a nifty redirect of Mikael Granlund's slap shot for the winner. Devan Dubnyk stopped 20 shots for the Wild, who are 18-2-2 in their last 22 games.

Louis Domingue made 21 saves for the Coyotes, who lost their fourth in a row and fell to 2-12-1 in their last 15 games starting with a 4-1 loss to Minnesota in Arizona on Dec. 17 (see full recap).