This is Less Encouraging: Sixers Buy In for Two More Years of Spencer Hawes

This is Less Encouraging: Sixers Buy In for Two More Years of Spencer Hawes

It didn't seem likely that Spencer Hawes was gonna be part of the
Sixers' future moving forward. The team is badly in need of size, true,
but he isn't the kind of size we want—stiff, relatively immobile,
defensively cringe-worthy, post-play-bereft size, the kind of size that
basically got swallowed alive by Kevin Garnett in last year's playoffs.
If you watched that Celtics series, you were pretty confident it would
be the last time you were watching Spencer Hawes in a Sixers uniform,
and the move to get young and athletic in the draft—one of which Spencer
still is, the other of which he most certainly is not–seemed to signal
the same.

Well, shucks. It looks like the Sixers gone done and pulled a fast one
on us yet again. Not only have we re-upped with our starting big man of
last year, we're paying $13 million over two years for the privilege. No
matter what way you look at it, $13 million is a lot of money to pay
for a guy who was basically unplayable in the most important series the
Sixers have played in nearly a decade. Hell, it's a lot to pay anyone
whose starter potential you're still not confident in (five seasons into
his career!), despite the fact that the Sixers are already paying that
much to seventh man Thaddeus Young, and may very well elect to pay that
much to sixth man Lou Williams as well.

So what's the justification here? Well, Spencer is still young (24 years
old) and a legitimate seven-footer, a pair of commodities which has
certainly gotten players less talented than he more money and patience
in the past. And you might recall that for a stretch there early last
year, before he got hurt (oh yeah, there's an injury history too, but
let's not even worry about that for the moment), where he was playing
like a legitimate Most Improved Player candidate, posting double-digit Game Scores
in each of the team's first six games. He was hitting his jumper with
stunning regularity, he was passing out of the high post and hitting
teammates open under the basket, he was crashing the boards and grabbing
rebounds with authority. He might have even dunked once.
 
He would post only seven more such scores for the remainder of the
season, however. Shortly after returning from injury, the jumper stopped
falling, the passes became riskier and he started getting badly
out-muscled under the net, grabbing double-digit rebounds only once in
his last 18 games. As his numbers and minutes began to plummet, we were
left to wonder whether the early hot streak's cooling off was due to
injury or just inevitable regression to the mean.

(He also had two straight 20-point scoring outings against the Bulls in
the playoffs—most of which came after Joakim Noah go hurt—leading to a
lot of "Spencer Hawes gonna make himself some money this off-season"
type peanut gallery comments. I think we all assumed his ensuing play in
that series and then against the Celtics more than cancelled that
stretch out, but maybe not.)

Is the contract justifiable based on the potential Spencer has shown in
those stretches? No, I don't think it is—you could wait on a player like
Hawes forever waiting for him to grow into the player he occasionally
shows tantalizing glimpses of being, and in fact, the Sixers are already
committed to doing just that for the similarly frustrating Evan Turner
for at least a couple more years. At least Evan is still just a Junior
in the NBA—Hawes has been around for five seasons now, and has never
shown the ability to be a consistent contributor on a good team,
especially not against the top level of competition. It's probably not
gonna happen for Spence—especially on the defensive end, where he has
repeatedly proven to be a horrendous liability—and the Sixers can't
afford to spend $6.5 mil a year betting on the 20% chance that it does.
They have too many holes that, even with Spencer in tow, still badly
need addressing.

The only thing you can really console yourself with about this contract (unless you're Michael Levin)
is that it's only for two years. All of the Sixers' contracts except
for Thaddeus Young could be off the books by that point two years from
now, so maybe the Sixers front office—whoever's running it these days–is
setting the end of the 2013-14 season as a chance to hit "reset" on the
team if it doesn't work out as currently constituted. And frankly, I'd
accept this Hawes deal if it meant that the Sixers were going to let Lou
Williams walk, and still try to do some dealing with Iguodala and
Brand. But if the team does re-sign Lou, for something like five years,
$35 mil, and then doesn't do dick about 'Dre and Elton, and yet again
enters the new season with basically the same roster...well, this is
might be a pretty tough team to root for next year.

Then again, maybe Spence just pretended to be bad for most of the second
half of last year just to drive his value down so the Sixers would be
able to get him for cheap. You never know!

Best of NHL: Canadiens score 10 goals in rout of Avalanche

Best of NHL: Canadiens score 10 goals in rout of Avalanche

MONTREAL -- Max Pacioretty had four goals, Brian Flynn scored twice during a six-goal first period and the Montreal Canadiens routed the Colorado Avalanche 10-1 on Saturday night.

Flynn, Pacioretty and Artturi Lehkonen each scored against Calvin Pickard in the opening 7:12, and then Pacioretty, Paul Byron and Flynn each had a goal among the first four shots on Semyon Varlamov.

Pacioretty completed his hat trick in the second period and added another in the third to give the captain seven goals in his last four games.

Alexander Radulov and Jeff Petry also scored for Montreal, which has shown no drop-off without injured scoring leader and first-line center Alex Galchenyuk. Montreal outshot the Avs 36-16 (see full recap).

Malkin, Crosby lead Penguins past Lightning 4-3
TAMPA, Fla. -- Sidney Crosby had another eventful night.

The Penguins star returned after passing concussion protocol following a first-period hit to get his 20th goal, and that stoked Pittsburgh's rally for its latest victory.

Crosby and Evgeni Malkin both scored their second goals on third-period power plays, helping the Penguins come back to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 on Saturday.

Crosby was shaken up by Luke Witkowski's check with eight minutes to go in the first but returned for the start of the second period (see full recap).

Late barrage helps Blue Jackets beat Islanders 6-2
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Jack Johnson, Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones each had a goal and an assist as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the New York Islanders 6-2 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

Josh Anderson, Brandon Saad and Lukas Sedlak also scored for Columbus and Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves.

Josh Bailey and John Tavares scored for New York, which had earned a point in a season-high five straight games (4-0-1). Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves until he was pulled after the Blue Jackets scored four consecutive goals in the third period.

Anderson put Columbus ahead 3-2 at 2:19 when he picked off a defensive pass and banged it in from the slot seconds after coming onto the ice for his shift (see full recap).

Matthews, Hyman score in 2nd, Maple Leafs beat Bruins 4-1
BOSTON -- The Toronto Maple Leafs found a way to overcome a poor opening period.

Auston Matthews and Zach Hyman scored in the second period, Frederik Andersen made 32 saves and the Maple Leafs beat the Boston Bruins 4-1 on Saturday night.

"The last three games the first period kind of did us in," Toronto coach Mike Babcock said. "We didn't start on time. We were able to hold on. It still wasn't the first period we wanted, but we didn't give up the goals and we were able to execute a little bit."

After managing only two shots on goal in the first, Toronto was happy to get to the dressing room with the game scoreless (see full recap).

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

Best of NBA: Grizzlies dominate throughout, crush Warriors

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol and Tony Allen scored 19 points each and the Memphis Grizzlies rolled over the Golden State Warriors 110-89 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

The Grizzlies led by as many as 30 points in the second half - the biggest advantage by any Warriors opponent this season. Seven Memphis players finished in double figures.

Kevin Durant led Golden State with 21 points, while Stephen Curry added 17 points and Ian Clark finished with 10 points. Curry and backcourt starter Klay Thompson (eight points) were a combined 8 of 28 from the field, including 3 of 14 outside the arc.

Memphis built a double-digit lead early, led 61-38 at halftime and kept building in the third quarter (see full recap).

Butler, Wade lead Bulls to 105-100 win over Heat
CHICAGO -- Jimmy Butler scored 31 points, Dwyane Wade added 28 against his former team and the Chicago Bulls held off the struggling Miami Heat 105-100 on Saturday night.

Butler scored Chicago's final 10 points to help the Bulls come out on top after Miami pulled within one.

Wade keyed a big third-quarter run in his second game against the Heat, and the Bulls hung on after handing San Antonio its first road loss two nights earlier.

Goran Dragic led Miami with 21 points and 11 assists. An energetic Hassan Whiteside added 20 points after being benched for part of Friday's blowout loss in Cleveland. Tyler Johnson scored 15, but the Heat dropped their fifth straight (see full recap).

LeBron scores 44, reaches assist mark as Cavs down Hornets
CLEVELAND -- LeBron James scored 17 of his season-high 44 points in the fourth quarter and reached another career milestone as the Cleveland Cavaliers won their fourth straight, 116-105 over the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night.

James did it all, adding 10 assists and nine rebounds in 43 minutes. He took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 13 straight during one stretch to help the Cavs hold on.

As the final seconds ticked off, James stood at midcourt and spun the ball on his index finger as the crowd roared.

James, who moved into ninth place on the career scoring list Friday, recorded his 7,000th assist in the first half, becoming the first frontcourt player in NBA history to reach the plateau. James is the only player with 27,000 points and 7,000 assists (see full recap).

George has 37 points to lead Pacers over Blazers 118-111
INDIANAPOLIS -- Paul George scored a season-high 37 points to lead the Indiana Pacers over the Portland Trail Blazers 118-111 on Saturday night.

George made five 3-pointers, and Thaddeus Young hit six 3s while getting 24 points and nine rebounds. Myles Turner added 14 points for the Pacers, who had lost five straight regular season games to Portland.

C.J. McCollum made a career-high seven 3-pointers and had a season-best 34 points for the Trail Blazers. Damian Lillard had 33 points behind five 3s.

George scored 13 straight points in the fourth quarter for Indiana. He was fouled on the go-ahead basket with 4:36 remaining and completed the three-point play to give the Pacers a 108-105 lead (see full recap).