Sixers Notes: Hawes, Turner seek badge of honor

slideshow-040913-sixers-hawes-turner-uspresswire.jpg

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.”

Sixers-Knicks 5 Things: Sixers hope to remain hot after All-Star break

Sixers-Knicks 5 Things: Sixers hope to remain hot after All-Star break

The Sixers (22-35) finish off a back-to-back set out of the All-Star break when they the New York Knicks (23-35) at Madison Square Garden (7:30 p.m./CSN, CSNPhilly.com and the NBC Sports app).

Let's take a closer look at the matchup.

1. Starting out strong
So much for having nine days off and players in new roles negatively impacting the team.

The Sixers stormed into the home stretch of the season with a 120-112 win over the Washington Wizards. Seven different players scored in double figures for the Sixers, as they knocked off the Eastern Conference's No. 3 seed.

Perhaps no player had a bigger impact on the game than Richaun Holmes. The backup big man notched the first double-double of his career with 12 points and 10 rebounds. He also added a career-best five blocks.

"I try to approach every game this season the same way, whether everybody was playing or people were hurt," Holmes said. "Prepare like I'm going to play 30 minutes a game. I think having that mindset helped me to stay ready at all times and be aggressive when I had a chance."

2. Young guns
Injuries will prevent another juicy clash between Joel Embiid and Kristaps Porzingis, but there will still be two other young players to keep an eye Saturday night.

Dario Saric and Willy Hernangomez have been two of the most impressive rookies this season, especially since the calendar flipped to February.

Saric has averaged 16.4 points, 7.3 boards and 2.2 assists this month. He's coming off a 20-point, 11-rebound performance against the Wizards for his third straight double-double.

Hernangomez has put up 11.0 points, 9.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists a night in February. The center, who was actually drafted 35th overall in 2015 by the Sixers before being traded, recorded 11 points and 10 rebounds in the Knicks' 119-104 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Thursday.

Saturday's clash could go a long way toward determining Rookie of the Month honors for the East.

3. A Rose is but a Rose
Derrick Rose will never be considered among the league's top assist men. That's simply not his style of play.

When the oft-injured Rose has his game flowing, it starts with scoring, particularly against the Sixers.

In 18 career matchups with the Sixers, Rose has averaged 20.7 points. He's also put up 6.6 assists and 3.9 rebounds in those contests.

Rose scored 25 points on 11 of 16 shooting in the Knicks' first meeting with the Sixers this season back on Jan. 12.

That typically would have been enough to say he won the point guard battle that night, but T.J. McConnell's buzzer-beating jumper stole the show in the Sixers' 98-97 win.

4. Injuries
Embiid (knee), Tiago Splitter (calf), Ben Simmons (foot) Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Joakim Noah (hamstring) is a game-time decision. Porzingis (ankle) is out for the Knicks.

5. This and that
• The Sixers' win over the Knicks in their last meeting snapped a five-game skid in the series.

• The Sixers had 28 assists in their win over the Wizards. They are eighth in the NBA with 23.6 assists a night.

• The Knicks are fourth in the NBA in rebounding with 46.0 boards per game.

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

In 1st game post-Ersan Ilyasova, Dario Saric shines as Sixers' starting PF

When Ersan Ilyasova was traded to the Hawks on Wednesday, it became Dario Saric's time to shine.

And shine he did in the Sixers' 120-112 win over the Wizards Friday night at the Wells Fargo Center. In the first game coming off the All-Star break, Saric got the starting nod at power forward. He certainly looked the part, posting 20 points (10 of 19 from the field), 11 rebounds and four assists.

Saric, now the only true four on the roster, was proud of his team's performance against one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.

"We have a lot of veterans who can share the ball and that's how you're supposed to play," Saric said. "For me, I'm not surprised if we [beat the third-best team] in the East, but I believe these guys can play very good basketball."

Saric was excellent in the starting role, but his exceptional play dates back before the All-Star break. Including Friday, he's averaged 20.5 points, eight rebounds and 2.5 assists over his last six games. The Sixers are 4-2 in that span.

Head coach Brett Brown is seeing what he expected to see from the Croatian rookie.

"He's a professional basketball player," Brown said. "He has been that for a while. His love of the game, his passion for the game is contagious. It's a thing that we loved maybe more than anything about him when we did the deal with Orlando, knowing however many years ago with the trade with Elfrid Payton and Saric. That was a calculated move."

Saric played almost 33 minutes Friday night. So what did Brown do to give Saric a breather? He sent out Robert Covington.

Covington has played the position most of his life but has spent his entire Sixers career on the wing. In a time of need, he stepped up for a team still adjusting to roster changes.

The 6-foot-8 Covington held his own against the likes of Philly native Markieff Morris. It didn't seem to faze his offensive game, either. Covington scored 25 points on 9 of 14 from the field (5 of 9 from three). He also added 11 rebounds and three assists.

Covington has also been a catalyst for the Sixers during their recent success. He's averaging 17.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.2 steals in his last six. He's also shot a ridiculous 46 percent from three (19 of 41) in that span.

"We can only control what we're able to control on the court," Covington said. "Everything outside of what they do in management doesn't include us. We can only focus on what we can control on the court, and that's what our main focus was on these last few days."

Saric continues to show that he was worth wait while Covington continues to prove that he's a keeper.

They've certainly had different paths. Saric was a lottery pick and regarded as one the top young players in Europe. Covington went undrafted out of Tennessee State and spent the 2013-14 primarily with the Rockets' D-League affiliate.

Bryan Colangelo has identified Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons as the team's "transformational players." That's likely true, but every NBA team needs guys like Saric and Covington to complement their stars.

Covington is impressed with the progress of Saric in his rookie season.

"Dario's a very special player," Covington said. "He's able to do so much on the court. Tonight, you saw every aspect of his game. He'll guard, defending, rebounding and making plays on the offensive game. That's what Dario does. Now that he's going to play more in the starting lineup, it's really going to help him."

Saric may be the frontrunner to take home the Rookie of the Month for February. He's second only to Joel Embiid in double-doubles (seven) and 20-point games (six) among rookies. Whether it's Saric or Embiid, it appears the Rookie of the Year will be a Sixer.

His promotion to the starting lineup and wins against teams like the Wizards should only help Saric's cause.

"Maybe you see [me start consistently], maybe not," Saric said. "The game first time here I try to find myself. I got a couple rebounds, but still, I try to find myself with the new role. I've tried to move around, catch the rhythm of the game, that's the most important thing in basketball."

He appeared to find himself just fine Friday night.