Game 20


Saturday, January 28, 2012
Game 20: Wells Fargo Center
Sixers 95, Pistons 74

PHILADELPHIA — When I was in the eighth grade, the only thing I wanted to do was play basketball. Sometimes I would leave for school early so I could spend time on the school yard shooting before we had to go to class.

At recess and gym I played ball as much as possible and when the school day ended, I was on the way home to play some more. It didn’t matter what the weather was like outside, I was firing up shot after shot for as long as possible.

Once I went to the gym to wait for practice for our CYO team only to find out it had been canceled without warning. Something had come up with the coach and he couldn’t make it, but for whatever reason I didn’t get the notice until I was getting dressed on the sidelines and getting fired up to go. I remember it felt like a tease—here I was in the gym and I couldn’t play.

It took everything I had to hold back the tears.

I doubt Spencer Hawes has cried about missing the past seven games in a row with a strained Achilles. After all, it’s for his own good. The Sixers’ season is coming fast and furious this year and any type of rest a player can get is a big deal. Certainly the Sixers and Hawes will prefer playing in the postseason rather than a midweek tilt against Charlotte.

Still, Hawes has to be pretty bummed out about missing all these games. There were times earlier this year where Hawes was disappointed about coming out of games when the outcome was no longer in doubt. He also seemed pretty down about missing a game in New York with a lower back strain, too.

Hey, the guy loves to play.

That’s good for the Sixers, too, because when Hawes is in the lineup, he has been one of the most effective players on the floor. He is averaging 10.4 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, to go along with 1.7 blocks. His 58.8 field-goal percentage was the third best in the NBA this season before the Achilles sent him to the bench.

What stinks about the injuries is that Hawes was one of the most impressive players in training game during the second week of December. He was in the best shape of his career and as ready to play as anyone in the league. The improved fitness helped with his confidence and that was evident in the first game of the season in Portland when Hawes came one assist away from notching a triple-double.

“In the Portland game I don’t think at any point that I was forcing it. It was just the flow of the game, we were moving the ball and guys were finishing shots for me,” Hawes said.

For whatever reason though, Hawes is a bit prone to injury. Whether it’s because he’s 7-feet tall or his biomechanics are flawed or he just has bad luck, Hawes has had his share of nagging little annoyances the past year. After missing seven straight games, Hawes also may have to take a step back when he/if he returns to action on Monday night when the Sixers face the Orlando Magic. Certainly it would be a helluva game to comeback for with the big man matched up against Orlando’s MVP candidate, Dwight Howard.

Then again, that just might be the way Hawes wants it. If he is cleared to play Monday, he’ll be matched up against one of the best players on the planet. Certainly there is no better barometer than that …


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