By FRANK WARD
The Sixers may have traded immaturity for maturity on the court last week. Noted for his lax attitude when it came to working out and improving his game throughout his tenure in Philadelphia, Samuel Dalembert was far from an ideal guy for younger guys to emulate.
Conversely, it sounds as if Spencer Hawes, the center acquired along with forward Andres Nocioni seems to already have learned more about improving as a player and a teammate than Dalembert ever did.
That’s not to say Dalembert is a bad guy off the court. His Haiti relief efforts after the devastating earthquake speak for themselves. Basketball-wise, however, he lacked motivation and never admitted a mistake. Even Team Canada kicked him off the Oylmpic team because he thought he could just show up and not work on his game.
Hawes, meanwhile, was shuffled in and out of the Kings starting lineup during his brief three year career. He voiced his displeasure, but seems to have learned from the way he handled the situation.
“I think that last season I probably went about it in the wrong way voicing my frustrations when maybe I shouldn’t have,” Hawes said during a conference call with Philly reporters on Tuesday. “I think that’s all part of the process of growing up and maturing as a person and a basketball player.”
Keep in mind, the guy entered the league when he was 19 and is still only 22 years old. The growing process most people go throught their last two years of college, Hawes went through in the spotlight of the NBA.
The Sixers newest center also knows he needs to improve his game defensively, which is going to be huge since new coach Doug Collins recently cited that as the area the team must get better at next year.
“The strength that I bring to the table derives from my skill set because I’m a bigger guy,” Hawes said. “My ability to shoot and make plays on the offensive end. I know that defensively there are things I want to get better at and things I’d like to address. I’d like to block more shots and be more of a force inside. One of the things I have been focusing on a lot this summer in getting stronger has been trying to get back down to the post area with my footwork.”
One concern, however, has to be the fact that, when asked what specifically he needs to improve upon on the dfenesive end, he only discussed areas in which he’s already gotten better.
“The pick-and-roll defense was always something that last year I talked back and forth with my coach about trying to improve and I think that’s something I was able to improve,” Hawes said. “Also, I think just defending one-on-one in the post is something I struggled with early on and now looking at the tape and going over the strategy I think I’ve improved in that area. I always try being aware and ready to be a shot blocker and try and give the guys the luxury to try and take some extra chances and gamble a little bit knowing that they will be alright when they do.”
Maybe we can make the inference that Hawes still views those areas as ones that need improvement, but it’s not clear.
The third year guy out of Washington says he’s excited to be hear and sounds like he’ll be a good fit.
“I think first and foremost someone that’s going to come in with a mentality focused on winning and trying to bring that tradition back to Philadelphia,” he said. “I think I’m an unselfish player and I think I’m ready to adapt to whatever goals fall on me that will make it most successful for the team.”
He also thinks he’ll blend in with the Sixers roster, especially as it relates to their athleticism.
“I think when you look at the team on paper, there’s just boatloads of talent pretty much up and down the roster,” Hawes said. “Their athleticism really jumps out at you. I know in game planning for them the last couple years, their athleticism was always something that we had to address. I know anytime you have that kind of talent and athleticism it’s really a huge advantage coming off the bat and now with Coach Collins and his staff we’re really going to be able to focus in and start moving in the right direction and having that translate to more wins.”
Time will tell whether or not Hawes fulfills his potential in Philly. He clearly said all the right things on Tuesday, and youth is definitely on his side. Now, he has to commit to following through and showing Sixers fans that he’s part of the future.