One of the most amazing/mind-boggling/semi-ridiculous aspects of the Sixers‘ resurgence is the fact that Spencer Hawes has arguably been our best, most consistent player.
This is not an exaggeration.
In his second season with the Sixers, he’s averaging 12.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, almost two blocks per game, and is shooting more than 62% from the floor even though he takes a lot of 15-footers. He’s been aggressive on both ends of the floor, he’s hustling his ass off and is playing with a bizarre sense of self-confidence. Spencer’s play has been nothing short of a revelation, especially coming off a season in Philly where he did zero.
So where did this come from?
His coach, Doug Collins, has said many times that Hawes’ offseason conditioning program that includes yoga, boxing, and swimming, has done a world of good for him. Hawes’ body fat percentage is apparently the lowest it’s ever been in his five-year NBA career, and the results show every night on the court.
The secret ingredient though? Shawn Kemp.
This is also not an exaggeration.
As a kid growing up in Seattle, Kemp was Hawes’ basketball idol, and as Spencer’s game and stature in the region grew, he found himself occasionally working out with Kemp up to and through the 2007 NBA Draft.
Hawes and Kemp reunited this summer, and according to CSNPhilly.com, things took off:
“He’s got a lot of upside to his game,” Kemp said. “I’ve been barking at him for a while. I thought it was time to step up and show he could play a little better.”
Hawes said it was more of a mutual decision to get together.
“When I came into the league I had higher expectations than what I produced â€“ especially last year, statistically, individually,” he said, adding that the summer afforded him the opportunity to “really reflect on it and say ‘OK, this year, something’s going to change, and I’ve got to start making myself head in the right direction.’ ”
While he said his workouts with Kemp were “off and on” because of their conflicting schedules, they did things like run steps together at Lake Washington. There were also times when Hawes would head over to Oskar’s Kitchen, which is not far from where he grew up, just to pick Kemp’s brain.
But mostly they played one-on-one.
“Just getting dirty a little bit,” Kemp said. “Me and Spencer down in the post, beating each other up. A lot of elbows being thrown. A lot of real physical play.”
“It was fun, definitely,” said Hawes, who at 7-1 and 245 pounds is more earthbound than Kemp. “I had to stop sometimes and catch myself: ‘Damn, I’m working out with Shawn Kemp.'”
Then he would get back to work, which was much-needed. In Kemp’s view Hawes, a good shooter, “fell in love with his jumpshot.” Certainly that was the case last year. He missed much of the preseason with a back injury â€“ 16 practices, by Collins’ count â€“ and struggled to get into shape.
Because of that, the coach said, “He had a tendency to drift and float on the perimeter a little bit.”
Not anymore. If Hawes once viewed his jumper as his “safety net,” he now views it as “a complement” to the rest of his game.
“He’s playing around the paint,” Collins said. “When he does that, to me it means his legs are fresh. … He’s diving to the basket and he’s very active. He’s rebounding, and that’s exciting for us.”
Whatever gets it done, Spencer.
By the way, the article also says that Kemp “works out religiously; he has dropped some 55 pounds since his playing career ended in 2003 and now carries 256 on his 6-10 frame, virtually the same as in his heyday with the Sonics.”
Follow Patrick Cassidy on Twitter
Follow Dime Magazine on Twitter
Become a fan of Dime Magazine on Facebook