Hawes, to start or not to start

Spencer Hawes has not played well enough to continue to start, but the Sixers have few options to replace him. (Yong Kim/Staff file photo)

*Addition: Andre Iguodala will not play tomorrow vs. the New York Knicks. An MRI revealed tendinitis in his right Achilles tendon. Iguodala is listed as day-to-day; rookie Evan Turner will be inserted into the starting lineup. Forward Andres Nocioni (ankle sprain) will likely be available to play.

Elton Brand said it best after last night's 123-116 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers: he said making excuses really shouldn't fly anymore and that Doug Collins had reached the point after last night's game where he stopped pointing out the stretches of strong effort and started demanding more.

This team isn't good, but it's certainly better than 1-5. And dissecting last night's game becomes difficult because for about 36 minutes the Sixers looked effective and fun to watch. It's just those other 12 minutes were so horrific, the Sixers would have trouble winning any game, against any team, with the way they played at the start of the 1st quarter and end of the 4th quarter. On what should we focus? Should we ignored the 28 points allowed in the last 4 minutes, 40 seconds of the game (a statistic that almost everyone finds unbelievable and assumes is a typo)? Let's try to look at all of it. And later in the day, we should be able to update this post with the results of Andre Iguodala and Andres Nocioni's MRIs, which are scheduled for today.

Look, we've mentioned this in previous posts, but not as bluntly as we're about to right now: Spencer Hawes has been awful this season. Collins' decision to start him has made sense, up until now. Basically, if Collins doesn't try to get a few good minutes out of Hawes at the start of the game, it's pretty much a given that Hawes will contribute nothing for the entire game. At least with Hawes starting, Collins can eat away a few minutes before going to a small lineup or before going to Tony Battie, whose legs just can't handle extended minutes all season long. But the problem, through six games, is that Hawes isn't just treading water and getting the Sixers to the 6:00-minute mark of the first quarter about even, he's digging them into pretty deep holes. He's slow (the Cavaliers absolutely destroyed the Sixers on any pick-and-roll Hawes was involved with), he can't rebound, and he's playing soft. He doesn't even appear too concerned about all of these things. The starting center position is a massive hole right now for the Sixers and Collins' decision to bench Hawes in the second half of last night's game was the right one. This is a big deal, because there really isn't a solution. Collins could start Battie, but that's asking for trouble: by midway through the year, Battie could be sidelined if his minutes are too extended here at the start. But it's possible, if Collins can stay disciplined with Battie's minutes, that he could be inserted into the starting lineup and get the team off to a better start before Collins goes to Marreese Speights and then Brand at the center spot.

Last year, while out in Sacramento doing a Tyreke Evans story, Hawes was removed from the Sacramento Kings starting lineup for these very same reasons. So the issue of Hawes not getting it done is not a novel one to this year's Sixers.

Lou Williams has been doing his job perfectly: come off the bench and score. In watching Lou this season, you can tell he understands his role and isn't getting caught up in anything but producing offensively. But with Lou, there seems to be this fine line of playing him just enough so he can score for you, but not overdoing it to the point where he starts giving away points on the defensive end. After last night's game, Collins said he thought Lou "got tired," which basically means he stopped staying in front of his man on defense. Perhaps it's because Jrue Holiday is almost never trailing his guy, but Lou's defensive abilities when isolated, or on a pick-and-roll, are quite glaring. When Lou first comes in the game, he provides that punch of offense that the Sixers can't get from anyone else, but as his minutes drag on, he starts giving away baskets. Without a doubt, Lou needs to be in the game on the final offensive possession of almost every quarter, but there are times in the final few minutes when Evan Turner needs to be the guy for defense and rebounding. If there were better balance with Lou's minutes -- making sure he's only adding on offense before he's subtracting on defense -- that would give the Sixers a boost.

If nothing else last night, Sixers fans got to see a little bit of what Holiday could become. Holiday finished with 29 points (10 for 17 shooting), 8 assists and 0 turnovers.


Each week, Kate will check in from the road and answer fan questions about the Sixers. Click here to ask Kate a question or e-mail her at kfagan@phillynews.com.