Here's an odd thing — a whole lot of Philadelphia 76ers fans can't stand Spencer Hawes. Dislike his game intensely. Don't think much of his defensive rotations. Don't understand why he often treats penetrating guards with the same pose Jason Terry unveils when he nails a huge 3-pointer. Don't appreciate the long jumpers, or the way he's quickly taken out of games by an opposing offense well before he's literally taken out of a game.
Here's a thing 76ers fans have to realize, as they hear that the team just brought Hawes back for a two-year, $13 million contract: Hawes isn't breaking your bank. We'd love to see Nikola Vukevic take in more minutes, and for Hawes to improve on either end, but this is far from the end-all that some fans are treating it as.
No, it's a young 7-footer that played well for chunks of last year and just signed a two-year deal for barely above the league's average contract. And if you employ a talented 7-footer for a yearly price below his height in feet? Then you've done well.
Hawes did well to start 2011-12 before Achilles issues set in. The former Kings big man struggled mightily upon returning, and though he had his moments as the Sixers dispatched the Bulls in the first round, Boston's smaller lineups gave Hawes fits on either end of the court.
Of course, this is where a coach comes in. The 76ers field Doug Collins at that position, and at his best he's one of the best — one of the quickest thinkers, one of the better motivators. But at Collins' worst he's the opposite of both of those, and he has to understand (with Hawes, and others) that this game is changing. Whether it's evolving for the better is a barbershop argument for another day, but the league is getting quicker and smaller and traditional centers like Hawes (even if he prefers to work from the high post) have to be treated as specialists at a position (and skill set) that would have once heralded them as cornerstones.
And Collins, when it's not going all that well, has to pull the guy. Quickly.
To Sixers fans, this re-signing probably smacks of more of the same. More reasonable money for good-enough players, with nary a star to be found. That frustration is understandable, but what was Philly to do? Who's out there, to trade for?
Say the team declines to sign Hawes, uses the amnesty provision on Elton Brand, and unsheathes double-figure cap space? What star is left to sign? Who's lining up to trade with the Sixers just for a trade exception? Jrue Holliday is already making noise about wanting a massive contract extension and Lou Williams is a free agent, so you can't toss them into the tradin' pot. Thaddeus Young and Andre Iguodala are on their second contracts, poison for teams looking to rebuild. Vucevic is a guy you seem to like. Who goes? Who is trading for this lot?
Sometimes timing hamstrings a team. Actually, usually timing hamstrings a team. And there just aren't that many opportunities for a major upgrade this offseason for Philly, in spite of the potential to rack up some cap space. It's true that there's no clear plan in Philadelphia, but that's the case for just about every other team in the NBA right now. Things are so fluid, the money is so dangerous, and the end-all so frightening that you just have to take these moves one at a time.
Philly made its first, small, move. And in that small move that paid mid-money for a big man. Pardon me for not overreacting.