When Doug Collins tells people that the 76ers are a better team when Spencer Hawes is playing well, he's not making it up.
Last season, his first with the Sixers and his fourth since the Sacramento Kings made the 7-foot-1, 245-pound center the 10th pick in the 2008 draft, Hawes started 81 games for the Sixers and averaged 7.2 points and 5.2 rebounds in slightly more than 21 minutes per game.
However, when Hawes' contribution to the team's effort included him scoring in double figures, the Sixers, who finished last season 41-41, were 14-6.
Acquired by the 76ers last summer along with Andres Nocioni in a deal that sent center Samuel Dalembert to the Kings, Hawes strained his back in preseason, missed about 16 practices, and fell behind the rest of the team. And while he doesn't like to use it as an excuse, it forced him to play catch-up. He had to learn a new coach's system. He lost conditioning, and he had to adjust to new teammates.
As the Sixers prepare for the start of the season (which begins in less than two weeks) Hawes said he's much better prepared to begin the season than he was a little more than a year ago. He credited extensive weightlifting and adding yoga to his workouts.
"He's so far ahead of last year that it's not even close," Collins said of Hawes, who signed the team's qualifying offer of $4.1 million over the weekend. "Last year he came in and his body didn't look like it does. I mean, this year it looks like he's been on P90X compared to last year.
"I give him a lot of credit because he got better as the season went on," Collins said. "It wasn't an easy situation for him, getting traded and then suffering the injury. But give him credit. He fought through it. And when Spencer is playing well, we are tough to beat."
Collins wants to see Hawes "play bigger" this year. He wants him to rebound better, be a little more aggressive at the offensive end, and block more than the 0.88 shots he rejected last season.
Hawes said Monday that he knew some players were not working out as much as they would have had the lockout not extended into December. However, he continued with the most ambitious workout regimen of his career, a regimen he said will help him do exactly what Collins is asking of him.
"From a physical standpoint you get a peace of mind knowing that while you are still working out, there are a lot of guys that aren't," Hawes, 23, said. "You know you are going to have a head start when you start playing."
Battie back. The Sixers announced that they have signed free-agent center Tony Battie. The terms of the contract were not known, but it is believed that Battie, who spent last season with the Sixers, signed a one-year deal.
Last season, he appeared in 38 games in his first season with the team. In just fewer than 10 minutes per game, he averaged 2.6 points and 2.6 rebounds.
Holiday on point. Point guard Jrue Holiday, who sat out the second of two practices on Sunday due to a strained left Achilles tendon, resumed practice on Monday.