SALT LAKE CITY - It's a bit surprising that 76ers center Spencer Hawes has been gobbling up rebounds at a pace of almost 13 per game. However, it's equally surprising that Hawes is also the team leader in assists.
Two games into the season, Hawes, the Sixers' 7-foot-1 center, was averaging a team-high 6.0 assists per game.
Was he surprised?
"Yeah, I'd say a little bit," Hawes said after warm-ups before Friday night's game at Utah. "But that's something I've always taken advantage of - my ability to pass; I think it's one of my strong suits."
A four-year veteran, Hawes has averaged 1.6 assists over his career. He had his best season as a passer in his third season, when he averaged 2.2 a game.
He has no delusions that he will lead the Sixers in assists this season, but there are those in the locker room - mainly his coach - who consider him to be an above-average passing big man.
However, there are some kinks in Hawes' game that have to be worked out before he's labeled the second coming of Bill Walton.
"He was great last year as a passer," Sixers coach Doug Collins said. "The one problem is that last year he would start out games making high-risk passes. I used to kid him, I'd say, 'Spencer, if you are going to start out turning the ball over the first play of the game, you might as well kick it into the stands so we can get our defense back and at least it's not a fastbreak.'
"But a big part of the efficiency of our offense is that Spencer is very skilled; he sees the floor very well and guys cut off of him because they know he will find them," Collins continued. "It's like anything else. When you run the floor and you know somebody is inclined to be a passer, you are more inclined to cut.
"And Spencer is one of the better passing big men in the NBA."
Friday night marked the first game of a back-to-back series for the Sixers, who play at Golden State on Saturday.
Collins said that even though the games will come more frequently in this shortened season than they do in a typical 82-game campaign, he won't approach them any differently.
"I don't think we will," Collins said. "When you get into games, you have these best-laid plans of playing nine, 10 guys. And then the game starts and you become so absorbed in doing everything that you can do to win. So really, a lot of it is just game-to-game."