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Changing Your Spots, or Donning a Cape

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It aggravates some fans, because it's not really what you want to hear. But I enjoy it when Spencer Hawes opens up and speaks what he believes to be the truth, as he did in today's Sam Amick Bee piece. It's cliche to say Hawes doesn't think like other young basketball players, but it's the truth. He is always so concerned with the future. Requesting a waiver on the preseason conditioning test last season, talking contract now -- a full 18 months before he'll be any kind of free agent. But most of all, his talk about what he can do and can't do, and why he wants to focus on perfecting what he can do ... that's interesting to me. Not aggravating, but interesting.

In comparing himself to Jon Brockman, in saying that Brock is built for certain tasks and Hawes is built for others -- it's a real self-indictment. It's an "I can't" statement. "I can't knock heads around." "I can't drive opponents crazy with physical play." "I can't rebound like that." We know this, of course, because we've seen it. And while we've all prayed Hawes'd catch the rebounding bug, even at his best he won't be as good at it as Brockman, or even Jason Thompson. Hawes is right: his strengths are in scoring and passing. I don't think anything -- correct me if I'm wrong -- wants Hawes to turn into Brockman. There's a reason one was a lottery pick 19-year-old and the other stayed in school for four years and went in the second round. Hawes has gifts you can't find in the D-League in midseason. Maybe Brockman does too, but you're far more likely to be able to pick up a bull rebounder than a gifted high-post orchestra conductor.

Where Hawes loses me:

I do what I do, and that is what has made me successful.

I hope this doesn't come out wrong, but ... Hawes hasn't been successful. He's a part-time starter in his third season, after the team essentially cleared the way for him. He can't get in the good graces of a coach tailormade for him. He's losing minutes to a guy who, had the Kings not picked him at No. 38, very well could have gone undrafted. Why does Hawes think he's been successful at any point beyond AAU and high school? He acts as if he's made it and is now being asked to shapeshift. That's not remotely the case. He's in the early years of his career, and expectations dictate he improve on defense and rebounding to best help the team. Maybe it's not easy to relinguish his own perceived role as offensive capo. But it's necessary, and Hawes has no equity in the team to argue otherwise. If anyone is asking him to break someone's nose like Brock can, well that's foolish. Look at Brockman, look at Hawes. But requiring better rebounding numbers -- something like last season's effort -- and demanding defensive consistency ... this is not transmutation. It's simple higher expectations. It's improvement. It's what we expect from everyone in our lives, and everyone on the team. It's clearly what the coaches demand. There's no reason to get bent about it. It's a fact of life, and Spencer can improve. He's smart and he works hard. He can do this, I have no doubt. He needs to start by believing it can be done.

UPDATE: Based on the interest in the story, Amick has posted the transcript of his full conversation with Hawes. More interesting stuff, including:

[G]oing in there and if I mess up something on defense, when I don't do the things to keep me on the floor, that's when it can affect me. If I just miss shots, that won't get in your head. But if I'm missing assignments and missing box outs, then that's when you come out and you know you haven't done anything, you start to pressure a little bit more because you think you have to compensate more.

That makes perfect sense and, again, is just plain interesting to hear from a young player.

Hawes went on The Rise Guys a little bit ago; I'm going to try to get the audio for us.