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Library: SacText 2003-2008 Word Count: 637


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Headline Hawes' flaws exposed in exhibition opener
CENTER'S PLAY CONCERNS KINGS COACH, TEAMMATES
Origin Sam Amick samick@sacbee.com
Publication Date 10/9/2008
Page C1
Section SPORTS
Edition METRO FINAL
Dateline  
Corrections  
Memo  
Body Text The good intentions could be heard not long before the Kings played in Portland, Ore., on Tuesday, when second-year center Spencer Hawes chatted courtside with vice president of basketball operations Wayne Cooper.

Asked how many rebounds and blocks he planned on tallying that night, Hawes thought for a moment before responding. "Eleven and three," he said confidently.

The end result fell well short of his goal, as Hawes had six rebounds and no blocks in the Kings' 110-81 loss. Yet the concern stemming from his performance only began there.

It wasn't that he missed 7 of 9 shots from the field, but the way his identity crisis continued as he settled for perimeter looks (eight of his attempts came from 12 feet and beyond) and appeared timid to enter the paint.

It wasn't just that he was pushed around by Greg Oden, whose 285-pound frame trumps Hawes' by 40 pounds, it was the haphazard defensive positioning that led to three quick fouls and no signs of improvement on that end.

With Brad Miller facing a five-game suspension to start the regular season and Hawes scheduled to take his place, the learning-curve cushion of last season no longer exists. A day after the exhibition opener, Hawes' discombobulated play left his coach and teammates searching for answers.

"Um, Spencer's got to find himself right now," Kings coach Reggie Theus said, measuring his words when asked about Hawes' performance. "He's got to figure out where he's going to be most effective. ... We're expecting him to play. He's got to show us that he's ready for that type of pressure."

With much of Theus' message thus far focusing on the evolution of team chemistry, it's clear Hawes is far from cohesive with his teammates at the outset. Point guard Beno Udrih, who is one of Hawes' closest friends on the team, explained that Hawes must commit to a style of play. When he decides, Udrih said, he wants to be the first to know.

"He doesn't know if he wants to be a shooter or if he wants to be a post player," an exasperated Udrih said after Wednesday's practice. "He's saying, 'Hit me in the post,' but then he took like eight shots from outside. He has to decide what he likes to do so we get comfortable hitting him for the shot or hitting him in the low post."

Specifically, Udrih said, Hawes' positioning coming off high screens leaves the point guard unsure where to pass the ball.

"Sometimes when he goes pick and roll (and a defender) denies the pick and roll -- and he's got the whole paint in front of him -- he stays outside," Udrih said. "(Do) you want to shoot the ball ... to be a pick and pop guy like Brad?"

Hawes, who takes pride in his post game and has been seen as more Vlade Divac than Miller by comparison, saw his only attempt in the paint against Portland emphatically blocked by Oden. Kings forward Mikki Moore said Hawes' hesitation is working against him.

"The problem is, he's letting the defense dictate what his game is," Moore said. "He needs to be more determined in what he wants to do. I think he needs to stop thinking so hard and just play, stop trying to impress people and just play."

Hawes' preseason already was tumultuous, as his initial decision to refuse a team-mandated conditioning test drew much scrutiny from the organization and fans. Having passed that test, he is faced with another.

"I've just got to keep shooting it," Hawes said after the loss. "That's the way it goes sometimes. Personally, some games, you've just got to let it go."

UP NEXT
KINGS VS. THUNDER
Exhibition
When: 7 p.m. Friday TV: CSN
Read the Kings blog at www.sacbee.com/kingsblog.
Graphic Text RICK BOWMER / Associated Press
Spencer Hawes, left, struggled against Portland's 285-pound center, Greg Oden, on Tuesday night.
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