Stop laughing. This is not a joke.
There was a time when everybody was a Shawn Kemp fan. Back in the days of his high-top fade he was as ferocious a dunker as the league has ever seen and force in the paint, a guy with the skills to grab the rebound and go coast-to-coast. Watch the highlights. You turned on the Sonics to watch Kemp (and Gary Payton).
Spencer Hawes was one of those who grew up in Seattle a Kemp fan. While we can be guilty of the weight and children jokes that accompanied the demise of his career, Kemp has turned his life around — he is down to his playing weight, he is a respected restaurant owner and sports talk radio host now.
And he worked out with Hawes this summer. Pushed him, really, according to CSNPhilly.com.
“He’s got a lot of upside to his game,” Kemp said. “I’ve been barking at him for a while. I thought it was time to step up and show he could play a little better.”
Hawes said it was more of a mutual decision to get together.
“When I came into the league I had higher expectations than what I produced – especially last year, statistically, individually,” he said, adding that the summer afforded him the opportunity to “really reflect on it and say ‘OK, this year, something’s going to change, and I’ve got to start making myself head in the right direction.’ ”
Kemp’s focus was to get Hawes — all 7’1” of him — off the perimeter and closer to the basket. The result is Hawes is in the post a little more (19.4 percent of his possessions this year compared to 18 percent last year, according to Synergy Sports) but what is gone are the spot up looks from the outside. Last season 19.2 percent of his shots came on spot up jumpers (and he shot 40 percent on them), this season it is down to 17 percent of his shots and he is shooting 56 percent on them. He’s getting more looks on cuts, moving toward the basket (23.7 percent of his chances this year.
The bottom line — Hawes is shooting 62.7 percent this year, up from 46.5 percent last year. He’s scoring five more points per game while using less of the offense.
Kemp probably shouldn’t get all the credit for that, there have been a number of changes with the Sixers offense. But we’re giving the lion’s share to Kemp anyway. He deserves something other than a joke.