Clippers' Spencer Hawes adjusting to reserve role

Clippers reserve 7-footer Spencer Hawes struggles in adjusting to new role

SAN ANTONIO -- Sitting on a stage inside the Clippers' practice facility on media day, Matt Barnes labeled new Clippers teammate Spencer Hawes as one of the most overlooked free-agent pickups of the summer.

There have been times the last four months when Hawes probably would have preferred no one talked about him.

He has hardly provided the kind of backup to DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin the Clippers had hoped for, playing fewer minutes than in any season since he was a rookie.

The plan was for the eight-year veteran to play close to starter's minutes while providing a floor-spacing 7-footer who would routinely make three-pointers, but he was averaging 16.8 minutes per game and shooting only 30.8% from beyond the arc before the Clippers played the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday night at the AT&T Center.

The low point came early last week when Hawes went scoreless in consecutive games for the first time since March 2008 during his rookie season.

"He has to play better to play more," Coach Doc Rivers said before the Clippers' 105-85 victory. "Minutes are earned, they're not just given out like cookies."

Hawes acknowledged struggling with the transition to coming off the bench after starting 346 of his 500 NBA games before this season, saying he needed to be more aggressive as soon as he entered games.

He did that against the Spurs, making a three-pointer in his first minute after checking in and adding another shortly thereafter on the way to eight first-half points. He finished with 11 points and three rebounds in the kind of performance the Clippers would like to see more regularly.

Hawes said he needed to find a way to be more productive playing fewer minutes after starting 78 of 80 games last season with Philadelphia and Cleveland and compiling career highs in every major statistical category.

"When you're a starter you can count on coming in and the game kind of works itself out for you," said Hawes, who signed a four-year, $23-million contract last summer.

"I think I have to do a better job of being more assertive coming in off the bench and trying to grab ahold of it as opposed to just kind of letting yourself ease into it."

Hawes said he was playing more power forward than he had before in his career, something he needed to improve on, particularly on the defensive end.

He was averaging 5.8 points and 4.0 rebounds before Saturday, his lowest output since his rookie season. He said he had talked to super-sub Jamal Crawford and intended to speak with other players about making a successful switch to coming off the bench.

"It's coming, it's just a question of" when, Hawes said. "Obviously, you'd like it to happen sooner rather than later, but that doesn't mean you stop grinding away at trying to make it work out."

Rivers said he remained confident Hawes would be contributing more heavily by the start of the playoffs.

"He's going to get it," Rivers said. "I have total faith that he'll turn it around."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

Twitter: @latbbolch

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