Carter-Williams adjusting to pro game on the fly

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Carter-Williams adjusting to pro game on the fly

ORLANDO, Fla. – Michael Carter-Williams has played in three Orlando Pro Summer League games to this point. He is leading the Sixers in scoring with 15.3 points and assists with seven per game. The guard has also made 15 of 17 attempts from the foul line.

On the flip side, Carter-Williams is also shooting just 25 percent from the field and a rough 1 for 13 from the three-point line. Plus, he has 13 turnovers in the three contests with nine of those coming in the first game.

It’s all part of adjusting to the pro game for the 11th-overall draft pick.

“I think Michael has shown a lot of good flashes this week,” Sixers president and general manager Sam Hinkie said on Wednesday. “I think the summer is a good time for everyone to figure out where you stand. I think he has had a lot of good plays and he has a lot that he knows he needs to work on. Today, he got trapped on every pick-and-roll and they tried to get the ball out of his hands. It has been a while since he has been in that environment.”

Carter-Williams found himself matched up against Oklahoma City’s Jeremy Lamb at times during Wednesday’s game. MCW finished the game 3 of 16 for seven points, while the Thunder’s Lamb scored 32 points on 10-for-14 shooting.

Hinkie had a hand in selecting Lamb 12th overall in the 2012 draft when he was still with Houston. Lamb went to Oklahoma City in the James Harden trade prior to the start of last season and played in just 23 games, not totally surprising given the Thunder’s veteran talent.

However, Lamb’s growth as a player from his rookie summer to his sophomore summer was on full display Wednesday.

That comes from a daily maturation process the Sixers hope to see in their rookies Carter-Williams, Nerlens Noel and Arsalan Kazemi.

“Practicing your craft all 365 days a year makes a big difference,” Hinkie said. “No class, no study hall and you can really focus and spend a lot of time. If you are a player in a good development program, there are a lot of people focusing on you getting better, even if you are not getting in the big games that everyone thinks matters. You are getting a lot of work and a lot of shots and a lot of individual coaching in a way you didn’t even when you were in college.”

When Jrue Holiday returns from his honeymoon and the Pelicans give him his physical to officially seal the draft-night trade, the Sixers will have seven players under contract in addition to first-round picks Noel and Carter-Williams.

Royce White’s future -- acquired last week in a trade with Houston -- is up in the air. The Sixers could keep him on the roster or waive him, but his salary will count against the cap.

Kazemi and Justin Holiday will be vying for roster spots as well.

The salary amount for the seven players under contract equals just above $35 million, while the pair of first-rounders are slotted to eat up $4.3 million. White’s salary is 1.7 million for next season to give the Sixers a total right above $41 million. The league’s salary floor for next season is $52.8 million with the Sixers likely having four roster spots to reach that mark.

While NBA teams were officially allowed to start signing free agents on Wednesday and the Sixers certainly have money to spend, don’t expect the club to go adding costly pieces to its puzzle.

“We have talked to a lot of agents and to a lot of people around the league, learning the kind of players that will be available -- will be available in free agency and in trades,” Hinkie said. “There are lots of ways to add to our program, so it won’t be just free agency. I suspect that we will be more active as time goes on, not less.

“I think I mentioned that I probably wouldn’t knock on any doors at midnight. The moratorium ended this morning. We weren’t a team like some other teams that came out really aggressive this time of year in part because we want to see the opportunities that come our way and then react accordingly.”

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

Nerlens Noel excited for impending return to game action

NEW ORLEANS -- The weeks and months have quickly piled up. Nerlens Noel has not played an NBA regular-season game since last season ended for the Sixers on April 13. Nearly eight months later, Noel is nearing the return he has been eyeing for quite some time now. 

“It’s always an excitement to be able to play basketball after this amount of time, including the summer, not being able to play organized basketball at a competitive level,” Noel said Thursday. “I’ve been really looking forward to this. I think I’ve gained some momentum coming back from this minor surgery, and I think I’m in a really good place and I’m feeling good with my body. Everything is on point.”

Noel has been sidelined since undergoing elective left knee surgery in October to address an inflamed plica. He traveled to New Orleans on Wednesday to join the Sixers ahead of their 99-88 win over the Pelicans (see game recap). Noel continued his rehab Thursday while the team prepped for the game. 

“I’ve been able do five-on-five, full contact,” Noel said. “I’ve tried to maximize my opportunities of that with the team being gone on the road. I came down here and went through most of shootaround and it went well. Now these next couple of days, [I will be] going through practice, still working on my wind. I do like where I’m at now.”

The Sixers’ next game is Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Brett Brown had given Noel’s availability for that game a “maybe” (see story)

“I’m not sure,” Noel said of playing Sunday. “I’m ready to go with these next couple of days and see how my wind feels and how my body feels, which I have been feeling good. So it’s a possibility.”

When Noel does return, there is a scenario in which he could be paired with center Joel Embiid. Last year, the Sixers struggled finding the best way to utilize Noel and Jahlil Okafor, also a center, at the same time playing the four and five positions. As Okafor has said of playing with Embiid, Noel also believes his off-the-court friendship with the towering rookie would translate onto the court. 

“I think it would be something that’s experimented,” Noel said. “It’d definitely be interesting.”

Noel candidly expressed his opinion of the Sixers’ logjammed frontcourt at the start of the season. Since speaking to the media after his surgery, Noel has mentioned he is in a good mental place (see story). For him, that means being out on the court again. 

“I love myself and I love the game of basketball,” Noel said. “When I step out here to come and play, it just brings a lot of enjoyment and excitement to me. Regardless of what the details of it are, I just love the game and I’m happy to just be playing.”

Best of NBA: Bulls hand Spurs first road loss of season

Best of NBA: Bulls hand Spurs first road loss of season

CHICAGO -- Dwyane Wade scored 20 points, and the Chicago Bulls handed San Antonio its first road loss after a 13-0 start, hanging on to beat the Spurs 95-91 on Thursday night.

San Antonio fell one win shy of matching the NBA's best road start set by the Golden State Warriors last season. The Spurs cut an 18-point deficit midway through the third quarter to four in the closing minutes, only to come up short.

Kawhi Leonard scored 24 for San Antonio. Patty Mills added 16 points, hitting 4 of 6 3-pointers. Former Bull Pau Gasol had 13 points and 10 rebounds in his first game in Chicago since signing with San Antonio in the summer, but the Spurs lost a road game for the first time since Oklahoma City knocked them out in the Western Conference semifinals last season.

Jimmy Butler scored all of his 13 points for Chicago in the second half. Rajon Rondo added 12 points, nine assists and 10 rebounds, and Chicago picked up the win after dropping three in a row and six of nine.

The Spurs hadn't dropped a regular-season road game since Denver beat them on April 8 (see full recap).

Scoreboard malfunction, quiet crowd don’t stop Wizards’ rally
WASHINGTON -- Overcoming a sluggish start in front of a sparse, silent crowd and with a malfunctioning scoreboard, the Washington Wizards came back to beat the Nuggets 92-85 on Thursday night, thanks mainly to Bradley Beal's 26 points and Denver's season-high 29 turnovers.

John Wall scored only 15 points one game after a career-best 52, but nine came in the fourth quarter for Washington, which trailed by as many as 14 in the first half.

With starting point guard Emmanuel Mudiay inactive because of what the team said was a sprained right ankle, the Nuggets went 5 1/2 minutes without a point in the fourth quarter.

In that final period, they had 10 of their turnovers and shot 1 for 14 on 3-pointers -- including 0 for 4 in one last-minute possession (see full recap).

Gasol, clutch free throws lift Grizzlies over
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Marc Gasol scored 36 points and Toney Douglas made two free throws with less than a second left to give the Memphis Grizzlies an 88-86 comeback victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

Douglas finished with 11 points, scoring the game's final six points to seal Memphis' fifth straight victory.

Gasol was 13 of 24 from the field, including 4 of 6 from outside the arc. But Douglas, signed by Memphis this week because of injuries, took over down the stretch. The guard scored on a 19-footer with 34 seconds left, then converted two pairs of free throws in the last 20 seconds.

CJ McCollum led the Trail Blazers with 24 points, and Damian Lillard had 19 on 6-of-18 shooting. Evan Turner had 15 points and 10 rebounds (see full recap).