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.”

Without Joel Embiid, Brett Brown eager to see if Sixers can protect the rim

Without Joel Embiid, Brett Brown eager to see if Sixers can protect the rim

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers have been challenged by playing without Joel Embiid in one of two games in a back-to-back series all season. Now they will have to do it in at least the next two straight games. 

“We’re going to be without him tomorrow (against the Clippers) and in Milwaukee and we’ll go from there,” Brett Brown said after practice Monday. 

Embiid, who was named Eastern Conference Player of the Week, suffered a left knee contusion in Friday’s win over the Trail Blazers. He did not travel with the team to Atlanta on Saturday for the back-to-back series. 

Brown called the decision “precautionary.” Embiid did not practice on Monday but took some light shots after. He was pre-scheduled to sit out on Wednesday against the Bucks in accordance with his limitations for consecutive games. Embiid is reportedly expected to return Friday against the Rockets.

The standout rookie leaves a glaring hole on the court when he misses games. The Sixers are 2-10 when he does not play. For all the ways Embiid dominates at the basket (22.4 points over the last 10 games), there is an obvious difference on the defensive end without him. 

“It’s still about our defense, it’s still about running, it’s still about sharing the ball,” Brown said. “I think you go with Jahlil (Okafor) and Nerlens (Noel) and challenge them in relation to rim protection and what Joel provides us. The group around them also has got to perform at a higher level when you don’t have Joel. I think that second group that we have been playing, led by Nerlens really can take on a far greater defensive identity than it has recently, and Nerlens will be the captain of that.”

This is a time when the Sixers’ logjam at the five-spot actually helps them. Brown still has three true centers to turn to, in addition to power forwards Ersan Ilyasova and Dario Saric, whom he could slide into the position if they go small. Brown sees a silver lining for his bigs in the uphill battle of playing without Embiid. 

“It definitely hurts the team, how can we spin it any other way?” Brown said. “But like anything, you’re going to now look at Nerlens and Jahlil. This is fantastic for those two. It could prove, based on some things, Richaun (Holmes) sees daylight a little bit. 

“There aren’t many teams, I would suspect, that have the ability to roll out three young guys when somebody like Joel goes down and look forward to watching them develop more, look forward to giving them the opportunity to play NBA minutes.”

Okafor has been receiving the start when Embiid is out. (He has been out of the rotation when Embiid does play.) Okafor, though, is dealing with right knee soreness he experienced on Saturday. The Sixers kept an eye on him Monday and held him out of 5-on-5 drills in practice. Okafor said the team was being cautious, and he wanted to rest his knee given the number of games coming up. He is listed as probable against the Clippers.

“It was bothering me a little bit in the warmup lines, I started to feel it. When I got going it started feeling really good, then when I sat out for an extended period it got kind of (got) sore on me again,” Okafor explained. “Today they were trying to make sure I could get back to being a hundred percent because they knew that my knee was bothering me. They haven’t really told me what the plan was for tomorrow. Today was really focused on getting me back to being healthy.”

The Clippers are shorthanded as well. Blake Griffin has been sidelined since Dec. 18 because of a right knee procedure and Chris Paul had surgery to repair a ligament tear in his left thumb. Griffin could make his return against the Sixers.

Embiid's honor
Embiid's Player of the Week honor is rare for a rookie. He's only the third Sixers rookie ever to win it, joining Allen Iverson and Michael Carter-Williams.

The last Sixer before Embiid to be named Eastern Conference Player of the Week was Thaddeus Young in January 2014. 

The Sixers won all three games Embiid played last week. He averaged 22.0 points, 10.3 rebounds and 3.7 blocks.

Joel Embiid (left knee) to miss Sixers' next two games

Joel Embiid (left knee) to miss Sixers' next two games

Update: 4 p.m.

Joel Embiid did not practice on Monday and is listed as doubtful for the Sixers' game Tuesday against the Clippers.

Embiid hyperextended his left knee in the Sixers' 93-92 win over the Blazers Friday. He said after the game that the knee was fine, but the Sixers are clearly exercising caution with their young star center.

"I knew it was OK. I just landed the wrong way," Embiid said Friday. "I'm great. The knee's fine. They did an MRI and stuff, everything looked good."

The Sixers are calling it a left knee contusion. Embiid will also rest on Wednesday against the Bucks. He is expected to return Friday against the Rockets, according to The Vertical's Adrian Wojnarowski.

The Sixers are 13-17 when Embiid plays and 2-10 without him. Brett Brown is looking forward to seeing how the defense responds without its centerpiece Tuesday and Wednesday (see story).

Jahlil Okafor (right knee soreness) was limited at Monday's practice but is probable to play the Clippers.

Okafor had 12 points, four rebounds and three blocks in 30 minutes in Saturday's 110-93 loss at Atlanta.

CSN Philly's Jessica Camerato contributed to this report.