Carter-Williams' leeway with Sixers paying off

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Carter-Williams' leeway with Sixers paying off

The Sixers are just 15 games into the 82-game season, but some things are clearly taking shape, starting with a strong Rookie of the Year candidate.

Michael Carter-Williams is averaging 17.3 points, 5.7 rebounds, 7.4 assists and three steals in 36.2 minutes a night.

All of those numbers lead their respective categories among rookies.

There is only one other rookie averaging double-figure points, and that's Orlando’s Victor Oladipo (12.7). Only eight first-year players average at least 20 minutes.

Carter-Williams is on the fast track to being the first Sixers rookie since Allen Iverson to be named Rookie of the Year. Since Iverson won the award in the 1996-97 season, the lowest selected player in the draft to earn Rookie of the Year was Amar'e Stoudemire, whom the Suns drafted with the ninth overall pick in the 2002 draft.

Carter-Williams came to the Sixers last June at pick No. 11.

“I think there is nothing like opportunity. Let’s start there,” Brett Brown said of Carter-Williams' early success. “He is getting big minutes. He has a green light and a freedom to play and at times make mistakes, and I think that counts for a lot.

“But once he has had that situation, his talent and his skill level is far greater than I imagined. The thing that I still stand by is there is a toughness and a leadership emerging in him that he projects out, and I get excited. He has a far greater intellect as a point guard than I also would have guessed.”

“I came to a great situation,” Carter-Williams said. “I was fortunate and lucky to play and have an opportunity. That is a big part of it, but you also have to perform.”

One could argue that Carter-Williams is putting up All-Star numbers. He and Chris Paul are the only two guards in the league averaging at least 15 points, 6.0 assists and 5.0 rebounds per game.

If you take away the rebounding category, there are 12 guards averaging a minimum of 15 points and 6.0 assists, but just four play in the Eastern Conference. In addition to MCW, the guards from the East include Jeff Teague, Brandon Jennings and Kyrie Irving.

All-Star appearances seem to go hand-in-hand with paying dues, but it can happen for a rookie.

Carter-Williams has shown no lingering effects from the bruised arch he suffered in his left foot that sidelined him for four games. He declared the injury “completely fine.”

MCW feels he is getting the hang of the NBA, but like all players finds answering the bell on a consistent basis to be a work in progress.

“Maintaining every single day,” Carter-Williams said was the hardest adjustment from college to the pros. “Just going out there and performing every day whether it is at a practice or in a game.”

It is interesting to see the identity of the Sixers transforming with Brown pacing the sidelines and Carter-Williams running the on-court show.

Two years ago, their leading scorer, Lou Williams, came off the bench and averaged 14.9 points -- fewest among leading scorers on any NBA team.

Now the Sixers are one of three teams in the league that boast three players averaging 16.7 points or more with Carter-Williams, Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes.

Golden State has the scoring trio of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and David Lee, while Portland has LaMarcus Aldridge, Damian Lillard and Wesley Matthews.

With the Warriors becoming a true threat out West and the Blazers riding an 11-game win streak, the Sixers hope their future is just as bright.

Charles Barkley: Sixers can be 'really good, really quickly'

Charles Barkley: Sixers can be 'really good, really quickly'

Charles Barkley is jumping on the Sixers bandwagon.

"I think the Sixers gonna get really good, really quickly, but it all depends on (Joel) Embiid," Barkley said. "They're not gonna win a championship the next couple years, but I think they can really become a perrenial playoff team in the next three years."

Sounds good, right? Not so fast. There are a lot of "ifs" according to Barkley. 

Most of those "ifs" ride on the health of center Joel Embiid. If the big man gets healthy, and the Sixers can resolve the "glutton of big guys," Barkley likes the Sixers chances.

"I think the most important thing they need to figure out is if Joel Embiid is going to be healthy. ... I like (Jahlil) Okafor and I like (Nerlens) Noel, but they gotta figure out if Joel Embiid is going to be healthy. 

"I like Ben Simmons, but that team's got a long way to go," Barkley said.

To hear more of Barkley's thoughts on the Sixers' future, watch the full video above. 

 

 

Team USA overpowers Argentina in 1st Olympic exhibition

Team USA overpowers Argentina in 1st Olympic exhibition

LAS VEGAS -- New team. Same old result.

Full of new star power -- and dominant on the inside -- the U.S. men's basketball team opened its bid for a third straight Olympic gold medal Friday night with a 111-74 exhibition romp over Argentina.

A game that was over almost before it began showed the U.S. has to improve its shooting and conditioning. It also showed that there is plenty of talent among a group of players that seem to want to play well for each other and their country despite the absence of Olympic stalwarts Kobe Bryant and LeBron James.

"There's a willingness from these guys to work on anything we need and to work hard," coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "These are very good guys."

A U.S. team that hasn't lost a game in 10 years had little trouble with Argentina, which some consider a medal contender in Rio. Paul George scored 14 first-half points, Kevin Durant added 12, and the U.S. blew open the game early before an appreciative crowd on the Las Vegas Strip.

Even with Bryant retired and James taking this Olympics off, there was no real talent drop off on a team heavily favored to win gold once again. The depth of the U.S. showed as coach Mike Krzyzewski rotated players in and out, searching for the right combinations on a team with 10 new players from 2012.

"Nothing is for sure," Durant said. "We want to get this gold and right now we have a job to do. We have to prepare the right way."

Count the Argentines among those who were impressed at the first real game for the Olympic team.

"Obviously, they have the best talent and the best size in the world," Argentina's Luis Scola said. "That's a big difference in their favor."

The game was the first of five exhibitions the U.S. will play before traveling to Rio to defend the gold medal. The U.S. team has spent the last week practicing in Las Vegas in preparation for the tour and the games.

There weren't any opening night jitters, though the U.S. shot only 45 percent and missed all but 14 of 41 3-pointers. With DeMarcus Cousins pulling down 15 rebounds in just 16 minutes, the U.S. dominated inside, outrebounding Argentina 53-30.

"The big thing is getting in shape and they are not there where they will be," Krzyzewski said. "But we really have an inside presence on the boards."

For Durant the game was a chance to play with a pair of his new Golden State teammates, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. It was also a chance for Durant and Carmelo Anthony -- the only two players from the 2012 team -- to demonstrate that this will be their team in Rio.

Both players cheered from the bench as the minutes were spread around, jumping up to clap for teammates. Every U.S. player got quality time, with Green's 12 minutes the least played by any American.

"We're going to have fun and we're going to enjoy ourselves," Anthony said. "If it's not fun it's not worth it. We're going to enjoy ourselves but at the same time we're going to be focused in trying to get that gold medal."

Durant finished as the game's high scorer with 23 points, while George had 18 and Carmelo Anthony 17. Andres Nocioni had 15 for Argentina, while Manu Ginobili added 11 for Argentina, which lost to the U.S. in the semifinals of the 2012 Olympics.

Though at times little defense was played, there was plenty of offense to keep the crowd at the new T-Mobile Arena happy. The teams combined to put up 70 3-point attempts, 41 of them from the U.S.

Oddsmakers had made the U.S. a prohibitive 29.5-point favorite in what at times looked a lot like an NBA All-Star game. But while the U.S. team is loaded with 12 NBA players, the Argentines had only three on their roster and the talent difference showed.

While the team is full of new players, the gold medal run will be the last for Krzyzewski, the national coach for the last decade. His teams have lost only one game during his reign, which will end after the Olympics with San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich taking over.

Manu Ginobili intrigued by coach Brett Brown, Sixers before re-signing with Spurs

Manu Ginobili intrigued by coach Brett Brown, Sixers before re-signing with Spurs

The Spurs have been one of the most consistent NBA teams for nearly 20 years. They have made 19 consecutive postseason trips and won five championships during that span. 

The Sixers, on the other hand, are entering a phase of building a new foundation with a group of young players. They are working to improve upon a 10-win season, let alone making the playoffs.

Yet four-time NBA champion Manu Ginobili saw more than records when weighing his options in free agency. The veteran point guard looked to the Sixers sidelines and was intrigued.

Head coach Brett Brown previously worked in the Spurs basketball operations department and on the coaching staff under Gregg Popovich. He was part of four championship teams in San Antonio. When the Sixers approached Ginobili this offseason, he gave them consideration before returning to the Spurs, where he has spent his entire 14-year career.

“The fact that Philadelphia had a great coach and a person I appreciate so much as Brett Brown, made it more appealing in the case the Spurs didn’t happen,” Ginobili told The Vertical on Thursday. “But the Spurs happened and they always had the priority.”

The Sixers reportedly offered Ginobili, 38, a two-year, partially-guaranteed deal worth around $30 million. The Spurs first offered him a one-year, $3 million contract. Ginobili ended up re-signing with the Spurs for one-year, $14 million. 

“It was not my main option. I never wanted to leave San Antonio,” Ginobili said. “But I had to listen to all the options that are there.”

Ginobili averaged 9.6 points, 3.1 assists and 2.5 rebounds in 19.6 minutes coming off the bench last season. The Sixers are adding veteran leadership, and Ginobili is one of the most experienced in the game. In addition to his reliability at the position, he could have been a mentor to the entire team and worked with Ben Simmons to help hone his point guard skills as the rookie big man plays point-forward. His years of international competition would have gelled with incoming players such as Dario Saric, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Sergio Rodriguez. 

The Sixers signed point guards Jerryd Bayless (three years, $27 million) and Rodriguez (one year, $8 million) this summer. T.J. McConnell and Kendall Marshall still are under contract. Last season's starting point guard Ish Smith signed with the Pistons at the start of free agency.