Carter-Williams' leeway with Sixers paying off


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.

Sixers still deciding who will start opener, how long Jahlil Okafor will play

Sixers still deciding who will start opener, how long Jahlil Okafor will play

CAMDEN, N.J. — Brett Brown doesn’t have many options at his disposal for opening night against the Thunder, but a day before the Sixers' regular-season tip-off, he still is considering how to utilize his shorthanded roster.

What Brown is sure of is Joel Embiid is will be capped at 20 minutes in five four-minute segments. Embiid, coming off two years of foot injuries, began the preseason playing 12.

The Sixers have not locked in a minutes restriction on Jahlil Okafor. The second-year big man aggravated his right knee during training camp, and played eight minutes in his first preseason game last Friday.

“You’ll intermittently sub that and Richaun Holmes will make up the rest,” Brown said after practice Tuesday. “The five-spot is locked in with those three, and I feel like tomorrow we’ll be able to better figure out how many four-minute sections does Jahlil actually get.”

Brown started Sergio Rodriguez, Gerald Henderson, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Embiid in the final two preseason games. On Tuesday he did not announce a starting five, specifically a point guard. That role is between Rodriguez and T.J. McConnell because of the injury to Jerryd Bayless (wrist). 

“Still considering a lot,” Brown said of the one-spot. “Not prepared right now to say one thing or another.”

Rodriguez, who has been practicing with the white squad, anticipates he will be given the nod. It will be his first regular-season game in the NBA since 2010.

“Yes, I expect, but for me that doesn’t matter,” Rodriguez said. “It’s going to be a big game for everybody. Everybody needs to be ready. We will need all we have to beat them.”

The Sixers' inactive list includes Bayless, Ben Simmons (foot) and Nerlens Noel (knee), all of whom could be starters if healthy. With so many injuries to major contributors and the implementation of segmented minutes, Brown will have to look down his bench over the course of four quarters.

“We’re going to have to go 10-deep. I bet we could even go 11-deep,” he said. “We’re in a very unusual circumstance that players can’t play multiple minutes. ... That, coupled with I think you can’t expect to have the energy and effort that we want on the floor without giving people six-minute chunks.” 

The Sixers and Thunder face off at 8 p.m. on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

Kevin Durant era begins as Warriors open vs. Tim Duncan-less Spurs

Kevin Durant era begins as Warriors open vs. Tim Duncan-less Spurs

OAKLAND, Calif. — The Kevin Durant era tips off for the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night against an opponent, the San Antonio Spurs, that both Durant and the Warriors would consider unfriendly.

After signing a two-year, $54.3 million deal to leave the Oklahoma City Thunder in the offseason, Durant is expected to take his place alongside holdover Warriors standouts Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green in the nightcap of TNT's opening-night doubleheader (10:30 p.m. ET).

And he will do so against a Spurs team that also will sport a new look this season -- albeit one with a key piece missing.

In its quest to unseat Golden State as the two-time Western Conference champs, San Antonio will go forward without future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan, who retired in July after his 19th season.

Before concluding the addition of Durant and the subtraction of Duncan tilts the balance significantly in the Warriors' favor, consider this: The last four times the Spurs played Golden State without their star big man, they won two of them.

The Spurs went after Durant in free agency, then settled for Pau Gasol, who is primed to join a star-studded collection of talent himself. San Antonio returns Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Kawhi Leonard from a team that won 67 games last season.

"I wouldn't think of ourselves as the guinea pig," Gasol said Monday when asked if the Spurs saw themselves as a test experiment for Golden State's new concoction. "We have an incredible team here with a lot of talent and a lot of experience. It's going to be an interesting, challenging first game."

The Warriors feel the same way, and with good reason.

Even after winning the season series 3-1 last season, Golden State has prevailed just six times in its past 30 regular-season meetings with the Spurs.

Meanwhile, halfway across the country, Durant was having similar struggles with his Southwest Division rival. His 25.8-point career scoring average against the Spurs is lower than his mark all teams except the Charlotte Hornets, Dallas Mavericks, Milwaukee Bucks and Portland Trail Blazers.

The Warriors will take the court fully aware the NBA hasn't scheduled a coming-out party for Durant on opening night.

"It'll be a really good atmosphere, obviously, and I'm sure there will be a very high level of play on both ends," Curry said. "It'll take a lot to get a win."

The Warriors did more tinkering to their record-breaking, 73-win team than adding Durant. They even plucked one of the Spurs -- David West -- with a team-friendly, $1.6 million offer that was similar to the one ($1.5 million) that lured the veteran away from the Indiana Pacers for a shot at a title in San Antonio last season.

That didn't work out as planned, as West contributed only a career-worst average of 4.0 rebounds and his lowest scoring output in 10 years (7.1 points per game) to the Spurs' quest.

So now, instead of backing up Duncan and LaMarcus Aldridge as he did a year ago, he will team with Zaza Pachulia in replacing Andrew Bogut in Golden State's bid for a second championship in three seasons.