Carter-Williams stars in debut as Sixers stun Heat


Carter-Williams stars in debut as Sixers stun Heat


Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner had to laugh. Shortly after holding off the two-time defending NBA champions for a 114-110 opening night victory (see Instant Replay), the teammates thought back to their first season with the Sixers.

“I was joking with Evan. We were talking about when we first got here how we had a lot of games just like this one early in the season and we found a million different ways to lose them,” Hawes said. “We needed this.”

Some of those losses during the 2010-11 season were unique, like the one in which the Sixers lost to Washington on a late four-point play in overtime. There was another OT loss in Washington, too, as the Sixers opened the season 3-13.

The difference between those losses and the victory on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center was hardly a subtle one, according to Hawes and fellow veteran Thad Young. First, the Sixers opened the game with a 19-0 run, built up a lead to 22 points and rallied in the fourth quarter after allowing 80 points in the second and third frames.

The Heat played the second game of a back-to-back without Dwyane Wade. However, with 80 points in the second and third quarters, including 10-for-13 shooting on threes in the third quarter, it looked like the Heat would survive without the perennial All-Star.

That was until the Sixers’ rookie point guard, Michael Carter-Williams, took over.

Down by eight points with 4:30 to go in the game, the Sixers stood up to LeBron James (25 points, 13 assists) and the Heat with a remarkable amount of poise. Call it steely nerve and veteran know-how all over the floor from Hawes, Turner and Young.

But more than that, unflappable point guard Carter-Williams played as if he had been in the league for 10 years. In the final three minutes of the game, Carter-Williams grabbed three rebounds, handed out three assists, grabbed a steal and stepped up to the foul line to make five out of six foul shots, including a pair with 8.5 seconds left to seal the game.

Believe it or not, Carter-Williams showed that poise and grittiness in his NBA debut. With 22 points, 12 assists, nine steals and seven assists, Carter-Williams did just about everything and then some. The double-double is the first by a Sixer since Maurice Cheeks did it in his first game in 1978. The 22 points is the most by a player making his debut since Allen Iverson scored 30 in 1996.

The 22-12-9-7 combination is one achieved only twice previously by anyone in NBA history. Quick point guard Ricky Green had a 26-12-9-7 for the Utah Jazz in 1982, and Spurs guard Johnny Moore put up a 26-13-9-11 in 1985.

Not only did the nine steals tie a franchise record, but also it was the most steals in a debut since it became an official stat in 1973. No player has officially posted a triple-double in his NBA debut, though coach Brett Brown -- also making his NBA coaching debut -- thinks Carter-Williams could have been the first.

“I thought he could have had one more steal but he was out of place in one of the early defensive assignments,” Brown said, again with a grin.

The coach will let that one slide. After all, it was the first game and Carter-Williams did step up to hit those free throws at the end.

And oh yeah, Carter-Williams had just one turnover.

“The stats speak for themselves, really,” Brown said. “They’re littered across many categories. … We tried to come up with a game plan and a way to play and he’s a big part of that. We have to turn him loose a little bit.

“What do you say? Look at the win and look at the stat line. He was really, really good.”

Carter-Williams wasn’t the only standout. Turner scored a game-high 26 points on 10-for-19 shooting, despite the fact he missed four three-pointers and went 3 for 10 on shots outside the paint. Hawes added 24 points with a team-high nine rebounds and hit a huge three-pointer with 2:36 to go in the game to cut the Heat’s lead to one point.

Additionally, Young added 10 points and Tony Wroten came off the bench to provide some energy and fire to go with 14 points on 6-for-9 shooting.

Brown played nine of his 11 players in uniform with each player scoring a basket in at least 12 minutes.

Afterwards, the talk was about the rookie point guard and his remarkable debut.

“I’m very proud of him,” Young said. “He showed every side of himself and how he can be a great player in this league. He handled the pressure and he got up into them and forced them to make mistakes. He kind of willed us on.

“He doesn’t play like a rookie at all. He came in on day one and was able to take coaching and criticism and that’s a good thing. He has a little edge to him, which I like. I don’t want my point guard to be a wimp or a punk or anything like that -- I want him to be tough. You know, take the contact and keep on moving and he does that. Put a Band-Aid over it and keep playing.”

All while posting some impressive numbers, too.

Afterwards, Carter-Williams was as poised talking to the media as he was battling the Heat on the floor. He was excited to see his family after the game and gave veteran answers about his performance, quickly deflecting accolades from himself to his team.

"Everything was clicking tonight," Carter-Williams said. "If we can consistently play together, then we can be a good team."

Better yet, Carter-Williams is already looking forward to Thursday’s film and practice session followed by the trip to Washington where he will be matched up against point guard John Wall and the Wizards on Friday night.

First, it’s Wall on Friday night and then Derrick Rose and the Bulls on Saturday night.

Get ready, rookie, there’s more coming.

Instant Replay: Jahlil Okafor returns in Sixers' preseason finale win over Heat

Instant Replay: Jahlil Okafor returns in Sixers' preseason finale win over Heat


MIAMI — On a day when the Sixers learned Nerlens Noel would require minor surgery, they saw Jahlil Okafor make his preseason debut.

Okafor, who had right knee surgery in March and experienced soreness on that same knee Sept. 30, played seven minutes Friday night and scored four points as the Sixers went on to win their preseason finale, 113-110, over the Miami Heat at the American Airlines Arena.

Noel will have a minor surgical procedure on his left knee in the coming days (see story). He has been out since Oct. 6 because of a left groin strain, but while undergoing treatment, the Noel reported left knee soreness, which led to a discovery of an inflamed plica. Noel missed his rookie season (2013-2014) after surgery on his left knee.

The Sixers finished their exhibition season with a 2-5 record as they broke a five-game losing streak with the win over the Heat.

But that was not even close to being the Sixers' main story of the day.

So let’s quickly review the injury status of the four center/forwards the Sixers have drafted with top six-picks in the past four years:

• 6-11 Noel, the sixth pick in 2013, awaits surgery.

• 7-0 Joel Embiid, the third pick in 2014, missed his first two seasons because of surgeries on his right foot. He is playing well now, though, producing 18 points and nine rebounds in 18 minutes on Friday. He fouled out late in the fourth quarter but made 8-of-16 shots from the floor.

• 6-11 Okafor, the third pick in 2015, is being eased back in and will be used in a reserve role with a minutes restriction to start the regular season. He played under a six-to-eight-minutes restriction Friday. In addition to his four points, Okafor compiled one rebound, one assist, one block and one turnover.

• 6-10 Ben Simmons, the No. 1 pick in 2016, had foot surgery earlier this month. (There’s more on him below.)

Over the past three years, the Sixers are a dreadful 47-199, including 10-72 last season. But the organization hopes that if the four big men listed above can get and stay reasonably healthy, that can begin to change.

The game
The Sixers trailed by eight points at halftime, 62-54, but used a strong second half to rally and win late on a pair of small forward Jerami Grant free throws.

The Sixers trailed by nine midway through the third quarter before outscoring the Heat, 20-13, the rest of the stanza, trimming the deficit to two. A back-and-forth fourth quarter unfolded until guard Hollis Thompson nailed a jumper to hand the Sixers a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

Rookie forward Dario Saric hit a three-pointer with one minute remaining to provide the Sixers a four-point cushion, 111-107. Saric scored a game-high 19 points and snapped seven rebounds in 29 minutes.

Grant scored 17 points off the bench while Sergio Rodriguez started at point guard and posted 13 points and four assists.

Okafor-Embiid combination?
Sixers coach Brett Brown said “the instruction was always to deliver [Okafor] to opening night, with the end game being trying to figure out how we can play [Embiid] and Jahlil maybe down the road."

For the moment, though, Brown said he wanted to split the center spot three ways — with about 20 minutes for Embiid, six to eight for Okafor and the rest for Richaun Holmes.

Walking it back
Scratch that January timetable for Simmons, at least for now. Brown said on Friday night that he “misspoke” earlier in the day when he stated that Simmons is on schedule to return in January from foot surgery.

Brown said he misspoke because he was “just getting excited about when [Simmons] might be able to come back,” (see story).

More injury updates
• Guard Jerryd Bayless (left wrist ligament injury) will pursue a non-surgical treatment. He has been participating in non-contact individualized workouts and will be reevaluated in two weeks.

• Saric left the game with 7:11 remaining in the second quarter after he was kneed in the midsection by Heat wing Justise Winslow, who was driving to the basket on the play.

Saric, of course, returned in the second half and played well.

Up next
The Sixers, who have 20 players listed on their roster, could start making cuts late Friday night or on Saturday. Their roster has to be trimmed to no more than 15 players by Monday.

On Wednesday, the Sixers start their regular season with a home game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. That begins a three-game homestand that also includes tests against the Atlanta Hawks on Saturday, Oct. 29, and the Orlando Magic on Nov. 1.

Nerlens Noel to undergo minor surgery on left knee

Nerlens Noel to undergo minor surgery on left knee

The Sixers on Friday announced that center Nerlens Noel will undergo a minor surgical procedure on his left knee to address an inflamed plica. 

Noel appeared in the Sixers' first preaseason game, but has been sidelined since Oct. 6 because of a left groin strain. 

While undergoing treatment, Noel reported left knee soreness, which led to the discovery of the inflamed plica.

Noel's status for the season opener on Oct. 26 was already in question, and knee surgery should officially rule him out. There is no timetable for his return.

No surgery for Bayless
The Sixers also announced that Jerryd Bayless' left wrist ligament injury will not require surgery.

Bayless, who has been a limited participant in training camp, will be reevaluated in two weeks.