Mass. native MCW ready for Sixers' trip to Boston

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Mass. native MCW ready for Sixers' trip to Boston

Michael Carter-Williams is looking forward to getting an up-close look at TD Garden when the Sixers take on the Celtics in Boston on Wednesday.

Carter-Williams, a Massachusetts native, has watched several games at TD Garden but never had the pleasure of playing there.

“It is a great atmosphere,” Carter-Williams said. “When they are good, the crowd is great. They have always supported their team.”

Carter-Williams admitted he is excited for more than just getting on the parquet in Boston. The rookie point guard is eager to go head to head with four-time all-star Rajon Rondo.

Rondo is still trying to find his stride since returning from surgery to repair a torn ACL he suffered last January. Rondo is averaging 6.6 points and 5.8 assists in 23.8 minutes in five games so far this season.

Carter-Williams is trying to shake some recent struggles of his own. He is shooting 33.0 percent from the floor in the Sixers’ last seven games.

Lately, MCW has found a lot of his shots being sent back to him by the opposition.

“Part of that is probably my fault,” Carter-Williams said. “I have had a lot of shots blocked the last two games. I either need to pull up or use the floater. It is something I just need to adjust to.”

The Sixers have had 20 shots blocked as a team over the last two games. Their 334 shots blocked are more than any other team in the NBA this season 334. That’s an average of 7.4 times per game.

Sixers head coach Brett Brown loves the aggressive nature of his young team. The Sixers are second in the NBA in points in the paint with 51.6 per game.

However, Brown believes there are still techniques that his players can utilize to better maneuver around those big bodies in the paint.

“Coming to two-foot jump stops, going a little bit head and shoulders and lifting people and getting two free throws,” Brown explained. “Tony Parker was more of a two-foot guy where he would come to a jump stop and drop long floaters. Steve Nash was a one-foot guy where he would drop that Steve Nash runner.

“Everyone has a different way of handling it. The bottom line is that you are going into some big people and whether it is two feet or one foot, head and shoulders and go into a guy, or being better as a team providing outlets to people, it is all part of the package that we have to get better at. But I love our mentality of driving it. I like where we are going. I just have to do a better job coaching it.”

Despite his current inconsistency, Carter-Williams still dominates the rookie statistics. He leads his fellow first-year players in points, rebounds, assists, steals and minutes played per game.

Carter-Williams hopes to improve on those numbers when he takes the court against the Celtics for Wednesday night’s homecoming, but his coach has another message for his floor general.

“Have a blast,” Brown said. “Be so proud of your accomplishments and go back there and enjoy the experience of playing where you grew up and now being a starting NBA point guard. I want him to enjoy this experience.”

Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor to play Sunday, Joel Embiid out (right elbow)

Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor to play Sunday, Joel Embiid out (right elbow)

CAMDEN, N.J. — Two bigs back, one big out.

Nerlens Noel will make his regular-season debut Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Noel has been out since the preseason after undergoing elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October.

Jahlil Okafor also will return following a bout of gastroenteritis, which sidelined him for the last three games. Neither Noel nor Okafor will have minute restrictions. 

Joel Embiid, on the other hand, will not play Sunday. He will miss the game because of minor inflammation in his right elbow, which he suffered in Thursday’s game against the Pelicans. The decision also is in conjunction with the load management plan the Sixers have mapped out for him. Embiid did not practice Saturday and will not travel to Detroit. 

“It’s very minor and we expect him back soon. Not much concern at all,” Brett Brown said of Embiid, adding, “I think it’s far more precautionary than anything people should get nervous about.”

With Embiid out, the addition of Noel will help the Sixers when they battle the Pistons and big man Andre Drummond, who is averaging a dominating 15.0 points, 13.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks this season. Noel will come off the bench as he gets reacclimated to the team and the flow of the game. 

“I felt great [to be cleared to play],” Noel said. “I was anticipating it so I got my mind right and this is what I’ve been working for throughout the whole rehab process. I’m feeling good and looking forward to it.” 

The Sixers are mindful of the fact Noel has not played in a regular season game since the finale last April. He has been working on getting his wind back up, and the Sixers will watch it closely in-game when determining his playing time. Noel said he has a “good starting foundation” with his conditioning. 

“You can do as much as you want on a treadmill,” Brown said. “You can do as much as you want one-on-zero … but there is nothing that’s like an NBA game. Everything goes faster, everything goes quicker, you have emotions involved which can also drown how fast and how long you can go. Those things are just part of him coming back into it, and we’ll manage him accordingly.”

Noel’s debut is the first step for him, regardless of how many plays. His athleticism will give another look to the lineup. Brown foresees having Noel back will allow the Sixers to play faster and protect the rim with a greater “bounce.” 

“We miss playing with Nerlens, just his presence,” Okafor said. “He’s an athlete. Obviously we miss him on the defensive side. We miss him as a leader vocally. It’s just going to be great having him back on the floor.”

The Sixers could counter the Pistons with the combination of Noel and Okafor, a duo they struggled to utilize together last season. Brown’s decision will be based on matchups. He pointed out a situation in which Drummond and Jon Leuer are on the court would be more favorable than one in which Tobias Harris is playing power forward. 

“You just try to pick your moments where you can maybe pair those guys up,” Brown said. “I think it will be a more genuine conversation as Nerlens starts playing more with us. He’s just really come back into it. But we come back and you play Toronto and you have all three bigs available, then it becomes another level of a conversation. I do look forward to it when we have an opportunity to intelligently match up with other people and we’ll play it out like that.”

The Sixers' next game after Sunday is Wednesday against the Raptors, when they expect to have their bigs ready to go.

Sixers' game vs. Kings rescheduled for Jan. 30

Sixers' game vs. Kings rescheduled for Jan. 30

The NBA has determined a new date for the Sixers home game against the Kings, which was postponed on Nov. 30 because of unsafe playing conditions on the court.

The game has been rescheduled for Monday, Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. This will create back-to-backs for both teams.

The Sixers are playing in Chicago on Jan. 29. They will play consecutive games against the Bulls and Kings, then have a road back-to-back against the Mavericks and Spurs on Feb. 1 and 2.

The Kings will be on what is now an eight-game road trip. They will play a back-to-back against the Rockets the next night in Houston.