MCW takes valuable lessons from Tony Parker


MCW takes valuable lessons from Tony Parker

Michael Carter-Williams was coming off the first poor performance of his rookie campaign. Against the Spurs, the rookie point guard was 2 for 11 from the floor and finished with eight points, four assists, three steals and three blocked shots.

Carter-Williams’ eight points was his first single-digit scoring output of the season.

The numbers were OK, but he had little impact on the game while his San Antonio counterpart controlled the show.

“There is a lot for me to take from that game, especially from Tony Parker,” Carter-Williams said. “He runs his team extremely well. I hope to run my team and know my teammates like he knows his someday. He knows where they are at all times. He knows where they are supposed to be. He knows where they like to shoot, and I hope one day to have a team and be on a team like that.”

The thing that Carter-Williams needs to remember is that Parker did not become the perennial All-Star he is overnight. Parker is in his 13th NBA season and has won three NBA championships.

Sixers head coach Brett Brown remembers watching a young Parker become a man among the best basketball players in the world during his days in the Spurs' organization.

“The history with Tony, I saw him at such a young age and I saw him grow,” Brown said. ”I think it is more important when you look at holistic things that you can share with Michael as it relates to Tony.”

When Brown refers to “holistic things” he is talking about taking care of the body and dealing with the likes of this week when the Sixers play four games in five nights.

Carter-Williams did not practice Tuesday because he was experiencing soreness in his left foot. He and Brown both said it was nothing serious, but resting seemed the right way to go with the schedule that is on the horizon.

MCW didn’t take the court Tuesday, but he still managed to work at his craft.

“He is very curious. He is very inquisitive,” Brown said of Carter-Williams. “He wants to know why. He wants to know how. How did Tony Parker do this? What is the best way to guard John Wall? He is always asking really good questions. You will notice he often comes back to the timeout just to make sure he understands what I have drawn, what I have said.

“From a professional standpoint, he is doing well. From a physical standpoint, he is learning how to get through it and take care of his body.”

So which has been the harder adjustment for Carter-Williams: Physical or mental?

“Tough question. Both have been pretty tough, but probably the mental aspect of it,” Carter-Williams said. “We had a little setback versus the Spurs, but I am staying positive and trying to keep working.

“It is a long season and a long grind, so I am just trying to take it one day at a time.”

The Sixers entertain the 5-3 Houston Rockets Wednesday night.

Despite shooting struggles, Dario Saric impressive in Sixers' regular-season debut

Despite shooting struggles, Dario Saric impressive in Sixers' regular-season debut

After two years filled with will he or won't he speculation over joining the Sixers, this certainly wasn't the effort Dario Saric had envisioned for his NBA regular-season debut. 

"I felt comfortable, but sometimes it's not your day and this was my bad day," said Saric, who scored five points in the Sixers' 103-97 season-opening loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder. "I'll try to watch the video and fix what I can fix and move forward."

The raw numbers look bad. The rookie forward shot 2 of 12 from the field, including 0 of 4 from three-point range. He did notch seven rebounds and two assists, but also contributed two turnovers.

But as you know, numbers don't always tell the story. 

Saric displayed the offensive versatility and headiness on defense that had the Sixers salivating over him for two years while he played for Anadolu Efes in Turkey. He was able to penetrate in the lane several times against the Thunder on Wednesday night and used pump/head fakes to get his defender off balance, but the shots just didn't fall.

"He struggled with his shot" Sixers head coach Bett Brown said. "But just the physical play, some of the intellect of guarding things suddenly that we all might not pay attention to that coaches do. You see him go out of his way to make a rotation, that he just felt the game. I think that some of his pick-and-roll reads on trying to hit cutters, trying to slow up rollers and still go back to shooters like (Ersan) Ilyasova is, stood out to me.

"He's intelligent. He is a smart basketball player. The stats will show that he didn't make some of his shots, but I think that just that gamesmanship, that intellect stands out to me." 

The only time Saric looked a tad overmatched is when OKC went to its mustachioed muscle tandem of Steven Adams and Enes Kanter inside. After the game, Brown lamented leaving Saric in for so long against that pairing, which combined for 33 points and 17 rebounds on the night.

Teammate Jahlil Okafor tried to come to Saric's aid in those moments, but returning from a torn meniscus and on a minutes restriction, his plan wasn't exactly met with enthusiasm by the coaching staff.

"I actually kind of hinted to the coaches that I wanted to play with him (Embiid) because they put Kanter and Adams in," Okafor said. "I was kind of hinting to the coaches that if they want to play big ball we can play big ball with them."

Their response?

"Stay disciplined. Have your lawyer call my lawyer," Okafor said with a laugh. "That's the go-to line."

Even with Saric's few hiccups on defense, Okafor is confident the 22-year-old Croatian will be able to hold his own against NBA players and get the buckets to start dropping on the offensive end.

"I love Dario. It's been a pleasure having him around," Okafor said. "He's such a selfless guy.

"He did struggle a little bit with his shot, but all of the shots that he missed are shots that we know he can make and shots that we've seen him make since he's been here. So we're good. We know what he's going to do."

Lost in Joel Embiid's night, Jahlil Okafor returns with new role

Lost in Joel Embiid's night, Jahlil Okafor returns with new role

Joel Embiid’s regular-season debut headlined the Sixers' home opener Wednesday, a night two years in the making. He wasn’t the only player coming back from injury, though.

Jahlil Okafor took the court in a regular-season game for the first time since Feb. 28. Okafor underwent surgery in March to repair a right meniscus tear. He suffered a setback during training camp and was limited by soreness in that knee.

Okafor subbed in for Embiid with 7:47 remaining in the first quarter. He totaled eight points (4 for 10 from the field), three rebounds, one block, two fouls and three turnovers in 16 minutes, exceeding the Sixers’ initial minute projection of 12 to 14.

Okafor said his knee felt “good” after the game and did not experience discomfort. 

“I enjoyed myself,” Okafor said following the Sixers' 103-97 defeat to the Thunder (see Instant Replay). “Even though we lost, I enjoyed myself. We had a sold-out crowd. We had a hard-fought battle.”

Okafor’s role on Wednesday was different than it had been his rookie season. The former third overall pick is coming off the bench with a minutes restriction, broken down into segments. 

“It’s different for me,” Okafor said of his playing time. “I’m not used to playing in four-minute clumps. You’re more aware of when you’re going to go in. It kind of helps you a little bit. But it’s not something I want to get used to.”

Okafor is adjusting to a new in-game experience as a reserve. Last season, he started 48 of his 53 games and averaged 30.0 minutes. 

“My main thing was being able to come off the bench, which I’m not really used to, and still stay engaged, trying to stay loose,” Okafor said.

Opening night marked new starts for Okafor, as a player and a member of the Sixers (see 10 observations).

“I was taking a flashback to last year when we were 0-15, 0-16 and we so badly wanted to just restart the season,” he said. “Now we have the opportunity.”