Michael Carter-Williams humbly accepted the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award Monday afternoon.
“I want to thank you guys for being there for me every single day and pushing me beyond my limits,” Carter-Williams said, thanking his family, friends and the entire Sixers staff. “When I first got here, I really didn’t know what to expect. I am not a person that trusts a lot of people. My circle is really close, especially when it comes to basketball, because everyone has an opinion. But I have a lot of trust in coach (Brett Brown).”
Carter-Williams became the first Sixers player since Allen Iverson in 1996-97 to win the award (see story). Carter-Williams led all rookies in scoring (16.7), rebounding (6.2), assists (6.3) and steals (1.9).
Carter-Williams was selected 11th overall last June. Sixers president and general manager Sam Hinkie made the selection. Brett Brown simply inherited Hinkie’s choice -- and he's glad he did.
“I think everybody had a piece of Michael this year,” Brown said. “My role is to oversee the whole program. My role with him this year was about education, explaining this is our jungle, this is the NBA and this is what you have to do to get to the Tony Parker or Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook stage.”
From the onset, the Sixers challenged Carter-Williams to be great. Most days, the 22-year-old accepted that task.
Carter-Williams and Brown shared a story Monday of a defining moment for both during a 19-win season that included a record-tying 26-game losing streak.
The story was this: The Sixers lost by 33 points in Oklahoma City on March 4. Late in that game, Brown called Carter-Williams to the sideline, but Carter-Williams didn't immediately come. And when he finally did, it was captured on camera.
Brown was clearly upset with his point guard’s play, but MCW wanted no part of being reprimanded.
We now know it was Carter-Williams’ lack of play defensively that led to the heated discussion.
“Everybody seemed to make something out of it, and I didn’t see it as a big deal,” Brown said. “I didn’t think he did either. But the next day, everyone was asking us about it, and I want to keep our relationship real. I feel a responsibility to help him. That is my guy. I want to bring him to a level that he needs to get to and it starts with getting better defensively.
“When I first met Michael and brought him in the gym and said, 'Here is the ball -- you are our point guard.' But I was always challenging him to play better defense. I would say, 'Keep the game in front of you, stay off referees, find a higher level of leadership to guide our young team.'”
Brown called that night a “borderline defining moment” because it forced the two men to be honest in their communication.
“There were days I came to the gym with my head down because we lost a lot of games, and I say we have practice again and I have to do a pre-workout with Lloyd (Pierce), but they pushed me to get better every day,” Carter-Williams said. “That Oklahoma City game, we had it out a little bit, but that made our relationship closer and it brought a lot out in me.
“In the beginning of the year, I think I am playing good defense because I am leading the league in steals. I am saying, 'How can I play better defense?' But then he (Brown) would show me film of me getting broken down on defense, and I took that personally.”
Michael Carter-Williams received an individual award Monday as the league’s best rookie in 2014, but he made it clear achievements come about because of a group effort.