Carter-Williams relishes challenge of Oladipo

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Carter-Williams relishes challenge of Oladipo

ORLANDO, Fla. -- With his team down one, Victor Oladipo, the second overall pick in the NBA draft, knocked down a step-back jumper just inside the three-point line to put Orlando up, 90-89, over the Sixers with 4.4 seconds remaining.

Oladipo did so with a hand in his face. That hand belonged to the 11th overall pick Michael Carter-Williams.

Khalif Wyatt could not connect on a baseline jumper on the final possession as the Sixers fell to 0-4 this week at the Orlando Pro Summer League with the 90-89 loss.

Carter-Williams looked unhappy walking off in defeat, but he liked the challenge of guarding such a talent as Oladipo.

“When I wasn’t covering him throughout the game I kept asking coach if I could cover him,” Carter-Williams said. “He is a great player and just the competitiveness -- we are cool off the court and we are good friends, so to be competitive on the court is just a fun thing.”

Travis Leslie and Justin Holiday took turns in the early going guarding the Indiana Hoosier product.

Oladipo, in addition to making the game-winning jumper, had 24 points, six assists, three rebounds and five turnovers.

His counterpart, Carter-Williams, finished with 11 points, nine assists, six rebounds and eight turnovers.

“I think with both those guys, the turnovers are higher than they will be,” Sixers assistant coach Michael Curry said. “But it is tough coming in as a rookie point guard and trying to learn everything and still trying to make plays and do everything for your teammates. So far, both those guys have been playing very well despite their shooting numbers and despite their turnovers.”

Carter-Williams and Oladipo met in the Sweet 16 of last year’s NCAA tournament. Carter-Williams got the better of Oladipo that night, scoring 24 points, grabbing five rebounds and tallying four steals.

Syracuse upset Indiana, 61-50, to advance to the Elite Eight.

Oladipo, in his final collegiate game, scored 16 points, had three rebounds and three steals.

Thursday, their rivalry was renewed.

“It felt like a little déjà vu,” Carter-Williams said. “He got the better of me this time with that last shot but we will have our time again.”

In the summer of 2010, John Wall went No. 1 in the draft and Evan Turner No. 2. The two players have been compared to one another in terms of progress ever since the 2010 draft night -- a meeting between the Sixers and Wizards does not happen without a Wall-Turner storyline.

As time marches on for the 2013 draft class, it is likely that Oladipo and Carter-Williams will experience the same as Wall and Turner. For now, they are two rookies learning the ropes, and in Oladipo’s case, transitioning from two-guard to point guard.

“I think we can compete against the guys that are already [in the NBA],” Carter-Williams said. “The point guard is a tough position in the league, probably one of the toughest positions. [Oladipo] is going to keep working and so will I. Right now we are at the bottom of the pedestal. We are chasing guys like Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook -- we’re just trying to get at their level.”

Carter-Williams made some brilliant passes. One in particular was a left-handed dump-off pass to Arsalan Kazemi cutting to the basket as Carter-Williams penetrated the lane. Carter-Williams continues to struggle with his shot -- he was shooting 25 percent coming into the game and finished 3 for 10 against the Magic.

Curry has found the other aspects of Carter-Williams’ game to be very strong.

“I like his focus and the way that he competes every day,” Curry said. “Every practice he brings it. Every practice he asks questions. There is not one thing we go over that he doesn’t ask questions about. He is aware of everything. Sometimes players who have a chance to be great in this league, when they are young and a team starts to struggle, they try to take over and that’s because they want to try to put the team in a position to win. You see he has that in him.”

Notes
Arnett Moultrie had his best game of the week, scoring a team-high 23 points and grabbing a team-high 12 rebounds. … The Sixers will wrap up their week in Orlando with a 4 p.m. Friday game against Brooklyn. … Monte Shubik, former assistant coach/video coordinator to Doug Collins, was named director of player services for Rutgers men’s basketball. Shubik is reunited with Eddie Jordan, who he worked with when Jordan coached the 76ers.

Best of NBA: Jaylen Brown, Celtics use 5-point possession to top Pistons

Best of NBA: Jaylen Brown, Celtics use 5-point possession to top Pistons

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. -- Jaylen Brown sank a 3-pointer from the right corner while being fouled with 37.6 seconds remaining, part of a five-point possession for Boston that lifted the Celtics to a 104-98 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Sunday night.

The Celtics were down 96-95 when Brown connected while being fouled by Marcus Morris. Brown missed the ensuing free throw, but Detroit couldn't come up with the rebound, and Tobias Harris was called for a loose-ball foul. Marcus Smart added two free throws to put Boston up 100-96.

Isaiah Thomas led the Celtics with 33 points. Andre Drummond had 17 points and 15 rebounds for the Pistons, but he went 1 of 11 on free throws and was taken out for some key possessions toward the end to prevent Boston from fouling him.

Lakers crushed by Spurs in first home game since front office shakeup
LOS ANGELES -- Kawhi Leonard scored 25 points and the San Antonio Spurs routed the Lakers 119-98 on Sunday in Los Angeles' first home game since Magic Johnson took over the franchise's basketball operations.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 16 points for the Spurs, who have won four straight and nine of 11.

Pau Gasol added 15 points against his former team, and the Southwest Division leaders had little trouble with the Lakers, who have lost four straight and 15 of 19.

Five days after owner Jeanie Buss put Johnson in charge of basketball operations, the Lakers' dismal season still hasn't changed much, although new Lakers acquisitions Corey Brewer and Tyler Ennis got limited playing time.

Rookie Brandon Ingram scored a season-high 22 points as the Lakers fell to 19-41, ensuring their fourth consecutive non-winning season (see full recap).

Antetokounmpo scores 28 as Bucks hold off Suns
MILWAUKEE -- Giannis Antetokounmpo scored 28 points, Tony Snell made a clinching 3-pointer from the corner in the closing seconds and the Milwaukee Bucks held off the Phoenix Suns, 100-96 on Sunday.

Michael Beasley added 17 points and Malcolm Brogdon had 15 as the Bucks swept the two-game season series with the Suns. Greg Monroe finished with 14 points and Snell had 13.

TJ Warren led the Suns with 23 points. Alan Williams scored a career-high 17 points and tied his season high with 15 rebounds, while Devin Booker added 15 points and Eric Bledsoe had 11.

Clinging to a one-point lead, the Bucks came out of timeout with Monroe inbounding the ball to Antetokounmpo. He dribbled the clock down before passing to Brogdon, who whipped the ball to Snell in the corner. Snell hit a 3 with a defender flying at him.

Sixers see light after latest round of roster turnover

Sixers see light after latest round of roster turnover

By the time reporters were admitted to the Sixers' locker room some 75 minutes before Friday's home game against Washington, the nameplates above the cubicles previously occupied by Nerlens Noel and Ersan Ilyasova had long ago been changed.

Where Noel once sat, in the corner nearest the shower room, there was now a "47 Splitter" nameplate for veteran center Tiago Splitter, who came over from Atlanta in the deal that sent Ilyasova to the Hawks two days earlier.

Where Ilyasova once sat, between Robert Covington and Dario Saric, there was now a "23 Anderson" nameplate for second-year forward Justin Anderson, acquired from Dallas (with Andrew Bogut, who is expected to head to Cleveland once his contract is bought out) in the trade that sent Noel there.

Across the locker room, there was no nameplate at all above the space once filled by rookie guard Chasson Randle. He had been cut when the two trades went down, collateral damage in this latest upheaval, this latest change to an ever-changing landscape.

Out in the hallway a few minutes earlier, coach Brett Brown had reinforced the message general manager Bryan Colangelo delivered to reporters during a news conference earlier in the day -- that all this had been necessary. Noel and Ilyasova are destined for free agency this summer (Noel will be restricted, Ilyasova unrestricted). The Sixers were unlikely to match any outside offer Noel is sure to attract, and just as unlikely to give Ilyasova the long-term deal he craves.

So, buh-bye.

Brown has grown used to all the tired and huddled masses shuffling through town.

"Historically, we all know how we treat people that walk through a door," he said. "We shake their hand and we say, ‘Guard somebody.’"

He settled on the word "appropriate" to describe all the roster turnover.

"There needs to be a frugal and, at times, ruthless approach," he said, "that you genuinely believe that (a certain player is) a keeper, that ultimately can play in the playoffs and ultimately play deep in the playoffs."

That rationale has not exactly set well with the masses. Not when the haul for two rotational players amounted to two injured 32-year-old centers -- Bogut is always hurt, and Splitter had hip surgery last February -- not to mention a guy who was unable to see regular action for a sub-.500 Dallas club and draft picks of dubious worth.

But if the front office has not inspired confidence, some solace can be taken from what we now see on the court. There are keepers on the roster beyond Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. There are guys the Sixers can hang their hats on. The first two post-deadline games -- Friday's 120-112 victory over the Wizards and Saturday's 110-109 loss to the Knicks -- have proven as much.

Consider Covington. Once a mere spot-up shooter, he can now do a little something off the dribble. And he guards Carmelo Anthony's last-second dagger Saturday notwithstanding.

Covington had 20 points and 10 rebounds in that game, 25 and 11 against Washington.

Then there's Saric, who makes up for whatever he might lack in athleticism with savvy belying his 22 years. The rookie forward stretched his own double-double streak to four by generating 19 points and a career-high 15 rebounds against the Knicks.

He also has the endorsement of Colangelo, who during Friday's presser was asked about the view that the Sixers were returning to their tanking ways this season.

"I think I say Dario Saric, he's the answer (to that question) for us,” he told reporters.

Hey, no pressure, kid.

"Maybe some kind of pressure," Saric said before Friday's game. "For sure it's pressure, but I think I can say it's more attention on me. … But I will try to put everything on the side. I will try to not think so much about what he said. Of course, it's a positive thing, but I will not try to press myself."

He and Ilyasova were close. They shared a position, power forward, and while Ilyasova is from Turkey and Saric from Croatia, they very much spoke the same language.

"He was like some kind of mentor to me," Saric said. "He helped me a lot."

Especially on those occasions when the younger man got down on himself, as he did at times during the first few months of the season.

"He'd say, ‘It's one game. We have another game in 24 hours. You need to change your mindset and be ready for the next game,’" Saric said of Ilyasova.

Without his safety net, and with the expectations of the franchise now resting on his shoulders to some extent, Saric put up 20 points and 11 boards while making his 12th career start Friday night and his first since Feb. 2.

In one glittering second-quarter stretch, he hit a step-back jumper from the mid-post when he found himself in a mismatch against one Washington guard, John Wall, then backed down the other guard, Bradley Beal, and scored with the left hand. There was also an elbow jumper, not to mention a lefty post move over Otto Porter.

"The first 10 minutes, I tried to find myself," Saric said. "OK, I got a couple good assists, a couple good rebounds, but still I tried to find myself. It's a new role. I tried to play, tried to run, tried to find the rhythm of the game, which is most important thing in basketball. I got (into) the game after seven, eight minutes, maybe 10 minutes, and I'm happy. I had a good game, you know?"

Anderson didn’t play, but saw nearly four minutes of daylight against the Knicks, missing his only shot. Splitter, recovering from his hip surgery (as well as resultant calf issues), has not dressed for either game.

"Tiago right now is unhealthy," Brown said Friday.

Which is news to Splitter. Asked when he might be available, he said, "I hope soon. I was in full practice with the Hawks. … I saw the trainer (Kevin Johnson) today. They were happy with what they saw, and see."

Sixers fans, meanwhile, have mostly been seeing red of late. But if they look closely enough, they can see some reason for hope, too.