MCW: Greatest pressure will be on Nerlens Noel

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MCW: Greatest pressure will be on Nerlens Noel

When the Sixers return next season they will have the reigning Rookie of the Year, a healthy No. 6 overall pick from 2013 and a top-five selection from the upcoming draft.

It is exciting to think of the potential in that lineup, but with potential comes expectations and the pressure to live up to them.

Who has the greatest pressure? Is it on Michael Carter-Williams to back up the numbers he averaged this past season? Perhaps it's on Nerlens Noel to be the rim protector he has been touted to be by so many around the league? Or does the pressure sit with the to-be-determined top-five pick in a draft praised for its deep talent?

Carter-Williams thinks the answer is Noel.

“There is a lot of expectations and pressure, but I think the fans are really eager to see what Nerlens brings to the table,” Carter-Williams said Monday after being named Rookie of the Year and prior to having shoulder surgery. “That is pressure, but he is going to have more help. A lot of his help comes from me and I am going to be there to support him.

“I am going to work things out with him when things aren’t going his way. I am going to stay on him and just for him to do all the right things on the court.”

Noel will have the advantage of being one year into his relationship with head coach Brett Brown.

Early on, Brown made the decision that Noel would be part of all team functions from film sessions to travel to pregame activities.

The only part of being an NBA rookie Noel did not experience was playing.

The pressure on MCW will be different than Noel’s because he is now a known quantity. Carter-Williams led his rookie peers in scoring, rebounding, assists, steals and minutes per game this season all while growing into a true team leader.

Just as first-year players often hit the rookie wall, a sophomore slump is not unusual. Carter-Williams' maturity and supporting cast will help him navigate the challenges of his second NBA season just as they did his rookie year.

“I think that helped me a lot. Staying grounded is your ability to appreciate the game and work hard on and off the court," he said. "Without being grounded and staying level-headed, I wouldn’t have gotten Rookie of the Year.”

And like Noel, MCW knows what Brown wants and expects from him.

The high draft pick will be in an interesting situation. His rookie performance could be overshadowed by the play of Noel and Carter-Williams and not scrutinized to the same degree.

But fans are expecting the Sixers' draft selection, which will be no lower than No. 5, to be in the starting lineup and contributing at both ends of the floor.

The Sixers did not end up in that situation when they selected Evan Turner second overall in 2010. The Cavaliers certainly did not get that with Anthony Bennett this past season following his No. 1 overall selection.

Turner was the 2010 national college player of the year at Ohio State, where he averaged 20.4 points, 9.2 rebounds and 6.0 assists a game.

Those numbers did not follow him to the pros. Turner averaged 7.2 points and 3.9 rebounds as a rookie. People wanted so much more from the No. 2 pick.

Bennett’s experience in Cleveland was worse -- he played in just 52 games and averaged 12.8 minutes coming off the bench with 4.2 points and 3.0 rebounds.

With the right pick, the pressure to be better in the 2014-15 season can be shared by all three young Sixers.

NBA Notes: Cavs staying humble with chance to close out Celtics

NBA Notes: Cavs staying humble with chance to close out Celtics

BOSTON -- It took 10 games and halfway through the third round of the NBA playoffs before the Cleveland Cavaliers finally encountered their first true dose of resistance this postseason.

After cruising to a 2-0 Eastern Conference finals lead over Boston, the Cavs were humbled at home in a Game 3 loss, and needed a 42-point night from Kyrie Irving to battle back from a 16-point hole and win Game 4.

The chatter about an NBA Finals' matchup of two teams with unblemished playoff records is gone, but the challenge from the Celtics has sharpened the focus of the defending champs. Cleveland is expecting another unflinching effort in Game 5 from a Celtics team that isn't backing down despite facing a 3-1 deficit in the series.

"The closeout game is always the hardest.and Boston is going to make it even harder," said LeBron James, who rebounded from a playoff-low 11 points in Game 3 to score 34 in Game 4.

James had been saying that he felt like the Cavs needed to go through some adversity after a blistering 10-0 start to the postseason.

The way they responded Tuesday night -- particularly on the defensive end -- is a good sign for their prospects of wrapping up their third straight Eastern Conference crown on Thursday (see full story).

NBA: Charlotte awarded 2019 All-Star Game
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The NBA All-Star game will be coming to Charlotte in 2019, two years after the city was to host the event.

The NBA announced Wednesday the game will be played at Spectrum Center, home of the Charlotte Hornets.

The All-Star game had been set for Charlotte last February, but the NBA moved the game to New Orleans because of the state law restricting the rights of LGBT people.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a release that while he understands the concerns of those who say the repeal of the HB2 law didn't go far enough, "the recent legislation eliminates the most egregious aspects of the prior law."

The All-Star weekend festivities in Charlotte are set for Feb. 15-17, 2019.

Bucks: GM search opening up after Hammond exit
Boasting a budding star and an impressive roster of young talent, the Milwaukee Bucks are opening up their search for a new general manager to lead them into contention in the Eastern Conference.

After longtime GM John Hammond left to join friend Jeff Weltman in the Orlando Magic front office, the Bucks are bringing in respected league executive Rod Thorn to help with the search for a replacement, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the Bucks were not publicly discussing their search.

Assistant GM Justin Zanik was believed to be the heir apparent to Hammond when he left the Utah Jazz to join the Bucks. Zanik, a promising young executive who was an agent before spending three years under Dennis Lindsey in Utah, will get the opportunity to interview for the position, but outside candidates will also be considered. ESPN first reported the details of Milwaukee's search.

The job figures to be an attractive one for prospective executives. Giannis Antetokounmpo enjoyed a breakout season this year, earning a starting spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team and cementing himself as a franchise player.

Milwaukee also has Khris Middleton, Malcolm Brogdon and Thon Maker to go with Jabari Parker, a former No. 2 overall pick who is recovering from his second torn ACL.

The Bucks are building a new arena and have enjoyed a revival in the city under new owners Marc Lasry and Wesley Edens and coach Jason Kidd.

Whether it is Zanik or someone else, it will be a critical hire to help the Bucks move from a team that lost in six games to the Toronto Raptors in the first round of the playoffs to one that is ready to challenge the Cavaliers and Celtics at the top of the Eastern Conference (see full story).

Lakers: Celebrity trainer Peterson hired
LOS ANGELES -- A celebrity trainer known for getting the Kardashian clan into shape is going to work for the Los Angeles Lakers.

Gunnar Peterson is the Lakers' new director of strength and endurance training, the team announced Wednesday.

Peterson has been a favorite trainer among entertainers and athletes for many years while running a well-regarded private gym in Beverly Hills. His client list has included Sylvester Stallone, Halle Berry, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, Sofia Vergara and Pete Sampras, along with most of the Kardashian family.

Peterson will develop a strength and conditioning program for the Lakers, general manager Rob Pelinka says.

The 16-time NBA champion franchise has replaced several key members of its internal staff since Magic Johnson and Pelinka assumed control of basketball operations earlier this year.

NBA draft prospect Josh Jackson pleads guilty to misdemeanor for hitting car

NBA draft prospect Josh Jackson pleads guilty to misdemeanor for hitting car

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Former University of Kansas basketball player Josh Jackson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor traffic violation for backing into a car and driving away.

The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Jackson entered his plea Tuesday in Lawrence Municipal Court to striking an unattended vehicle. Two other charges, inattentive driving and improper backing, were dismissed.

Jackson, who is expected to be a top draft pick in next month's NBA draft, will be on probation for six months and must pay a $250 fine. If he violates his probation, Jackson would have to serve 30 days in jail.

Coach Bill Self suspended Jackson for the opening game of the Big 12 Tournament because of the incident.

The 6-foot-8 Jackson has now resolved two cases that had dogged him during his lone year at Kansas. He earlier reached a diversion agreement that requires him to attend anger management classes, write a letter of apology and refrain from using alcohol or recreational drugs for a year for his confrontation with a Jayhawks women's basketball player last year.

Jackson had pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor count of criminal property damage after he argued with McKenzie Calvert on Dec. 9 outside a bar in Lawrence. He signed the diversion agreement on April 26.