NEWARK, Del. -- Michael Carter-Williams knows it’s going to be tough.
As a rookie point guard who just had his 21st birthday, the 6-foot-6, 185-pounder is ready for the pounding. He expects the opposing teams to get aggressive with him and make him work for every inch on the court. In Friday night’s 97-85 victory over the Boston Celtics at the University of Delaware’s Bob Carpenter Center (see Instant Replay), veteran Avery Bradley was gunning for Carter-Williams from the jump.
In fact, at one point during the first quarter, Bradley had been clutching and grabbing Carter-Williams so much that his shirt tail had come out of his shorts and was flapping in the breeze.
“I thought he was exceptional,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “Each game I see him, he does something that gets you even more excited. You hear about his potential and you think you know, and then all of a sudden you see him against arguably the best perimeter defender and he was physical and Michael didn’t back down. He went by him and I thought that his performance tonight against a very physical defender was excellent.”
It was rough, too. But Carter-Williams has stood up to the test. In three preseason games, including battles against Bradley and the Oklahoma City Thunder in England, Carter-Williams has committed just one turnover. In Friday night’s game against the Celtics, Carter-Williams had zero turnovers in 30 minutes.
The rookie had six points on six shots with six assists and six rebounds against the Celtics. He also added a steal and was a plus-21. He had no trouble finding Thad Young (20 points), Spencer Hawes (17 points) or Evan Turner (12 points, nine rebounds) as the Sixers rolled.
“I think I’m picking my poison a little bit,” Carter-Williams said. “I’m taking smarter chances and trying to squeeze some passes, but only once in a while. I try to make the simple play a lot and so far it’s been working.”
The 11th pick in last June’s draft, Carter-Williams was highly regarded for his athleticism and size as a point guard, though his shooting is a bit suspect. Moreover, rail thin and young, some felt Carter-Williams would have trouble with the older and stronger guards in the NBA. After all, every point guard goes through some growing pains, especially rookies.
But as he explained, Carter-Williams pays attention to the fundamentals. He’ll make the simple, correct play instead of the flashy one. That’s what a coach wants from a point guard. Especially a coach who was collegiate point guard and a son of a coach.
But not everything was perfect in Brown’s eyes. Yes, Carter-Williams was perfect in the turnover column, but he left plenty of room for improvement. Playing an up-tempo style of offense in which the goal is to get the ball and take off, the Sixers’ plan is to wear out the opposition. However, there were times during the second half when it appeared as if the Sixers were dragging a little bit.
Ideally, Brown said, the Sixers will move even faster with the ball and it will be up to Carter-Williams to make the team go.
“It has to be the way we play,” Brown said. “At times it scares the heck out of you because you turn it over a lot and we’ve said it’s going to happen and I’m prepared to live with some of that now. Hopefully, we can get a little smarter on the kick-aheads and some of those passes we’re throwing long. But pace has to be our identity. We put a premium on fitness and we want to get out and go.”
If Brown wants the offense to move faster, Carter-Williams isn’t going to argue. What player is going to argue with going faster?
“Whatever coach wants,” Carter-Williams said. “If he wants us to play faster, that’s what we’ll have to do. As a player, I’m going to adapt to that and try to play as fast as I can and as fast as [Brown] wants. I don’t think my turnovers will suffer from that.”
In other words, giddy-up.
The Sixers continue the exhibition season on Monday night when the Brooklyn Nets come to the Wells Fargo Center.