Sixers Finish Summer League; Michael Carter-Williams Frustrates But Intrigues

Sixers Finish Summer League; Michael Carter-Williams Frustrates But Intrigues

Orlando is over, and the Sixers will be packing up shop for a couple months now. The Sixers finished their Summer League set with a 1-4 record, their one win coming when they barely beat the Nets on the last day in a battle of the league's two worst teams, in a game that was (perhaps mercifully) untelevised. Needless to say this team was not overflowing with talent; I would be surprised if more than one or two of the players not already signed by the Sixers actually ended up on an NBA team next year. (And even a couple of those might not survive the summer.)

But of course, the team's record itself is of little import compared to how our impact prospects played, namely anointed Point Guard of the Future Michael Carter-Williams, who kicked the league off with a 26/7/8 performance that was actually more up-and-down than that final line would actually indicate. That performance was likely Carter-Williams' best of the week, as his 8-23 shooting night in that game would somehow end up being the highest percentage he shot in any of the five games, which also consisted of 4-20, 5-16 and 3-16 outings, dragging his final FG% for Orlando to a sparkling 27%.

Simply put, MCW has real, real trouble putting ball in basket. This comes as no surprise to Sixers fans, who have long been warned that Carter-Williams' shooting touch was highly lacking in his college career, but the degree of his struggling this week was pretty damn harsh. It's not just that he can't shoot straight--his stroke actually looks OK, though for whatever reason, it doesn't end up going in that much--it's that he doesn't have a particularly stocked arsenal of moves when it comes to getting his shot off. Often times he would drive to the basket, get stopped eight to ten feet out, and just kinda chuck the ball at the basket, with predictably limited success. He doesn't seem to have much in the way of floaters or up-and-under moves, which a guy with his lousy outside shooting results needs badly to be any kind of effective on offense.

Turnovers were also an issue for MCW. Again, nothing unexpected, but Michael was almost pushing double-digits with the giveaways in a couple of these, and it's pretty hard to be effective as a distributor when you're coughing the ball up that much. Many of the TOs were forgivable, but some were just the result of carelessness--being loose with his dribble, leaving his feet before deciding what he was going to do with the ball, wedging passes into spaces that were barely there, if at all. Between the turnovers and the misses, there was a whole lot of sighing and head-shaking to be done watching Carter-Williams this week.

So, a complete disaster, then? Well, I'm not willing to go quite that far. Carter-Williams struggled in predictable areas, and mightily so, but he also impressed in expected areas as well. His near double-digit turnover games were also near double-digit assist games--an unsustainable ratio, but one that shows that he's being aggressive with his play-making, which is generally a good thing. He had a couple lead passes in the half-court (especially to Arsalan Kazemi, who he developed a nice chemistry with) that were impressive in their both vision and their execution, and there were stretches--particularly in the second half of a narrow loss to Orlando--where he was getting into the paint and kicking out to open teammates on virtually every play, creating easy scoring opportunities like a point guard is supposed to, first and foremost.

And though he appears to be currently helpless scoring the ball from most areas of the court, he did show an impressive ability to finish around the basket, as well as the tenacity to drive at it continuously. His size allows him to finish over smaller defenders, and his wiriness allows him to contort his body to get around help defenders in mid-air. Of course, unless you're LeBron James, you can't just attack all the time, as eventually defenders can play you solely to drive and you'll end up getting your shot blocked a whole lot (as MCW certainly did as the week went on), but it's a good instinct, and one which when (hopefully, eventually) paired with an improved outside shot and a decent floater could make him quite a terror on offense.
But really, if you want to find value in MCW's Summer League performance, it'd mostly come on the other end of the ball. As raw as he is offensively, Carter-Williams seems likely to be an immmediate contributor on defense, where his length gives smaller point guards real trouble and his athleticism allows him to recover from the pick-and-roll in a way few defenders of his size could. OKC Summer League point guard Dwight Buycks impressed enough in his Orlando audition to get a two-year contract from the Raptors, but he was totally helpless against Carter-Williams, who blanketed him all game and held him to just two points and three assists (with three turnovers) in his limited minutes. In a league being gradually overrun by young, lightning-quick point guards, to have a potential stopper like MCW is really a tremendous asset to the Sixers moving forward.

What's more, Carter-Williams impressed with his ability to anticipate passing lanes and reach in for steals. Now, steals is often an overrated statistic when evaluating defense, since a high steal tally often means a predilection towards gambling, lunging for swipes that don't come to fruition and leave you (and subsequently, your whole team) out of defensive position, but MCW didn't guess wrong a whole lot, and when he did get hands on the ball, he excelled at transitioning into the fast break, with the speed and handling to finish himself and the smarts to kick ahead or cross-court to open teammates. On a team that's going to struggle in the half court like the Sixers invariably will next year (and maybe a couple years after), being able to get those easy points off turnovers will be tremendously key for them to stay in games.

On the whole? I'd be lying if I said I came away from the Sixers' week in Orlando convinced that Michael Carter-Williams was absolutely the guy to quarterback the next good 76ers team. If he can't score--like, at all--that's a pretty tough problem to get around, regardless of how much he contributes elsewhere on the floor, and there's a lot of feel-for-the-game stuff that he still needs to learn about leading a team and directing an offense and all that stuff. But Rich Hoffman of Liberty Ballers has done a good job of putting MCW's shooting and scoring in perspective as his "swing skill"--the area in which the degree of his improvement will determine the degree of his ability to be effective as an NBA player. You'd rather know for a fact that he can do it, but the fact that being able to do it is pretty much all that's keeping him from being a good pro is cause for optimism, since it's a partially learnable skill, and you'd rather have a super-talented guy with one gaping hole in his game than someone who's just across-the-board mediocre.

For some additional perspective, I'd advise you to look at the Summer League case of Utah's Trey Burke, taken two spots ahead of Michael Carter-Williams in the 2013 draft, the highest-picked point guard of the whole class. Burke's struggles in Orlando arguably eclipsed even Carter-Williams', with the rookie point also finishing with a final FG% in the 20s, as well as a disturbingly arid 1-19 mark from three over the week. (Even MCW managed to hit four total from deep over five games.) Burke did not impress terribly with his playmaking or defense, and seemed to struggle to get any kind of easy baskets--the few shots he made seemed to all come off tough fadeaways and long catch-and-shoots, which, cool, but when playing against the weak competition of Summer League, making it look easy is always a better sign for a player's pro prospects than making it look hard.

Now if I was a Jazz fan, I'd be pretty f'ing scared right now about that pick. Unlike Carter-Williams, Burke wasn't an offensively raw product in college--he averaged nearly 19 a game at Michigan, shooting 46% from the field and 38% from deep, sweeping the Player of the Year honors and was supposed to step in right away as the Jazz's starting point guard and best perimeter scorer and playmaker. And what's more, if Burke isn't scoring and distributing with ease, he's not contributing a whole lot on the court, as he's undersized as a defender and rebounder and not terribly effective in those areas. The situation with Burke reminds me (to my eternal chagrin) of our own Evan Turner, another consensus Player of the Year whose Summer League difficulties before his rookie season were indicative of the very real issues he was going to have adapting his college-dominating game to the pro level. It's not a death sentence for Burke, exactly--anybody can have a bad stretch of games, and I'm sure there's no shortage of excuses the Jazz camp have for their #9 pick's poor play, likely with varying degrees of credibility--but again, if I was a Utah fan, I'd be tempering my expectations considerably for what could be a pretty rough rookie season for Burke.

I'm not trying to pick on poor Trey Burke here--I'm sure there are Jazz blogs out there doing that well enough already--but I'm just trying to illustrate why you'd ultimately rather have a Summer League performance like that of Michael Carter-Williams, whose difficulties were very real and very problematic, but were also expected to a degree, and were tempered with similarly expected contributions in other areas. The issues with MCW are fixable, the issues with Burke, I wouldn't be so sure. Now, that's not to say that Carter-Williams will definitely (or even probably) fix said issues--it's entirely possible his scoring and shooting difficulties will remain such a problem that he will ultimately prove unplayable. But that's the gamble that Sam Hinkie took all along with our #11 pick, and if he's willing to bet long-term on Carter-Williams, then the young point guard deserves our faith and patience as well.

Ultimately, Michael Carter-Williams and the Philadelphia 76ers just might be the perfect fit for one another next season. Carter-Williams will undoubtedly struggle from the field tremendously all season--if he shot even 35% from the field, that might be considerable as a win for the Sixers--and the offense will suffer for it. But he'll learn, and in the meantime, the Sixers will lose, and hopefully by the time MCW gets enough of a feel for the pro game to be effective on both ends of the court, we'll have a couple high draft picks with which to give him the help on offense that he needs--considering his current go-to guy on offense is Thaddeus Young, who's only once averaged over 15 points a game and may not even be on the team at this point next year. Hell, Ricky Rubio has yet to score 11 a game or shoot over 36% from the field, but he's still looked at as a cornerstone of the Timberwolves' rebuilding process for his ability to contribute in all other facets of the game--passing, defending, even rebounding--and his remaining upside at age 22. No reason to think MCW couldn't turn out similarly, and on the Sixers, he'll get the chance to do so.

As he often does, my dad summed it up perfectly while we were watching MCW's up-and-down performance in his Summer League debut: "Well, he's going to stink this year, but that's OK." Sounds about right on all accounts.

Mike McQueary calls his ban from Penn State facilities 'wrong'

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Mike McQueary calls his ban from Penn State facilities 'wrong'

BELLEFONTE, Pa. — The former Penn State assistant football coach suing Penn State told jurors Friday he was angered when told he could not return to team facilities after being put on leave the week Jerry Sandusky was charged with child molestation.

Mike McQueary testified in the fifth day of trial in his lawsuit, where he's seeking more than $4 million in lost wages and other claims.

School officials have testified that safety concerns prompted them to put McQueary on paid administrative leave in November 2011, and he never returned to the football program.

"They tell me, the guy who turned in a pedophile," to stay away from team facilities, he testified. "And they let him go around there for years after they knew about it not once but twice. That gets me. That does not make sense to me. It's wrong."

McQueary says he saw Sandusky sexually abusing a boy in a team shower in 2001 and reported it to then-head coach Joe Paterno and two administrators. Another complaint was investigated in 1998 but produced no charges until authorities took a new look at the case starting in 2009.

His testimony helped convict Sandusky of 45 counts of child sexual abuse in 2012, but he has not been able to find a job.

McQueary told jurors he got a sense his status with the program was in trouble in the days after Sandusky was charged with molestation and two high-ranking school officials were charged with perjury and failing to properly report suspected child abuse.

The only university official who offered him words of encouragement during that period was Paterno, he said. He recounted an exchange they had on the practice field shortly before the school's trustees fired Paterno.

He said the aging coach told McQueary he had not done anything wrong and warned him not to trust "Old Main" — the administration building.

"He specifically said, 'Make sure you have a lawyer. You're all right. You didn't do anything wrong.' He was very, the word I want to use is, unselfish, about all of it," McQueary said.

He also recounted seeing Sandusky with the boy in the shower in 2001, slamming his locker door shut and seeing that they had separated.

McQueary did not say anything, physically intervene or call police, but he did contact Paterno the next day.

"I think one of the concerns perhaps in the very first minute is, Who's going to believe me? Who is going to believe when I tell them that Jerry Sandusky was doing this?" McQueary testified. "I didn't know if my dad would believe me. I didn't know if anyone would believe me. And to his credit, Coach Paterno did believe me."

Coach mum on Giants' awareness of Josh Brown's abuse record

Coach mum on Giants' awareness of Josh Brown's abuse record

LONDON -- The New York Giants have yet to decide whether Josh Brown will stay on the team after admitting he abused his former wife, coach Ben McAdoo said Friday in a press conference that raised more questions about the franchise's knowledge of the kicker's off-field behavior.

McAdoo faced repeated questioning about Brown following the Giants' first practice in London for a game Sunday against the Los Angeles Rams.

Brown did not travel to London and the team has yet to say if he will be suspended or cut following the release of county police records in which the player said he physically abused his wife, Molly, over a protracted period. She told police in the documents released by the King County Sheriff's Office in Washington state that the abuse and other threatening behavior stretched from 2009, when she was pregnant with their daughter, to the Pro Bowl in January 2016.

At the Pro Bowl in Honolulu, Brown's wife said she called NFL security to move her and her three children to another hotel to avoid harassment from her estranged husband. She said he had pounded on their hotel door seeking to get in. The allegation is included in the final report filed last month by the local investigating detective, Robin Ostrum.

Brown's former wife did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment from The Associated Press.

A law firm representing the kicker declined comment.

When asked whether the Giants knew about Brown's behavior at the Pro Bowl, McAdoo repeatedly said the Giants were still gathering information on the 9-month-old event. Finally, he said: "I'm not going to answer that."

When a reporter asked McAdoo about his comments in August suggesting he would show no tolerance for players abusive of their family members, McAdoo said his comments then were more nuanced.

"When did I say zero tolerance?" he said, adding: "I do not support domestic violence, if that's what you're asking. I do not condone it."

McAdoo described Brown as a "man of faith" who was trying to improve his behavior and the Giants organization was supporting him in this. But when asked to explain how the Giants provided this or monitored his off-field behavior, McAdoo said he couldn't detail any specific acts of support.

The NFL's official policy is to suspend players guilty of domestic abuse for six games on their first offense. Brown was suspended for one game, the Giants' season-opening victory over the Dallas Cowboys, in punishment for his May 2015 arrest at his family home in Woodinville, Washington, on suspicion of assaulting his wife by grabbing one of her wrists as she tried to reach for a phone, leaving an abrasion and bruising. No charges were filed but the detective, Ostrum, gathered detailed statements from Molly Brown who also provided her husband's written admissions of abuse in diary and email entries.

The NFL said its investigators asked to see these records but were denied.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell suggested in a BBC interview Friday that Brown could face further punishment now that league officials can see the full King County evidence file detailing Molly Brown's allegations of more than 20 episodes of abuse fueled by alcohol and other threatening behavior to herself, her two sons from a previous relationship and the couple's daughter.

"We have asked repeatedly for those facts and the information that's been gathered by law enforcement both orally and in writing. And we weren't able to get access to it. So you have to make decisions on whatever information you have," Goodell said in a transcript of the London interview provided by the BBC.

"We take this issue incredibly seriously. ... When it happens we're not going to tolerate it. So we have some new information here, we'll evaluate that in the context of our policy and we'll take it from there," Goodell said.

The Giants in April re-signed Brown to a two-year contract valued at $4 million. When facing his one-game suspension, Brown in August said he was divorced from his wife, although police documents released Wednesday suggested that civil proceedings remain incomplete.

The Giants have signed kicker Robbie Gould, an 11-year veteran of the Chicago Bears who was cut in September for salary cap reasons. The 34-year-old is expected to practice with the team Saturday.

"I've seen him (Gould) make a lot of kicks against me in the past. He's been successful, and we're hoping that continues," McAdoo said.