Several times this young season, 76ers coach Maurice Cheeks has limited his substitution rotation to eight players. In each of those cases, none of those players was named Rodney Carney.
It's one thing for Lou Williams to take a hard fall, as he did in Saturday night's 105-77 blowout of the all-but-helpless New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden. It's another thing for Carney, the second-year guard-forward to seemingly fall out of the picture.
At a time when the Sixers, with the arrival of new president/general manager Eddie Stefanski, are again re-evaluating their assets, Carney has been all but locked to the bench. When he played 7 minutes, 59 seconds on Saturday night, he was the fifth of seven reserves to make an appearance. He had not played at all in four of the previous five games.
Asked about his situation late last week, Carney said, "I don't know what's going on at all. I was doing good, told [in training camp] I was competing for a starting job. From there, I've gone to not playing at all."
Cheeks expanded his rotation to include first-round draft choice Thaddeus Young in Friday night's victory over the Knicks, then used all 12 active players in Saturday night's game, in which the Sixers led by as many as 28 points. It remains to be seen how Cheeks will handle tonight's meeting with the Houston Rockets, the first of three home appearances this week; the Minnesota Timberwolves will be here Wednesday night, followed by the Sacramento Kings on Friday night.
There was no anger in Carney's voice. But neither was there any trace of acceptance. Carney was the No. 16 overall pick in the NBA's 2006 draft. He started 35 games as a rookie, scoring in double figures in 13 of his last 28 appearances. In December of last season, he put up 25 points and eight rebounds against the Golden State Warriors, the first Sixers rookie to manage at least 25 and eight since Allen Iverson in 1996-97.
"No one's really talked to me, to me why I [haven't been] playing, or anything," Carney said. "I'm just trying to stay positive, keep in shape, keep working hard in case my number's called. I thought I was the caliber player who could start for this team, get significant minutes."
He had seven points and two rebounds Saturday night, knocking down his only three-point attempt after going 3-for-20 from beyond the arc in 14 previous games. In 179 total minutes, he has committed just seven turnovers, but also has had only nine assists.
"If a change was happening, I would expect someone to say, 'Rodney, this is what's happening,' but nothing has been told to me," he said. "I have all the tapes, from the first preseason game till now. Maybe my defensive intensity isn't enough; maybe that's it. I'm just guessing. My shot's not falling at the same time. But whatever coach wants, if it's diving on the floor, that's what I'll do."
Lou Williams, having been reevaluated yesterday, is expected to play tonight after going down hard via a flagrant foul by the Knicks' David Lee on Saturday night . . . Fans attending tonight's game who bring a new unwrapped toy will be given access to a postgame autograph session with Samuel Dalembert and Shavlik Randolph. The toys will be donated to the U.S. Marines' Toys For Tots initiative . . . With their weekend sweep of the beleaguered Knicks, the Sixers have won back-to-back games for the first time this season. The victories also were their first two in seven tries in the Atlantic Division . . . Encouraging sign: After shooting 2-for-21 on three-pointers in the five previous games, Kyle Korver drained 6 of 9 in the victories over the Knicks. *