IT MIGHT APPEAR that 76ers coach Brett Brown has a dilemma approaching, but most wouldn't mind having the problem he does. The coach is getting back one of his best players from injury, as guard Tony Wroten practiced yesterday and should be able to play tomorrow night at Atlanta.
Wroten was a little put off when reporters asked yesterday whether he and Michael Carter-Williams could play together. His frustration is understandable. The two are the best players Brown can put on the floor. The problem is that they play the same position and both do it similarly.
In the seven games Wroten started at point to begin the season while MCW was recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, Wroten averaged 21.9 points, 6.7 assists and grabbed 2.7 steals a game. In the past five games Carter-Williams has started with Wroten sidelined with a sprained knee, the reigning rookie of the year averaged 19.6 points, 12.2 assists and 9.0 rebounds. The two started four games together and, not surprising, their numbers were far less impressive. More than that, though, Brown acknowledged that pairing them as starters was a work in progress.
Yesterday, after practice at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Wroten wasn't happy when a reporter brought up the hefty numbers Carter-Williams posted during the past five games, which included the team's only two wins of the season in 20 games. It wasn't posed as a bash to his game, more as a question as to how the two can work together, being as their games are so similar. Wroten said he learned a lot by watching from the bench the past five games.
"You see things differently when you're watching and being a coach," Wroten said. "Talking to coach and he told me to just take everything in and see what we did wrong and what we did well and capitalize off of both. That's what I've been doing, taking notes and getting ready to get back out there."
As for his assessment of his backcourt mate during his off time, Wroten said of MCW: "He's a great player. We're two good point guards having to pick up our game when one of us is out.
"We are going to play a lot together, so we want to make sure that our chemistry is great when we're on the court. He's been playing well, tremendously, through the roof, damn near averaging a triple-double, so I just want to come in and try to help the team win."
Brown said that starting Wroten tomorrow probably isn't in the plan, but the idea of having both of his most dominant players is intriguing.
"I think it can [work, the two playing together]," Brown said. "I probably won't start the next game like that. We'll bring [Wroten] back into it. Who knows? Inevitably, they are going to be playing a lot together, and I feel like that's on me a lot to play side to side, to put somebody in a pick-and-roll on one side and Tony playing the other side on a pick-and-roll and speed the game up. If you just sort of take what you can do and try to create an environment to maximize what they can do, which is me, then I think you have a chance. The reasons maybe why they couldn't play together, some might be real, but I'm not ready to accept those."
The coach then addressed why Wroten might be a little sensitive to talk about the two playing together.
"People are people," he said. "You can jazz it up or try to not talk about the elephant in the room. It's natural. He [Wroten] knows that he's had a hell of a year. That's the bottom line. That kid has improved. We'll take his skill package, which is improving and obvious, and integrate it into what we're moving forward with ourselves. I do think that we've got some good moving parts with a bunch of different things that make it a jigsaw puzzle."
Like Wroten, Carter-Williams is excited for the two to be reunited and has an idea how they'll cooperate.
"If he gets it, I expect him to push the ball and I'll fill in the lanes," MCW said. "If I get the ball, I'll run the point guard and find the open guy. On sets, I think Tony is the 'two' guard and I'm the point guard, and that's how we practiced, so that's how we want to carry it over into the game."