SAN FRANCISCO - If you look at this plan that 76ers general manager Sam Hinkie has put together, Michael Carter-Williams is the face of it. Hinkie's first big move was getting rid of the young, All-Star point guard he inherited in Jrue Holiday and replacing him with Carter-Williams.
Nights such as Saturday, in which MCW shot 2-for-20 from the floor during his team's 17-point loss to Utah, seldom happen, but there will be bad games. That is expected. But to measure him solely on his play on the floor isn't what coach Brett Brown will do. He exhaustedly uses the word "process," and Carter-Williams' growth is just that.
That's why the coach is patient and eager to see how his point guard handles the bad times.
"I like his spirit, I like his feistiness, but there are some [shots on Saturday] that I wished he didn't [take]," Brown said after the team's practice yesterday at posh St. Ignatius High School. "The bigger picture is, I like the fact that he can take a bad game. He's not going to be all wimpy and apologetic. He's going to keep on going. I remember, clear as day, thinking that I could take him out or I could grow him. At this stage, some of it was based on that we don't have lots of bodies. Some of it was I was just glad I did it. But, as you're figuring that stuff out, he kept on going, he wasn't backing down. I like that. But, was every one of those shots a great shot? No.
"We're showing him about his reads. Like I tell him, he's Tom Brady. How do you study? How do you understand outlets? How do you understand how a team is rotating? How do you know that Nerlens [Noel] needs a shot. How do you drive your car? That is a point guard. Reads and attacking and point-guard study is his growth. He's fantastic. He came back late [Sunday] night for a long time and put up shots to cleanse himself of his 2-for-20 performance. I've seen that quality in players where they just can't live with themselves, they can't sleep at night. He got to a gym. We had to find one for him, and we did."
That Carter-Williams looked for somewhere to get in a workout during an off day is as important to Brown and the growth of his point guard than anything that could happen during a game.
"Me and [assistant coach] Lloyd [Pierce] and Tony [Wroten] went to shoot, just to get my rhythm back and get some shots up at San Francisco College," Carter-Williams said. "To be honest, it sounds crazy, but my shot doesn't feel that bad. It feels good, I'm just missing shots. I just wanted to go into the gym and get my rhythm back. We had an off day, so it's just good to get up extra shots. I'm trying to improve my jump shot. Anytime I can get into the gym and get up extra shots is good. No matter if I went 20-for-20, I just want to go in and get extra shots and keep improving."
It was a bit surprising when Brett Brown announced on Saturday that Joel Embiid was being sent back home to continue his rehabilitation of his fractured foot. Asked about it again yesterday, Brown said that the reason was genuine and that getting Embiid back to a more solid structure at home instead of all the travel this road trip entails is vital.
"You start moving around and the stuff that we need to get him in shape [on the road] is poor at times; it's erratic with his diet," Brown said. "We all know that we want him to lose weight. We realized it midstream [of this road trip] that we could do better back home, so the decision was made.
"It's a challenge for him. [His weight] is OK; it's not great. We're trying to move him down. You think of what he has gone through recently, and it's difficult. All of it is in regards to his weight and his health. Not playing, family, the death of a brother. It makes for a difficult environment for Joel, and we're all helping him navigate through it, but we need to focus and zero in on his diet, his health, his fitness, and we really could do it better back home. He admits it at times, it's a challenge. I saw it with Nerlens [Noel sitting out last season], and his [Embiid's] challenge is even greater, because I could at least get out and do things with Nerlens and his shot. Only lately has Joel been able to do some stuff on his foot. So it's a challenge.
"Joel Embiid has a good heart. At the end of the day, he has a good heart. I don't throw that sentence out lightly. That needs to be the criteria of everybody in here. He's no different. I think it's just frustrating at times for him to not be able to play."
Nerlens Noel, who twisted his left ankle on Saturday, barely participated in practice yesterday and is a game-time decision tonight at Golden State. Luc Mbah a Moute, who has a strained calf, didn't practice and is out tonight.