All-Star break a breath of fresh air for Carter-Williams

Posted: February 16, 2014

NEW ORLEANS - Michael Carter-Williams looked refreshed. His face was lit up, his hair freshly cut. The eight straight losses and 18 of the last 21 that his 76ers have incurred were a distant thought, as the rookie talked with the throng of media that has swarmed into NOLA for All-Star Weekend. Carter-Williams spoke before his Rising Stars Challenge team took the court for a light morning workout.

"Yeah, it's nice to get a break [from the regular season]," Carter-Williams said. "For us to come out here and get a little bit of a rest and still keep in shape a little bit on the court is good. It's nice to get a rest."

There really isn't much rest, as the practice was early in the morning, commitments to the community were in the afternoon and the game was last night. In addition, MCW was scheduled to compete in the Skills Competition tonight.

"It hasn't been too bad, it's busy but it's fun, and I'm enjoying it," Carter-Williams said of the hectic schedule. "I get to talk to all the guys, see how their season is going, compare it to what I'm going through. It's nice. It's great seeing [the guys], going from college with a lot of these guys to now being here. I'm just trying to enjoy it. It doesn't happen to everybody. I'm lucky to be here, I'm thankful to be here, so I'm just trying to enjoy my time and have fun with the guys."

One of the guys, Orlando's Victor Oladipo, will be MCW's partner in the Skills Competition tomorrow. Coincidentally, the two are being touted - along with Utah's Trey Burke - as the leaders for the rookie of the year award.

"I think it's definitely a close race," MCW said. "I think a lot of rookies have been playing well. Victor's a great player who does a lot of things on the floor. To be mentioned as a top-two in rookie of the year is great. Trey has been playing great. There's a lot of rookies out there. Kelly [Olynyk, of Boston] has been playing well. I'm just trying to stay focused on my game."

Staying focused at All-Star weekend? Good luck with that.

Parker showing love

Western Conference guard Tony Parker's face brightened when Brett Brown's name was mentioned. Brown was an assistant coach with the San Antonio Spurs for nearly as long as Parker has been there.

"Don't talk bad about my man, Brett Brown," Parker said, laughing. "He is going to be fine. They have a very young team, they've had some injuries, even with the rookie [Michael Carter-Williams], so it's been a tough year so far. But Brett is very good at developing young talent, and he will do a great job. He's already shown that with [Carter-Williams]."

Parker is making his sixth All-Star appearance.

Face of a league

Elena Delle Donne, a graduate of the University of Delaware and Ursuline Academy in Wilmington, is in NOLA this weekend as a participant in tonight's Shooting Stars contest. She will team with New York Knicks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. and his father, Tim Hardaway Sr., representing the Eastern Conference. Each team is made up of an NBA player, a WNBA player and an NBA legend.

Delle Donne, who won rookie of the year in the WNBA with the Chicago Sky, could have taken much more money had she decided to play overseas. But staying close to her family and growing the face of the WNBA were the factors that kept her from going. She now sees a bright future for the WNBA, especially now that Magic Johnson has become a part owner of the Los Angeles Sparks.

"I decided to stay here and market ourselves and market our league," she said. "I do think visibility is really huge and you need to see more WNBA players. I do see the chance [of the WNBA growing], but the money overseas is so great that you really can't change our league quite yet, because people are going to keep going overseas to make the money they deserve.

"It's really important to me to grow the league here, and I think we're headed in the right direction. I think Magic being a part of the league is going to be great for us. It's a really important organization for the league."

Vogel humbled

Frank Vogel began his basketball career as a guard at Wildwood High School, then as a Division III player at Juniata College (Huntingdon, Pa.). He left there and attended Kentucky, mainly for the purpose of doing film work for then-coach Rick Pitino. Now, he is the coach of the Indiana Pacers and yesterday was getting ribbed about playing time in tomorrow's game by Dwyane Wade, who was on the neighboring platform.

"Yeah, it's kind of surreal going from a kid at the Jersey Shore to coaching the NBA All-Star Game," said Vogel, who will direct the Eastern Conference squad. "But this is something that I've always dreamed of, from when I was a kid to when I was in the video room."

His favorite All-Star memories, of course, include the Sixers.

"I remember how cool it was to see Larry Bird and Doctor J [Julius Erving] on the same team," he said. "And then you had Maurice Cheeks and Kevin McHale and all these Sixers and Celtics playing together. I used to have dunk contests in my driveway on a 7- or 8-foot rim against my brother. All my dunks were the dunks Doctor J did."

On Twitter: @BobCooney76