By default, MCW gets more of a scoring role for Sixers

Posted: March 05, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY - There is a fine line being toed among Brett Brown, Michael Carter-Williams and the 76ers right now.

There is little doubt this stripped-down team, now using players such as Henry Sims, Jarvis Varnado and Byron Mullens in the regular rotation, is bereft of much offensive continuity, devoid of a true go-to player in a halfcourt set and still with no outside shooting threat.

Think things were bad when Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes were here? Well, they certainly haven't gotten any better, and the 14-game losing streak is all the evidence needed.

But a dilemma is brewing inside the mudslide that this season has become, and that is the play of Carter-Williams. Because the team gave up two of its top scorers in Hawes and Turner at the trade deadline, plenty of offensive slack must be picked up. That means Carter-Williams, along with Thaddeus Young, becomes a key scoring figure for this team, someone who must look for his shot first. The team simply can't score enough with its other players. To have a fighting chance on a given night, Carter-Williams must supply offensive punch.

Problem is, that is not exactly the way his coach wants to mold him. Brown thinks for Carter-Williams to be a future NBA star, he must learn how to be a true point guard - one who can get teammates the basketball where they need it to score best. Brown wants his rookie to lead his team in the frenzied pace he envisions, running out on the break, using his 6-6 frame to get to the basket and make the proper decision once there, either kick out to a shooter or score at the rim.

Here's where another problem arises (when you're 15-45, there is a plethora of them), and that is this: Exactly whom does Carter-Williams have to throw the ball to? After Young, there really is no proven scorer on this team. So even if he does get the ball to someone in a good spot on the floor, rarely is the pass rewarded, because of offensive ineptness.

Carter-Williams is smart enough to see all this and has now become more offensive-minded than perhaps his coach would like to see. In his first 17 games of the season, MCW had double-figure assists eight times. He has not accomplished that feat once over the past 14 games. And during that time, he averaged 4.3 turnovers a contest.

His numbers probably will garner him rookie of the year honors, which is a terrific award. But you can tell the coach is a little leery of how those numbers are being attained.

"It crosses my mind all the time, so much so that we talk about it all the time," Brown said of the ROY honor. "Michael is fantastic about it. He has to be a point guard. Either you are a point guard or you're not. He has to run our team, and he has to play defense. He understands. He is fantastic. Michael is extremely coachable. Those types of awards, we would all be naive to think they don't factor into a young player's mind, and I don't want it to be the elephant in the room. We talk about it.

"It gets back to just playing the game the right way. He's had a fantastic year. He's grown to be a fantastic leader. He understands the responsibility and the way of the city if he can get this right. How I coach him is we hit it on the head, we coach him to be his position, to run our team and to be a point guard and to be a leader."

The competitor in MCW will make him do what he feels the team needs to win a game, whether that conforms to the coach's desire or not. Sunday's loss to Orlando was a classic example of the ups and downs of Carter-Williams' game. He went without an assist in the first half, made all but one of his first six shots, and scored 14 points while the Sixers built a 46-43 lead. In the second half, he dealt all of his six assists, but shot only 1-for-8 from the floor and committed half of his eight turnovers in the 92-81 loss.

There's a lot to figure out in the final 22 games of the season, starting tonight in Oklahoma City, and the first priority is the point guard.

On Twitter: @BobCooney76


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