Durant knows MCW's feeling

Posted: March 20, 2014

AT LEAST MCW knows he has KD in his corner.

Oklahoma City star Kevin Durant, the top scorer in the NBA, recently has called Michael Carter-Williams several times as MCW endures a humiliating rookie season on a team constructed to lose. Durant lost 62 of 82 games as the NBA Rookie of the Year in Seattle, and the team improved by only three wins when it moved from fashionable Seattle to, um, less-fashionable Oklahoma City the next season.

Carter-Williams and the Sixers could be just as bad, or worse, despite MCW's probable hold on this season's Rookie of the Year award. And, of course, next season might not be much better.

"I've talked to Kevin Durant a few times," Carter-Williams said yesterday. "His team wasn't very good coming in his rookie and sophomore years. I talk to him a bunch, and he gives me good advice. Tells me to stick with it, and to keep working every day. He knows the struggle I'm going through."

Durant might recognize the flavor, but it never tasted this bad for him.

Undermanned, outclassed and hurtling headlong toward infamy, the Sixers lost their 21st consecutive game Monday at Indianapolis, a team record. Their D-League roster has an excellent chance of losing more than 26 straight, the record set in 2010-11 by the post-LeBron Cavaliers.

In fact, the team has little chance of winning another game this season, which continues tonight when the Bulls visit.

They cannot match the worst 82-game record in history, set by a wretched Sixers team in 1972-73 that went 9-73; and, of course, lost those 20 in a row.

They can, however, put the NBA's consecutive-games losing streak in Ruthian class. They have 15 games to play.

Can they lose 36 consecutive games?

With the NBA lottery looming, they do not seem to care.

In fact, with remarkable foresight, the Sixers anticipated this degree of ineptness.

New coach Brett Brown and new general manager Sam Hinkie arranged for Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel, their other first-round pick, to meet with NBA entities like Durant, who have explained how to endure the suffering of rebuilding from scratch. Noel is rehabilitating a knee injured in college and is not expected to play this season; still, he stays with the team and suffers the indignity of insignificance.

"Behind closed doors the entire season, we've put Michael and Nerlens in front of people of incredible significance who have shared their stories," Brown said. "[Durant] is one of them. That carries a lot of weight."

Durant now is leading the rebuilt Thunder to the playoffs for the fifth consecutive season.

Nevertheless, he gladly agreed when asked to counsel Carter-Williams, most likely when the Sixers visited the Thunder on March 4. Durant not only spoke with the Sixers point guard, he has stayed in touch; a comfort, to be sure, as the losing becomes more and more a national story.

"The respect I have for Kevin Durant - that is one complete person," Brown said. "A fantastic player, a fantastic ambassador and just a good human being. I personally appreciate him reaching out to Michael and helping him."

Durant's support of his most important player is nice, but Brown has been startled by the electronic lifelines thrown his way.

"I didn't see what the problem was," Brown said. "I base what the tom-toms in the marketplace are saying by the number of texts I get."

Well, the tom-toms are deafening, so the iPhone is blowing up.

"I am grateful to look at a telephone and see lots of people have taken the time to say whatever they are saying," Brown said. "It's a reflection of a coaching fraternity that has been very good for me."

Brown leads a myopic existence. He monitors Noel's development - Noel's recent back spasms have subsided and he shows flashes of athletic brilliance, but he remains far from ready to play in an NBA game - and evaluates the talent he has before him.

"It's important for everyone to know that this program is fine; that Brett Brown is fine," he said.

Brown declined to name names, but did allow that he received messages from acquaintances he never expected to hear from.

By contrast, Thaddeus Young, the lone competent veteran marooned on this desert island of D-Leaguers, mainly has heard from former teammates such as Andre Iguodala and Lou Williams. Iguodala and Williams were the most significant casualties of the 2012 purge that predated Brown and Hinkie after the Sixers came within a game of the Eastern Conference Finals . . . then traded Iguodala, their best player, to acquire monumental bust Andrew Bynum; and declined to re-sign Williams, their leading scorer.

Young says that Williams tells him, "Things will get better. They always do. There comes a point in time when you'll have a season like this. There comes a point in time when you're on top of the world, and you're a contender."

Williams is earnest, but he's wrong.

Almost no team has ever endured a season like this; and, since the Sixers are mainly counting on future acquisitions, there is no reason to believe they will contend for anything but the lottery any time soon.

Brown is incredulous that, considering the team's sell-off at the trade deadline, anyone is surprised at how badly things are going.

"For people to think stuff like this might not happen, I step back and say, 'Really? Really?' " Brown said, referencing the trade-deadline exodus. "We went to a far more definitive level. We took a further step toward the direction of a rebuild. To find ourselves at this stage and for it to be a shock to others is surprising to me."

He paused, and balanced the statement:

"Sure, it could have been more palatable if you sprinkled those 15 wins differently and didn't get on a streak."

But they are on a streak; a horrible, embarrassing, laughable streak.

A streak that draws sympathy and support from the league's luminaries, like Durant, once miserable himself, now accomplished.

"He came to me as a veteran," Carter-Williams said. "Talked to me about how to change things, how to change the program."

And how to endure an endless winter as a frequent loser.

Email: hayesm@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @inkstainedretch

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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