MCW's prize speaks well of Brown's success at the helm of Sixers

Posted: May 07, 2014

AS HAPPY As Sixers coach Brett Brown was yesterday when point guard Michael Carter-Williams was named NBA rookie of the year, he said he could not yet exhale.

It's too early in the process for one moment of success to cloud the picture of how much more work there is to do in this remake of the Sixers' franchise from the bottom to the top.

Brown knew exactly what he was getting into when he accepted the task of coaching the Sixers last August, but even though he has been transparent with himself and the fan base about the nature of the challenge, he needed a reason to breathe a tiny sigh of relief.

When a team is coming off a challenging season that featured 63 losses and a record-tying 26-game losing streak, silver linings cannot be ignored.

You have to remember that Brown was still a good month away from being named as Sixers coach when rookie president/general manager Sam Hinkie traded away All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday and then used the 11th overall pick in the NBA draft to place the keys of the Sixers' offense into the hands of Carter-Williams, out of Syracuse University.

Brown didn't coach Carter-Williams in the NBA summer league. He had to start his tenure as head coach of the Sixers believing Hinkie had made the right decisions about what had become the most important position in today's NBA.

Every solid structure begins with a solid foundation, and with Carter-Williams performing as the best rookie in the NBA, Brown can at least feel comfortable that the first brick has turned out to be a good one.

"The opportunity Michael had of 'here's the ball, here's 34 minutes' helped," Brown said after Carter-Williams followed Allen Iverson as only the second rookie of the year in Sixers history. "That opportunity and skill package is brought to you by somebody that has selected him, and I said I think he can do this.

"I know the stage that we are at, where, in relation to [Hinkie] blowing up the program and starting from ground zero . . . In hindsight, [Hinkie] has made a pretty good pick."

Depending on how the pingpong balls bounce in the NBA lottery, Hinkie will have no worse than the fifth overall pick, could have the 10th overall pick via the New Orleans Pelicans, and will have five second-round picks to wheel or deal with on draft night (June 26).

Whether you like the way Hinkie went about it or not, there is no denying he established as much control as he possibly could have in setting the table for the Sixers to take advantage of what has been advertised as potentially one of the best drafts in a generation.

If Hinkie knows what he is doing - and thus far there is no reason to doubt his draft-night prowess - this franchise will be drastically altered again next season.

The Sixers acquired center Nerlens Noel, who was drafted sixth overall by New Orleans, in the Holiday trade. Some believe Noel could become the 2014-15 rookie of the year after sitting out this season recovering from a knee injury. The Sixers' first pick in the upcoming draft is anticipated to yield a talent of franchise-making ability.

That brings us back to Carter-Williams, who is the lowest-drafted ROY since the New York Knicks selected St. John's point guard Mark Jackson at 18th overall in 1987.

Point guard in the NBA is an ever-adjusting position and for the overall success of the franchise, Carter-Williams might very well have to make the adjustment to playing a more out-of-the-spotlight role.

What happens next season will be interesting to watch.

"I want to be an All-Star and do all those kinds of great things, " Carter-Williams said, "but after this year, my goal is to get more wins and bring my team to the playoffs.

"As we get more pieces, expectations are going to change . . . I'm willing to do whatever the team needs me to do to win games. At the end of the day, if you are a good player, your game is always going to adapt to who is around you. I don't think I will have to adjust my game too much, but if I do, so be it, because like I said, I just want to do what it takes for my team to win."

That response from Carter-Williams brought Brown more relief than anything else that happened yesterday.

"He answered the way I guessed he would," Brown said. "At the end of the day, he is a point guard. You see his mentality and his unselfishness in that he really does want to do whatever it takes for his team to win.

"Who knows how the ping-pong balls and the draft picks will play out, but I think the main thing is he'll figure it out. I'll figure it out. He's certainly skilled enough to be on the floor and be a part of it all.

"He has set the table for Nerlens. We'll have multiple draft picks in this gym in the not-too-distant future. This award, from many perspectives, carries a lot of weight, in relation to the development of our program."

Brown hasn't exhaled, but because he has a Rookie of the Year, he's breathing a bit easier.


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

Columns: ph.ly/Smallwood

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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