|Tom Sunnergren: Michael Carter-Williams vs. the Rookie Wall
The Wall is Winning
At the start of their careers, some players storm out of the gates. Michael Carter-
Williams roared out of them on a flaming chariot pulled by coked-up velociraptors.
Oct. 30, it seemed a new star was born. In garnering 22 points, 12 assists, 9 steals,
and 7 rebounds in the Sixers 114-110 upset of the twice-defending champs, MCW
posted the second-highest assist total of a rookie NBA debut, the most steals, and
became the first player of any experience level since 1985–and the third ever–to
record a line of 22/12/9/7 or better.
It was astonishing. And MCW, for an improbably long stretch, continued to astonish.
He ran the floor like a manic gazelle, wearing opponents down with his relentlessness.
His long arms were equally adept at disrupting opponents’ passing lanes as they were
at dishing assists on the subsequent breaks. He struggled as shooter, sure, but his
aggression and fearlessness suggested a killer instinct, the psyche of a superstar.
Anything and everything seemed possible for him, his potential without discernible
limit. An afterthought on draft night turned foundational piece–a 6’7 point guard who’s
package of size, smarts, and athleticism was and is unparalleled at the position.
The NBA took notice. He was named the league’s top rookie after November and
January and won Player of the Week honors on Nov. 3–becoming the first rook since
Shaq to do so. Carter-Williams was the Association’s “it” freshman, the consensus gem
of the class, the reason Jrue Holiday hadn’t been forgotten as much as he’d been wiped,
Lacuna Inc.-style, from the city’s collective memory.
This wild success explains, in part, why it’s taken even close followers of the team a
weirdly long time to recognize a plain fact: it’s been awhile since Michael Carter-
Williams actually played good basketball.
A mean regression
“I’ve never played this long of a season, so I’m learning each and every day and I’m
going through it a little bit,” Carter-Williams told Jason Wolf of Delaware Online in
January, explaining a slump that’s since developed into something worse “My body is
tired, a little bit, but mentally I’ve got to stay strong.”
While I couldn’t speak to his mental state, his production has taken a nose dive.
The primary problem...CONTINUE READING AT HOOP76