At Philadelphia 76ers media day yesterday, there was a lot of talk about the future. Not the immediate future, but the long-term plan of the team. Sixers General Manager Sam Hinkie spoke at length about the young pieces set to become cornerstones of the franchise: Nerlens Noel, Michael Carter-Williams, Joel Embiid, and Dario Saric. The discussion centered on the immediate impact of MCW and Noel, yes; but the overarching theme seemed to be looking more towards the long-term direction of the team rather than how it fairs this season.
Michael Carter-Williams, on the other hand, was very focused on the immediate future. Carter-Williams is still working to return from a torn labrum in his right shoulder, which he had surgery on back in May. He will likely be only a partial participant in the beginning of training camp, and progress slowly into the roster looking towards the start of the regular season. Carter-Williams said today that, “If it were truly up to me, I would be on the court right now.” He’s been shooting for about two months now, which is promising, and it appears that he’s very keen on getting back to play as soon as possible, but it’s also important for him to ensure that he comes back fully healthy on a team as woefully thin as this Sixers team will be.
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Carter-Williams also spoke on the leadership role for the team as he begins his second season. The Sixers were a ridiculously young team last season, and will be even younger this year, and as one of the few players on the team who is both an NBA-level talent and has NBA experience, Carter-Williams taking on a big role in the leadership of the team will be huge. And MCW realizes this.
"“I just have to keep growing as a leader,” MCW said. “I have to grow up fast on the court. Each and every night I have to will our team to win.”“Whatever team I have been on, I have always been a leader,” he said. “My second year at Syracuse I was the leader on that team, and my high school team, and now I get a chance to be a leader on this team, and I am excited for it.”"
That level of enthusiasm about stepping into a bigger leadership role is great to see from Carter-Williams, who, like fellow Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving, will be charged with extra responsibility as the point guard for a very young team entering his second season. However, unlike Irving, who had not seemed to embrace leadership until the Cleveland Cavaliers loaded up on talent this summer, Carter-Williams seems ready to take this jump from the moment the 2014-2015 season kicks off.
It helps that Carter-Williams has a variety of ways in which he can chip in and be a leader. He does a little bit of everything on the court, showing talent as a scorer, passer, and rebounder last season, and his size and familiarity with Brett Brown’s defensive system should help him make a leap on that end of the floor, which should help even further. It’s one thing for Carter-Williams to talk about embracing leadership, but the way he plays the game lends to embracing that role. This should make it an easy transition for him and for teammates, who can rely on him in any case.
Carter-Williams has the potential to be a very solid jack-of-all-trades point guard in the NBA. With his background and mindset, it’s not too hard to imagine that he can add leadership as one of those trades. On this Sixers team, there could be some growing pains as MCW figures out how to be a successful locker room leader, but his determination to become one is very nice to see.