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By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The biggest names that were mentioned in the Sixers 2013 draft night moves were Jrue Holiday, Nerlens Noel, and a guy named ’2014 lottery pick.’ The most pressure on any of the guys the team picked or dealt last Thursday might be on the one the Sixers picked 11th, a point guard out of Syracuse named Michael Carter-Williams.
Jrue Holiday is an established player, moving to a team that should get better, but not contend. Noel won’t even play for at least the first half of the season, and when he does is still considered a project. Carter-Williams however, will most likely be asked to immediately step into Holiday’s All-Star shoes for the Sixers and run the point.
It’s not going to be an easy job. And even though fans and media know the Sixers are rebuilding, chances are they’re going to want to see improvement and results more quickly than they’ll come.
Gerry McNamara, a former Syracuse Orange star and current assistant coach, knows two things particularly well, jump shots and Carter-Williams. And coincidentally enough, it’s Carter-Williams’ jump shot that will be the biggest challenge for the rangy, athletic point guard to fix.
“From a mechanical standpoint, [his jump shot is] pretty good. [Carter-Williams'] release point is a little bit low, but we worked on the height of his release point,” McNamara told Josh Verlin of City Of Basketball Love. “Similar to a golf swing, you make changes. You make adjustments. Sometimes it takes a little while. As we move forward and progressed, I thought midway through the season, he started to get a little bit better at it. He started to trust it a little bit more. I think early on he struggled because we worked together, and we made pretty significant changes on the height level and the release point, we didn’t find success immediately. Similar to me swinging a golf club, if I change my grip and I don’t find success I’m going to revert back. I think that’s kind of what Michael did. But once he started trusting come tournament time, he made some big plays for us in the NCAA Tournament, and particularly making big shots.”
In Friday’s introductory press conference, Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie acknowledged that Carter Williams must improve his shot, but the team did a lot of research on the point guard and believes he can do it.
“It’s something that we worked hard on,” McNamara said. “I think the biggest thing initially when Michael came in that most point guards have to make as far as the reach of point guards on pick and rolls, we run quite a bit of perimeter game. Whether it be our guards or our forwards, we had stretch forwards as well. So the biggest adjustment initially was him getting ready for the reads of the pick and roll game. He picked that up as well as any point guard I’ve ever worked with. As we progressed we realized we needed to certainly improve on his shooting. I think the biggest thing is when you look at some guys, the mechanics aren’t there. When you look at Michael’s jump shot, the mechanics are there. From a mechanical standpoint, it’s pretty fluid. I think the biggest thing, and we’ve seen it before, guys coming out of college that don’t shoot the ball particularly well that really improve.”
“I think the one thing that people don’t realize is that Michael is a really good student, so a lot of that time he did dedicate to the classroom, he dedicated to academics, and that takes away some of your time, the amount of time you’re able to work on your game,” McNamara said. “When you’re a professional, this is your job, this is what you do. He’s going to have a lot of time to work on and perfect that jump shot and improve it.”
Carter-Williams has friend in Philadelphia, in the form of former Syracuse basketball players and even Noel, who he said was his best friend.
“I think it’s a great opportunity, I think it’s a great place for Mike, the East Coast, kind of similar to where he’s been,” McNamara said. “You know, he’s walking into a pretty good situation, and I think the fact that he and Nerlens (Noel) ended up in the same place, former AAU teammates, probably best friends, to be honest, they’ve grown up with each other. So I think it’s a great fit for both of them, and a great opportunity.”
“Anyone will tell you, regardless of the situation you’re walking into, even in college, being familiar makes a big difference. I think two young players coming into a situation like Philadelphia gives a great opportunity for both of them.”
Carter-Williams will have his friend in Noel in Philadelphia, but not on the court right away. The NBA doesn’t wait for you to mature, you have to speed on the process to be able to compete. For Michael Carter-Williams, that process begins now.