by Karissa Morton
I’m a longtime Syracuse fan. Don’t ask me how or why this happened because I’m not really sure. NCAA-wise, I have a lot of teams I root for1, but for as long as I can remember, there’ve been only two kings for me: the Syracuse Orange & the Duke Blue Devils. I love the way Syracuse plays–fast-paced & intense ball. Boeheim’s guys play like their lives are on the line week after week, year after year, & they always work together as one scrappy yet incredibly cohesive unit.2 Michael Carter-Williams was clearly a star on last year’s Final Four team, & while I spent the summer hyping him to anyone who’d listen, I really didn’t expect him to go as early as he did (11th) in the Draft. For some reason, Carter-Williams never received the widespread acclaim that I–as a biased fan, admittedly–thought he deserved, but regardless, I was pleasantly surprised to see him go early.
The fact that he ended up at one of my two NBA teams (the Sixers & the T-Wolves, for the curious) was the icing on the cake for me! I figured I’d be in for a year of watching Carter-Williams do well, but not be incredibly noticed–just like had happened in the NCAA.
Instead, when the Sixers game wrapped up last night & I was able to process Michael Carter-Williams’ stats, I cried. I don’t mean this figuratively–I mean there were literal tears in my literal eyes. My little Orange had grown up! I followed along excitedly as Twitter proclaimed it “the best NBA debut in history,” saw Magic Johnson peg him as Rookie of the Year, & this morning on the way to work, heard CBS Sports gushing about how he’d outshone LeBron. I’m still beaming almost 24 hours later.
Here’s a summary: 22 points. 12 assists. 9 steals. 7 rebounds.
So what does this mean? He tied Ernie DiGregorio’s record for the most assists in an NBA debut, & set a record for the most steals in an NBA debut. Those nine steals? Also the most in Sixers franchise history. Wait–it gets better: His 22-12-9-7 numbers have been beaten only twice by anyone in any game in NBA history–not just rookies. Perhaps most surprising to me–even as a MCW fan–is the fact that he only turned the ball over once all game long. At Syracuse, he led the nation in turnovers, so this was nothing short of a miracle.
On the whole, a lot of last night was a miracle for MCW. I want to have hope that last night was a sign of things to come for him & the Sixers, but I can’t bring myself to do it. He’s a good player–a strong, smart player with a lot of factors working in his favor–but it feels a little bit like the clock’s going to strike midnight & he’ll have to climb back into the pumpkin.
His crazy number of dimes & his finesse with the pick-&-roll? Par for the course based upon his college performance, & for me, there’s no doubt that these skills will stick throughout the season. His speed, athleticism, size, & foresight are all huge pluses that will help him continue to put up numbers–especially against weaker defenses. All-in-all, I don’t see how any other rookie will be able to compete with him in terms of number assists or number of steals. Here’s where I’m wary, though: the shot. He never put up 22 points at Syracuse. Ever. His average of 12 there even outshines his preseason average of 8.
This is not to say that I don’t think MCW can shine in Philly–& potentially even become a star. He’ll certainly be a standout on the Sixers for the foreseeable future, what with Nerlens Noel being benched for the season, but what does that really mean? It could very well mean a lot–but I don’t think it means Rookie of the Year.
1 Amongst them: Syracuse, Duke, Iowa, Georgetown, Gonzaga, Villanova, Marquette. Only amongst them for their coach: UCLA. Definitely not amongst them: Kansas.
2 Because they are so scrappy & physical, I have fears about how they’ll handle themselves as new members of the ACC–or rather, how refs will handle them since the ACC is traditionally less physically aggressive than the Orange.