Nothin’ but Net: Stay strong, Sixers

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Updated: November 5, 2013

By Jim Brighters, NBA Editor

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – There have been a few different fun
tweets recently about how much you could’ve made letting it ride on the
Philadelphia 76ers through three games this season.

Whether it’s $2,700 or a billion, needless to say the 3-0 start by the
Philadelphia 76ers was something of a surprise. To quantify the level of
surprise, this is on the tier of a long-lost brother showing up at your
wedding when you thought he was presumed lost at sea.

To compound the craziness involved with Philly’s start, the Sixers have
toppled the Miami Heat, the two-time defending champs who are huge favorites
again, the Washington Wizards, a fringe playoff contender, and the Chicago
Bulls, the 1A favorite in some eyes.

Some believed the Sixers could threaten their own team record for futility
when they went 9-73 in 1973. Yet, this group of odd-ball youngsters and
veterans even their own team doesn’t want, went out and beat three much better
teams.

Sure, the Sixers crashed back to reality with a 20-point home loss to the
Golden State Warriors, but what the Sixers have shown should actually please
Philly fans, if such a notion is ever proven to be true.

As a Philadelphia resident, most everyone is wondering aloud, what are the
Sixers doing? The plan was to lose as much as possible, secure enough ping-
pong balls to get a chance at No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins, then really start
rebuilding.

Funny thing is, these early-season victories are actually crucial for the
long-term development of the 76ers. The reason? Michael Carter-Williams.

The 21-year-old rookie is the only player who will see the court this season
for the Sixers who significantly figures into the future. He has been the
major catalyst for all three comeback victories. He was named Eastern
Conference Player of the Week and became the first rookie to win the award
since Shaq.

Teaching Carter-Williams how to lead a team is the primary goal of head coach
Brett Brown. His development is the only on-court objective for this staff.
What better way to teach a youngster how to lead than for him to go out and
lead his team to victory and to do so in the fourth quarter of close games
against better opponents.

Even against the Warriors on Monday night, Brown got in some teaching moments.
Down 33 points in the fourth quarter, with all of his starters halfway dry
from sitting, Brown reinserted Carter-Williams with the grunts.

The decision paid off to some degree. Through three quarters, MCW shot 2-
for-11 from the field for 10 points and had five turnovers. It was clearly the
worst performance of his young career. Brown sent him back out, he played
8:56, went 2-for-6 from the field, but finished the quarter with eight points,
three rebounds and only one turnover.

There literally isn’t enough time for Carter-Williams to be on the floor.
Anything he learns, no matter how obscenely small, is vital to his success.
His success will eventually translate into Philadelphia success. The NBA has
become a point-guard league. There are maybe eight great big-man scorers and
four of them shoot 3-pointers.

And the other shining reason for optimism in Philly is Brown. Everyone has to
be impressed with not just how well they’re playing, but how tough they are.
The three wins were all fourth-quarter comebacks.

“The peaks and valleys of the NBA are dangerous,” Brown said after practice
Tuesday. “I walk an even line throughout this year, knowing the realities of
this team.”

The realities Brown spoke of are very simple: this team is not a title
contender. In fact, Sixers fans throughout the country, take solace for this
squad is still not going to win frequently. (Although, they do need to avoid
being historically bad. No one wants to be attached to the stink of that.)

But occasional victories sprinkled throughout the season are not cause for
alarm. Watching Carter-Williams and Brown guide them to those wins are just
as important as the number of ping-pong balls in a canister in June.