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By Jim Brighters, NBA Editor - Archive - Email
Stay strong, Sixers
Michael Carter-Williams Michael Carter-Williams became the first rookie to win the
Eastern Conference Player of the Week award since Shaq.
Philadelphia, PA ( - 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.