NEW YORK –– Michael Carter-Williams won the battle of former Syracuse stars on Wednesday night, and made an impression on Carmelo Anthony in the process.
Making his first NBA appearance at Madison Square Garden, Carter-Williams went for 19 points, 12 rebound and 7 assists as the last-place Philadelphia 76ers beat the Knicks, 110-106, handing them their fifth straight loss.
“This is my second time playing against him,” said Anthony, who finished with 28 points and 7 assists in the loss. “He played extremely well. He’s very under control, a big guard out there, can see over a lot of guards, make plays and he almost had a triple-double.”
“It’s big, playing here is like playing in front of a whole bunch of history,” Carter-Williams said of playing at the Garden. “It’s great and I’m proud that I get to play here and I’m thankful. I try to go out there and perform at my best.”
There were some doubts about how Carter-Williams’ thin frame and college game would translate at the NBA level, and I admit I’m as guilty of that as anyone. At times I speculated that he could end up in the D-League and in fact his mother called me on that when I interviewed her last year during the Draft lottery after the family lost their home in a fire.
But Carter-Williams has proven me — and every other critic — wrong with his stellar play this season.
“I think my teammates give me a lot of confidence,” he said. “They have a lot of trust in me and coach has a lot of trust in me so it’s hard for not to have confidence out there. I just go out there and try to play my game and listen to my teammates and trust my instincts.
“I think I’ve progressed a lot,” Carter-Williams added. “I’ve definitely learned so much over the season and I’m just going to continue to learn and learn from these older guys.”
Sixers coach Brett Brown said he believes there’s a “rookie wall” and that Carter-Williams could still hit it.
“I think that there is a wall that everybody goes through and it’s exposed even more when you’re a 180-pound rookie playing the most difficult position in the league,” Brown said. “And I feel like his progression and his evolution has just gone really, really well. Some of it is because he has taken advantage of the opportunity to play 34 minutes with a team that’s in the rebuild stages that we clearly are at. And for him to go play and play freely and not have to always worry about being perfect and I bite my lip and he understands.
“I hope we coexist well and I enjoy coaching him. His performances to date, his numbers and his performance, speak for themselves. He’s a really skilled player with just an enormous upside.”
While it remains unclear if Nerlens Noel will suit up this season, the Sixers have a nice core of young players with Noel, Carter-Williams, Evan Turner and Thaddeus Young, along with two first-round picks in the loaded 2014 Draft.
Chad Ford has them taking Duke’s Jabari Parker at No. 3 and Indiana’s Noah Vonleh at No. 10.
The Knicks, meantime, could potentially lose Anthony to free agency, and also have no draft picks in 2014.
Ford has the Denver Nuggets using the Knicks’ pick to take UCLA phenom Zach Lavine at No. 7.
Photo: Syracuse Post-Standard