Basketball / Sports

Thumping by Clippers a good lesson for 76ers rookie, coach says

OAKLAND, Calif. -- In the aftermath of the 76ers' worst loss in a dismal season, rookie head coach Brett Brown focused on a positive taken from the thrashing.

Never mind that the Sixers were manhandled in all phases Sunday night in a 123-78 rout by the Los Angeles Clippers at the Staples Center. Forget that center Spencer Hawes missed all eight of his shots and was held scoreless. Brown's team made just eight shots in the first half and trailed by 56 points in the third quarter.

The coach still tried to find a positive. "In my mind, my memory will be what an incredible opportunity for Michael Carter-Williams to see (Clippers point guard) Chris Paul and play against him and see physicality and the -- I say it respectfully -- the cocky side of him," Brown said Monday before the Sixers played the Golden State Warriors at Oracle Arena. The game ended too late for this edition.

For now, Carter-Williams is the NBA's hottest newcomer. The 6-foot-6, 185-pound point guard is the overwhelming favorite to win rookie of the year.

But as a first-year professional, the 22-year-old is prone to make mistakes. He also must learn what is required to become one of the league's premier point guards.

In stepped Paul, who is regarded as the NBA's best player at the position. He's a seven-time all-star and a two-time Olympic gold-medal winner.

As expected, Paul gave Carter-Williams a humbling crash course on what it takes to be an elite point guard.

Paul made a huge impact in his return after he missed the previous 18 games with a separated shoulder. He attempted only six shot and finished with seven points, eight assists and four steals in 22 minutes, 44 seconds of action.

Carter-Williams was overwhelmed, finishing with a misleading 14 points. Eight of them came in the fourth quarter when Paul and the rest of the Clippers starters were on the bench.

Through three quarters, Carter-Williams had six points on 2-for-11 shooting. He finished the game 5 for 18. The rookie also committed a game-high eight turnovers.

"I learned a lot from Chris Paul," Carter-Williams said. "He's a great point guard the way he controls his team. He's just a great all-around player. So I definitely learned a lot."

As far as Brown is concerned, that's all you can ask.

Sunday's embarrassing setback shouldn't have come as a surprise. The Clippers are expected to contend for the NBA title. The Sixers are in pursuit of a top lottery pick as they sacrifice wins by assembling a roster of mostly fringe players.

Carter-Williams is one of a handful of Sixers who are expected to remain on the team past this season.

So for him, this season is nothing more than a learning process. And he definitely was in a tough class Sunday night.

"I love him," Brown, a former San Antonio Spurs assistant and former Australian national team coach, said of Paul. "I think Chris is so unique. I've coached against him in the Olympic Games. I coached with him in All-Star Games."

Brown added that Paul displays a different element of his game every time teams face him.

"For Michael to go against that and have to guard it and to be guarded by it, that's an incredible opportunity and a valuable one for a young point guard," he said. "I have seen it. But we are going to take some positives."

(c)2014 The Philadelphia Inquirer

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