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Michael Carter-Williams seizes opportunity to step up for Hornets
Guard gains minutes, confidence behind Walker
Published Saturday, November 18, 2017 10:55 pm
by Ashley Mahoney

Charlotte needs Michael Carter-Williams to find his stride quickly.

After undergoing platelet-rich plasma treatment to relieve soreness in both knees and spending time with the Hornets G League team in Greensboro, Carter-Williams’ skills match Charlotte’s needs as All-Star point guard Kemba Walker’s backup. Although rookie guard Malik Monk has stepped in as Walker’s replacement, he’s playing out of position. Carter-Williams, on the other hand, can play both guard positions.

“We’ve been waiting for him to get his conditioning up, and to get up to speed on everything,” coach Steve Clifford said after Charlotte’s 102-87 win Saturday against the Los Angeles Clippers snapped a six-game losing streak. “You lose six in a row, and the defense has been bad. It’s not Malik’s fault, that’s just his position. [Carter-William is] a difference-maker defensively. That’s his strength. We have struggled with ball pressure and putting the heat on the team on the perimeter, and along with Mike [Kidd-Gilchrist] he’d be our best guy at doing that. You have to make some changes. He fits what we need right now.”

Said Carter-Williams: “I’m just taking it one day at a time. I know I’m backing up Kemba, and running the second unit. That’s what I want to do best is run the second unit, get guys involved, make defensive plays, whether it’s scoring the ball or driving in the lane or making the play.”

Saturday marked Carter-Williams’ fourth appearance of the season. He played 14 minutes, tallying a season-high five points, two assists and two rebounds. Center Dwight Howard, who earned his seventh double-double of the season with 16 points and 16 rebounds, worked with him on conditioning after the game.

“There’s nothing like game shape, so I’m just going in there and trying to work as hard as I can,” Carter-Williams said. “Getting some work afterward. Dwight and I got some work in, did some sprints and shots afterward to keep working on my conditioning. I just want to do it every day until I’m in the game, and I’m not playing 30-35 minutes a night, but that’s what I want to prepare for, because you never know what can happen.”

Carter-Williams joined the Hornets in July on a one-year deal, which Walker encouraged general manager Rich Cho to pursue, describing the move as a “positive moment in my career.”

“He can guard multiple positions,” Walker said. “He can make plays. He can get to the basket. He can pass it. We need that. We need guys who can make plays, and he’s one of them.”

Carter-Williams emphasized the importance of learning from Walker during his time with the Hornets.

“He’s so small, but he’s able to create space, and get in the gaps,” Carter-Williams said. “The way he creates space is something I watch of his—whether it’s creating space toward the rim or for a shot.”

Six inches taller than the 6-foot Walker, Carter-Williams’ game offers a different defensive element.

“It’s very important,” Walker said. “He brought a different type of energy. Did a great job of controlling that second unit, made some great plays. He got to the line. Hopefully, he can keep building. He’s getting more acclimated to playing. It was good to have him back.”

Said Clifford: “[Carter-Williams’] defense was good. He established a level of ball pressure that not many people can at his size. He threw a couple of great passes. It’s a good starting point for him.”

Despite earning recognition as the 2014 NBA Rookie of the Year, Carter-Williams has struggled to find a consistent home in the NBA. Charlotte represents a chance to get on track.

“I’m coming off an injury,” he said. “It’s taking me a little bit to get back in rhythm, but I am very happy here. We have great leadership with Dwight and Kemba, Nic [Batum] and Marvin [Williams] and we have great ball players coming off the bench too. Everybody is on the same page here, and we just want to win. We had some losses, but we got back in the win column today. We’re just working, and trying to win each game.”




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