MILWAUKEE (AP) Michael Carter-Williams plans to take it slow as he gets acclimated to his new surroundings.
First, the point guard has to get over a minor foot injury before he can suit up for Milwaukee. The Bucks’ prized acquisition at the NBA trade deadline sat out Friday night against Denver.
Whenever he does return, Carter-Williams must get up to speed with a team making a surprising push for the playoffs.
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”I’m not going to try to overdo it, try to step on anybody’s toes,” Carter-Williams said before the game. ”But you know at the end of the day, I am the point guard and I do have some big shoes to fill … I’ve got to slowly, once the guys trust me, become a leader for this team.”
The trade came as surprise for a team that is 30-23 and firmly entrenched in the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference. Chemistry, defense and coach Jason Kidd’s share-the-ball philosophy have done wonders for a franchise that wallowed through a 15-win season a year ago.
The deal fit with management’s philosophy to stay in the postseason hunt while also staying true to a long-term rebuilding philosophy. The Bucks now have a 23-year-old, stat sheet-filling guard in Carter-Williams, who could be viewed as a franchise cornerstone to pair with 20-year-old forward Giannis Antetokounmpo and 19-year-old Jabari Parker.
Carter-Williams, last year’s NBA Rookie of the Year, is averaging 15 points, 7.4 assists, 6.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals this season. The Bucks acquired him from the lowly Philadelphia 76ers in a three-team trade that also brought rookie point guard Tyler Ennis and center Miles Plumlee from Phoenix.
Ennis and Plulmee were expected to play Friday night.
Parker is expected back next season after getting knocked out for the year with a knee injury. Still, the Bucks might be set at the point and both forward positions for years to come.
”The makeup of this team is pretty much set. Now it is just a matter of can we keep them together for five to seven years so they can have that consistency,” Kidd said.
Kidd also likes how the 6-foot-6 Carter-Williams adds more length to the defense, joining the 6-11 Antetokounmpo, 6-8 Parker and 6-11 forward John Henson as players with long wingspans.
”And we feel that with (Carter-Williams’) ability, his height, deflections and steals, it’s something that he’s already good at, so hopefully that can put us in a better seat defensively,” Kidd said.
But to get Carter-Williams, the Bucks had to send point guard Brandon Knight to Phoenix. Carter-Williams is more of pass-first guard; Knight was more of a scorer who handled the ball.
Chemistry might be the more immediate issue. Knight still took the big shots in the clutch and handled the ball in late-game situations. He was one of the key cogs on a team that had been written off as just 10 months ago.
Kidd noted that the team has already had roster hits because of injuries and the suspension and personal issues that have kept center Larry Sanders out of the lineup. The chemistry, Kidd said, comes from the team playing with energy and a ”next-man-up” mentality.
”They’re a great group of guys, I’ve heard it from a lot of people,” Carter-Williams said, ”so you know I’m just going to go in there and do my job, encourage my teammates, do all the right things and really be a point guard.”
One big positive for Carter-Williams is that he is now with a playoff-bound team after getting traded from the seemingly perennially-rebuilding Sixers.
”Yeah it’s going to be different, and I’m excited for it. I believe that I’m a winner. I’ve won pretty much my whole life. This last year-and-a-half, you know, has been a struggle,” he said. ”I always believed that brighter days were ahead of me while going through that process. I think those brighter days start now.”
Also Friday, the Bucks were without forward Ersan Ilyasova due to illness.