Covering high school basketball for the Boston Globe this winter, I’ve come to learn that the basketball community of Eastern Massachusetts is pretty damn proud of Michael Carter-Williams’ profound success during his rookie season. People don’t just acknowledge his accomplishments, they do so while beaming a smile from ear-to-ear and saying his name as if it's entwined within ancient Boston folklore.
Even though the Boston Celtics have long been a rival organization to the Philadelphia 76ers in the Atlantic Division, the Sixers’ core for the future ultimately shares a common bond of New England roots.
By now, Philly fans are well aware that Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel played AAU ball together in high school. Noel called Sixers GM Sam Hinkie a "genius" for drafting both of the Boston-area products. The two rookies’ first-year head coach, Brett Brown, also hails from New England. Brown grew up in South Portland, Maine before playing under Rick Pitino at Boston University.
It’s an undeniable bond the three franchise cornerstones share.
"It helps," Brown said when asked how the Boston connection impacts his relationship with the two lottery picks, before the Sixers played the Celtics on Wednesday. "You know, when the Patriots lose a week ago, we all felt that equally."
The work ethic each brings to Philadelphia certainly helps too. Brown spoke in his introductory press conference about the similarities between the blue-collar people of Boston and the inhabitants of the City of Brotherly Love. The coach says the city’s familiar feel to Boston has created the opportune setting for a complete franchise reboot.
2014 NBA Draft
2014 NBA Draft
"I get so excited in a city like Philadelphia that you actually have a chance to build something up," Brown said. "There’s a lot of similarities to Boston. It’s a for-real city with tough-minded sports people that I like. That’s the challenge, and to think that at one point you were going to be here, it never crossed my mind."
Carter-Williams echoes Brown’s positive outlook on the future in Philly while fondly looking back on his Boston past.
"It’s great playing against them, playing against my hometown team. I’ve been a fan of theirs for a while so it’s great to come and play against them," he said. "I’m just trying to focus on one game at a time. Playing against them is great, but I just got to focus on my teammates and each game."
For MCW that may be the case, but the Sixers franchise is more focused on the future as a whole. With pieces like MCW, Brown and Noel in place, Philadelphia should soon be as proud of the New England products as Bostonians are today.