GARY WASHBURN | ON BASKETBALL
Matthew J. Lee/The Boston Globe
This may not be Michael Carter-Williams’s last NBA chance. He may go on to enjoy a glorious career and find one home, but his path since winning Rookie of the Year four years ago has been difficult.
Carter-Williams, the Hamilton native, is playing for the Charlotte Hornets, his fourth NBA team. He was traded the season after winning Rookie of the Year in Philadelphia. He was supposed to be that “diamond in the rough” that coach Jason Kidd would turn into a standout point guard in Milwaukee, but that didn’t work.
He was traded to Chicago last season. He played just 45 games with the Bulls because of injuries and then struggled in the playoff series with the Celtics, when Chicago desperately needed a point guard with Rajon Rondo’s injury. Carter-Williams scored 14 points in five games.
Charlotte has become a resurrection locale for many outcasts in the past few years. Dwight Howard was thrilled to be traded there and play for former coach Steve Clifford. The thrifty Hornets signed Carter-Williams to a one-year, $2.7 million contract for perhaps one last shot.
Carter-Williams has enticed teams with his length – 6 feet, 6 inches – and potential to provide matchup problems with smaller point guards. But he’s a career 40.7 percent shooter and 25.2 percent from the 3-point line in this floor-stretching era.
If Carter-Williams can’t provide an offensive threat, that hampers his ability to stay on the floor. He is hoping this stop may be his last, that he can find a team that finally will have faith in him and allow him to develop. But the NBA is an unforgiving and impatient league.
“I’ve been through a lot,” he said. “I’ve been on a few different teams. I’ve had ups and downs. I’ve had injuries. I’ve gone through a lot of things. So I just try to learn from each situation. I’ve had great teachers and I have great teammates. I just try to learn from each experience and apply it in a positive way.
In his rookie season, playing for the 19-63 76ers, Williams averaged 16.7 points, 6.2 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 1.9 steals. He played free because there were little expectations. The class of 2013 is turning out to be a poor draft class. Anthony Bennett. Alex Len. Ben McLemore. Trey Burke. Archie Goodwin. Reggie Bullock. And Carter-Williams played a career-high 34.5 minutes per game and played with freedom as a rookie. He hasn’t played with that type of freedom since.
The Hornets are hoping he can become a lockdown defender and a more reliable scorer. Carter-Williams missed training camp and the first nine games of the season because of a knee injury.
“He was terrific defensively,” Clifford said of Carter-Williams’s performance Tuesday against New York. “Drove the ball into the paint a lot on offense. I thought he played really well. He’s still far from being in the type of condition he needs to play significant minutes every night.”
Health always has been an issue for Carter-Williams. He’s at the point of his career in which he needs to stay healthy and available. He’s dealt with myriad ailments, but is hoping his knee troubles are over.
“My family, my motivation to be the player I know I can be,” he said when asked what keeps him encouraged. “I’ve learned a lot, seen a lot. And I want to be successful in this league. I want to do great things. It’s a dream of mine to be real successful in this league and play a long career and help a lot of people, so that’s what keeps me motivated.
“I’m still young and I’m having fun. During my ups and downs, I caught myself not having fun, so that’s a big thing. We have a lot of fun out there and we compete and that’s what we’re going to keep doing.”
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