(Image c/o Nick Laham/Getty Images)
On draft night in 2013, the Philadelphia 76ers began their rebuild towards greatness by trading the team’s only All-Star, Jrue Holiday, to the New Orleans Pelicans for the Pelicans’ 2014 first-round pick and Nerlens Noel. Noel was coming off a torn ACL, which was why he didn’t go No.1 as many had expected, and would sit the entire 2013-14 season, rehabbing and working on his jump shot.
Later that night, Sam Hinkie and the Sixers picked Michael Carter-Williams out of Syracuse with the No.11 pick. Considered a solid prospect with a huge upside, MCW would go on to have a rookie season to be remembered. He scored 22 points along with 12 assists, 7 rebounds, and 9 steals in his debut, a win against the Miami Heat, on his way to averaging 16.7 points, 6.3 assists and 6.2 rebounds per game on the season. The result would be a Rookie of the Year award and the respect of Sixers fans everywhere.
This season was supposed to be the one where everything would start to fall into place and we would see the beginning of the Sixers squad of the future. Fans would see MCW and Nerlens Noel on the court together and imagine what would happen when Joel Embiid joins them in 2015.
Unfortunately, things didn’t go according to plan. While Noel made his debut as scheduled against the Indiana Pacers and scored 6 points as well as 10 rebounds and 3 blocks, MCW was nowhere to be found. Carter-Williams was on the bench, still recovering from shoulder surgery this offseason to repair a torn labrum. The official debut of the Sixers’ dynamic duo would have to wait a bit longer.
But finally, that time in now.
On Thursday the winless Sixers head to Texas to face the Dallas Mavericks in what is sure to be another tough game for Coach Brett Brown’s young roster. But more importantly, Michael Carter-Williams and Nerlens Noel will be on the court together for the first time this season. Even though MCW’s minutes are sure to be limited until he gets his feet back under him and shakes some of the rust off, the sight of two of the cornerstones of the Sixers rebuild finally playing together should excite many a fan.
For his part, Noel is thrilled to finally be playing with Carter-Williams, telling Dei Lynam of CSN Philly.com
“I am ecstatic. Michael has been a great leader for this team, and we have missed him, especially these first seven games. He will bring leadership and intensity and make everybody better.”
With the return of MCW to the starting lineup, it’s expected that Tony Wroten, who has been starting at point guard since the season began and has averaging almost 22 points a game, will remain with the first squad and move to the shooting guard slot.
Will the return of Carter-Williams be enough to get the Sixers their first elusive win of the season? That remains to be seen. The Mavericks are 5-3 and coming off an emotional game that saw the team come back from 24-points down to get a win as well as seeing Dirk Nowitzki move up to No.9 on the NBA points leaders list.
But regardless if the Sixers win or lose, seeing MCW and Noel finally get to play together will make this a game to remember and one for the history books. Fans have been waiting over a year for this and I’m sure it won’t disappoint.