Michael Carter-Williams hospitalized with bacterial infection

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So, I had this whole thing written and ready about how Sixers coach Brett Brown doesn’t believe that Michael Carter-Williams is injury-prone, despite the fact that after sitting out Saturday, the rookie will have missed six of his team’s first 21 games.

But then the news broke that Carter-Williams had been hospitalized with a bacterial infection on his right knee, so let’s get to that before the other, now less-relevant injury stuff is discussed below.

From Jason Wolf of Delaware Online:

Michael Carter-Williams, a front-runner for NBA rookie of the year, is spending his third consecutive night at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania with a skin infection on the front of his right knee, according to the Philadelphia 76ers.

The infection is bacterial and now under control, according to a source close to the situation. The 6-5 point guard is under the care of Sixers team physician Dr. Brian Sennett and infectious disease specialist Dr. Neil Fishman.

“It’s a right knee infection that really is just being monitored closely, but nothing to really get too overly concerned with,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said.

Thankfully this doesn’t seem too severe, though there is no timetable for Carter-Williams to return.

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Michael Carter-Williams is the early leader for Rookie of the Year honors, with his play in the early part of the season being almost as stellar as it is surprising.

He’s missed significant time due to injuries, however — five of his team’s first 20 games, with a sixth likely to come on Saturday — and that’s led some to wonder if the young and slender guard may be injury-prone, and limited by that fact as his career progresses.

But Sixers head coach Brett Brown isn’t buying into all that just yet. He believes it’s been more bad luck and unfortunate circumstances that have led to Carter-Williams’ injuries, and is willing to give his star rookie the benefit of the doubt.

From Christopher A. Vito of The Reporter Online:

Brown does not view the injuries to Carter-Williams, the latest of which prompted the Sixers to keep him from traveling with the team, as an ongoing trend.

“Some of it is related to bad luck. Some of it is his body and (he’s) young and (playing) big minutes and other things,” Brown said of Carter-Williams. “I’m sticking more with luck than a trend. I think his competitiveness and his toughness is a good thing where he’ll learn to get through some things as time unfolds. But these recent things, he should be sat. He should be left at home.”

“We all wish we was playing, and so does he. It’s not something that you look at as a negative. It’s a series of bad-luck and unfortunate circumstances,” Brown said. “Ultimately those people that can play and avoid injuries, it’s an interesting statistic or part of persevering with people, re-signing people, chasing in a free-agent market, determining somebody’s worth. That’s bottom-line stuff, how many games in a long period of time do they normally miss?

“Some people fall into that too-high-a-risk basket. For Michael, this is all early days and part of the process. I’m leaning on his toughness and his competitiveness. Whenever anything minor comes up, he’ll be there.”

There are a couple of factors in play here.

First of all, Carter-Williams needs to pack some muscle onto his 6’6″ frame that carries a listed weight of just 185 pounds. And it’s more than likely that he will — that’s a legitimate knock on many young players entering the league, and hitting the weight room over the next couple of summers will easily fix that.

More importantly, despite the Sixers having some early-season success, the reality is that they were expected to be the worst team in the league; the fact that they’re sitting at 7-13 and just two games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East doesn’t change the organizational plan.

There’s no rush for Carter-Williams to return to this team, and you can bet that with the franchise taking a long-term view of things, they’ll hold him out if he’s being bothered by any injury in the slightest — making Brown’s opinion on the matter more than likely to be the accurate one at this very early stage of his star-in-the-making’s career.

Fans to vote on “Best Dunk,” “Best Assist,” other categories handed out at NBA Awards show

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Fans are going to get their say at the NBA Awards Show, coming June 26 on TNT. Drake will be the host, and we to come up with an under/over on the number of players Drake gives a bro hug to during the ceremony.

That’s the night the NBA will hand out its Most Valuable Player, Rookie of the Year, Coach of the Year, and every other major postseason award — except for All-NBA Team, which has to come earlier. The media have already cast their votes for these awards.

Where the fans get to come in is the fun awards, categories created just for this event:

• Dunk of the Year
• Best Style
• Block of the Year
• Assist of the Year
• Game Winner of the Year
• Top Performance of the Year

The NBA already narrowed down the list of choices for each category to three, and voting opens tonight. Just go to  www.nba.com/nbaawards and cast your ballot, or on Twitter or Facebook just post the #AwardName and First/Last Name of their winner (for example, #DunkOfTheYear  Larry Nance).

These awards should add some energy — and good highlights — to what has the potential to be a stuffy event. It’s a bunch of NBA players in suits in a ballroom in New York, this is going to feel like a branding event at times. The NBA is hoping the fans can liven it up.

Here are the categories, with the hashtags for voting:

#DunkOfTheYear
• Los Angeles Lakers’ Larry Nance, Jr. vs. Brooklyn

• Minnesota’s Zach LaVine vs. Phoenix

• Oklahoma City’s Victor Oladipo vs. Atlanta

#BestStyle
• Cleveland’s Iman Shumpert
• Chicago’s Dwyane Wade
• Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook

#BlockOfTheYear
• San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard vs. Houston
• New York’s Kristaps Porzingis vs. Brooklyn
• Miami’s Hassan Whiteside vs. Toronto

#GameWinnerOfTheYear
• Cleveland’s Kyrie Irving vs. Golden State
• Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook vs. Denver
• Phoenix’s Tyler Ulis vs. Boston

#TopPerformanceOfTheYear
• Phoenix’s Devin Booker 70-point game vs. Boston
• Houston’s James Harden nets 53-16-17 triple double vs. New York
• Golden State’s Klay Thompson scores 60 in three quarters vs. Indiana
• Oklahoma City’s Russell Westbrook with most points in a triple-double, 57-13-11, vs. Orlando

#AssistOfTheYear
• Golden State’s Draymond Green to Stephen Curry to Kevin Durant
• Denver’s Nikola Jokic with no-look pass
• LA Clippers’ Chris Paul with wraparound pass

Report: USC’s Elijah Stewart intended to declare for NBA draft, forgot

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Declaring for the NBA draft is like declaring bankruptcy: You can’t just bellow it and expect it to take effect. You actually have to fill out the paperwork.

That’s why USC’s Elijah Stewart wasn’t among the 192 early entrants to the 2017 NBA draft.

Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress:

Stewart:

Givony’s report will do little but embarrass Stewart. It’s unlikely Stewart would’ve been drafted, and he likely would have withdrawn to return to USC for his senior season. Perhaps, he would’ve gotten helpful feedback from the NBA before that point, but that’s minimal.

The real problem, though, isn’t Stewart’s inattentiveness, to whatever extent is exists. It’s that the NCAA won’t allow players to maintain eligibility while having an agent.

If Stewart had proper representation, there’d be no questioning whether he intended to declare for the draft. His agent would’ve handled it, one way or the other.

If the NCAA were truly about educating players, it’d allow them to have guidance from experienced professional agents. Agents don’t have to conflict with amateurism (not that amateurism is a worthy goal, anyway).

But teaching players is not the NCAA’s true goal. The NCAA prioritizes keeping its cartel in tact and money flowing to coaches and administrators.

Agents might steer players from that corrupt system entirely or at least help them leverage their immense power to gain better compensation than a wage-fixed scholarship.

This incident should spark discussion about the unseemly lengths the NCAA goes to to protect its money-makers from its revenue-generators. Instead, it’s much easier to make Stewart a punchline.

Kevin Durant gets a hoot out of meme with Draymond Green

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You’ve seen the Draymond GreenKevin Durant meme, right?

Here’s the video with my favorite caption:

In the latest episode of “Still KD,” Durant watches the meme, reads other captions and calls it “hilarious.”

Russell Westbrook: ‘Oklahoma City is a place that I want to be’

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The Thunder want to sign Russell Westbrook to a contract extension that projects to be worth about $207 million over five years.

But does he want to sign it?

Westbrook, via Royce Young of ESPN:

“That’s something, like I said, I haven’t thought about anything, obviously,” Westbrook said. “Everybody knows that I like Oklahoma City and I love being here and I love everybody here. But I haven’t even thought about that. Obviously, Oklahoma City is a place that I want to be.”

Westbrook noted that his wife is expecting their first child in May, and that’s where his focus is right now. Asked whether there’s a timetable on his decision about a potential extension, Westbrook lightheartedly jabbed back.

“No. What did I just say? Like you don’t care about my baby?” he said. “You must not. You didn’t hear that part, huh?”

Though it was painted as Westbrook showing his loyalty to the Thunder in stark contrast to the departed Kevin Durant, Westbrook’s renegotiation-and-extension last summer was also his way of receiving the highest-possible salary.

This is a different case.*

*So, it seems. It’s unclear whether the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will allow Oklahoma City to renegotiate Westbrook’s 2017-18 salary up to the designated-veteran-player rate, but I’m presuming not.

Westbrook will have 10 years of experience when an extension would kick in. A typical advantage of a designated-veteran-player contract is allowing a player with eight or nine years experience, who’s typically limited to a starting salary of 30% of the salary cap, to receive a starting salary of 35% of the salary cap. But Westbrook will be eligible for 35% of the salary by then simply due to his years of service.

In other words, an extension signed this summer would pay Westbrook the exact same amount he could receive as a free agent in 2018.

So, would Westbrook sign that extension? It’d guarantee him a huge salary and protect him in the event of injury or decline. But Westbrook is so good, he’s extremely likely to get the max in 2018-19 no matter what. With only minimal risk, maybe he’d rather maintain flexibility.

Westbrook appeared to embrace leading the team, and he truly seems happy in Oklahoma City in a way I didn’t expect when he signed last summer. His image is so tied to loyalty to the Thunder, it’d be tough to spin an exit.

But Oklahoma City is relatively locked into a roster that will have a hard time winning multiple playoff series. Westbrook wants to win.

I don’t know whether he’ll accept an extension this summer rather than delaying a year, but if he won’t ink a deal this year, that should be a concerning indicator to the Thunder about their chances of re-signing him in 2018.