Michael Carter-Williams’ family prepared him for this moment

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He’s the guy everybody around the NBA wants to talk about.

When Michael Carter-Williams was selected No. 11 by the Philadelphia 76ers this rapid success wasn’t expected. It was thought he could develop into the point guard of the future there in a few years (they had just traded away Jrue Holiday). He was tall, had handles and a good court sense, but there were real questions about his shooting and efficiency.

Carter-Williams was ready for it and it was because of his family — his mother, Mandy, played at Mary Washington College; his father, Earl, played at Salem State; and his step father Zach (Mandy remarried) was a college player and high school coach.

How all that shaped Carter-Williams is detailed in a fantastic profile at CSNPhilly.com by Gordie Jones.

Zach also became Michael’s “basketball guy,” according to Mandy, working him out ceaselessly on the family’s backyard court. It’s not like she shrank into the background, though. More than once she rained instructions down on her son from a second-floor window. More than once she badgered him from a courtside lawn chair.

“It’s not something you usually see with a mother and son,” she said, “and I guess that’s where you could say the relationship is a little bit different, because I’m screaming, ‘Follow through!’ … ‘Bend your knees!’ … ‘Jump!’ … ‘Nothing lazy!’

He pushed back against that to a degree — as any teenager would — but out the other end came a very polished player and one who is close to his family.

Then he went to play at Syracuse, but there were a lot of lessons to learn there, too, about being humble and focused.

Michael committed to Syracuse as a high school sophomore, but scarcely played his first year on campus, trapped behind the perimeter triumvirate of Scoop Jardine, Dion Waiters and Howard Triche. Carter-Williams called that season “really hard.” Mandy went so far as to say it was “probably the toughest year for Michael in his life.”

“Michael wanted to transfer,” she added, “and we talked him out of it.”

Actually, that’s not entirely true, she then admitted. It was more a case of she and Zach listening to their son’s complaints and giving their blessing to a transfer, and Michael doing an abrupt about-face. No way, he told them, was he going to cut and run.

Carter-Williams was a star at Syracuse his last season but lessons about playing through mistakes and learning had been engrained him — lessons that are paying off big under Brett Brown in Philadelphia.

There are a lot of hard lessons still to learn as a pro, but Carter-Williams put himself in a position. He is being talked about as a Rookie of the Year, and while it is insanely early for that he fits the profile that can win it — a guy with the ball in his hands on a bad tea asked to do some scoring and make plays (think of Damian Lillard last year). Victor Oladipo and others will be in the mix, but Carter-Williams has injected himself into that conversation.

And he seems like he has the mentality, the personality to handle it and everything else that comes his way.

C.J.McCollum, Eric Gordon both withdraw from USA Basketball for World Cup

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First Anthony Davis. Then James Harden.

Now add C.J. McCollum and Eric Gordon to the list, as reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Don’t be surprised if a couple of new players are added to the USA roster for training camp.

The loss of those four stars strips the Team USA of some international experience. As pointed out by John Schuhmann of NBA.com, now only four members invited to USA camp have played in the World Cup or Olympics: Harrison Barnes, Andre Drummond, Kevin Love, and Kyle Lowry — and Lowry just had thumb surgery and is questionable for the playing in China.

USA Basketball can still roll out this starting five:

Damian Lillard
Bradley Beal
Khris Middleton
Tobias Harris
Andre Drummond

Then off the bench have Kemba Walker, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Lowry, Jayson Tatum, P.J. Tucker, Kevin Love, Brook Lopez.

That’s still enough talent, coached by Gregg Popovich, to win the World Cup. The USA remains the heavy favorites for a reason.

USA Basketball is scheduled to begin its pre-World Cup camp in Las Vegas Aug. 5, with an intrasquad exhibition game at the T-Mobile Arena on Aug. 9. Then the team heads to Southern California for more training followed by an exhibition against Spain on Aug. 16 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. Then the team heads overseas for the World Cup, which begins in China on Aug. 31.

James Harden reiterates it was ‘false talk’ he and Chris Paul were at odds

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The Houston Rockets — not in an anonymous way, but in a “we are putting our names on this, quote me” kind of way — have pushed back hard on the narrative that there was tension between Chris Paul and James Harden that led to the Rockets trading CP3 for Russell Westbrook this offseason. Rockets GM Daryl Morey has denied it, team leader P.J. Tucker called it fake news, and Paul himself has pushed back.

Harden has done that again, speaking at his camp on Saturday.

The counter-argument to this: Chris Paul is in Oklahoma City right now.

People will believe what they want to believe, but the Rockets guys have all gone on the record about this. Nothing leaked and anonymous.

From the Rockets’ perspective, they made a trade for Westbrook that is a roster upgrade. Houston has a dynamic duo that can compete with the Los Angeles teams and the other contenders around the league, and whatever questions fans and the media may have about the ultimate fit of Harden and Westbrook the talent level is not in question.

Do the Rockets make that trade if everything is great between Harden and Paul? Probably, if they saw CP3 as in decline and Westbrook as a talent upgrade (which they did). The Rockets can be a cold, business-like organization in terms of their pursuit of a title.

We will see next season if that calculation paid off. Whether or not Harden and CP3 got along.

Report: Kyle Korver reaches one-year deal to join Milwaukee Bucks

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The Bucks can never have enough shooting around a driving Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Enter Kyle Korver. The veteran sharpshooter will be headed to Milwaukee on a one-year contract, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

This is a quality pickup at the minimum (it is a veteran minimum contract). Korver averaged 8.6 points per game last season, taking 72 percent of his shots from beyond the arc and knocking down 39.7 percent of them. The man has gravity and pulls a defender because even at age 38 defenders cannot leave him. Shooting is a skill always in demand.

The Bucks will start Wesley Matthews at the two and have Sterling Brown behind him. They have Khris Middleton and Pat Connaughton at the three. Now they have some reliable veteran depth at those spots and a guy who can hit the big shot for them.

James Harden buys piece of MLS Houston Dynamo

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NBA players being minority owners in a soccer team is not new, LeBron James owns a small piece of Champions’ League winner Liverpool, for example.

James Harden is keeping it closer to home — he bought a share of the Dynamo, Houston’s MLS franchise.

“I’m very excited about the opportunity to join the ownership group of the Houston Dynamo and Houston Dash and proud to be a part of a club with tremendous history and a great future,” Harden said in a statement. “Houston is my home now, and I saw this as a way to invest in my city and expand my business interests at the same time. Soccer in general, and especially MLS, have exploded in this country throughout my lifetime. I’ve been a fan of the game for several years, and I know that Houston has a massive soccer fanbase, so it was an easy decision for me when this opportunity arose.”

Harden reportedly purchased a five percent stake in the team.

The Dynamo — a former MLS cup champion and a franchise that has consistently been strong — is primarily owned by Gabriel Brener, and it has boxing legend Oscar De La Hoya as one of its minority owners.

Harden has earned more than $141 million in NBA salary in his 10 NBA seasons and has four years left on the $228 million contract extension he signed with the team in 2017. In addition, he has a large shoe contract with Adidas and other endorsements.