It was the very first possession of the very first game of Michael Carter-Williams’ 10-day contract with the Orlando Magic.
That was how long it took for Carter-Williams to show his value and win over some skeptics (well…me, at least).
When the Magic first signed Carter-Williams, a former Rookie of the Year turned 27-year old journeyman with no outside shot, it was met with mixed emotions. One OPP commenter went as far as to say that Jerian Grant is the only player who could make signing Michael Carter-Williams seem like a good idea.
That idea, based on MCW’s first impression (though still in the far-too-soon reactionary period), now seems somewhat better than originally thought.
Just seconds after Carter-Williams checked into the game as a member of the Orlando Magic for the first time, he was running down court as if he was Usain Bolt out of the blocks. Carter-Williams ran like…well, like someone who knows his NBA career is on the line.
A pass by Terrence Ross had been picked off, leading to a fastbreak the other way, with nothing between the basket and DeAndre Bembry but open hardwood. Carter-Williams, positioned at the far corner of the court at the time of the turnover, immediately began his full-speed pursuit. While there would be no highlight-reel chasedown block, Carter-Williams got just enough of Bembry’s attention during his chase and contest to make him miss the dunk.
“What I really like is his motor,” Evan Fournier said of Carter-Williams after the game. “He’s very active. He really wants to compete and (he) plays hard. He brings energy and he’s obviously a very good defender. We’re going to need that.”
The Magic’s need for that defensive energy, and the ability to push the pace at the other end, became apparent when Isaiah Briscoe suffered a torn meniscus in his knee. Grant reassumed the back-up point guard job by default and the second unit became stagnant at times, clearly missing the spark that Briscoe provided.
Instead of sticking with an unproductive Grant, or giving an unproven Troy Caupain a key role in the team’s first playoff push since 2012, the Magic signed a veteran point guard and immediately thrust him into the back-up role. The urgent shake-up in Orlando’s point guard depth chart was a result of the Magic having little time to experiment. They were in need of, not only an infusion of energy, but immediate results. In his first game, Carter-Williams provided that.
Could argue the Magic don’t win tonight had they not signed Michael Carter-Williams to a 10-day.— The Lando (@TheLando__) March 18, 2019
His effort to begin the 4th quarter held off the Hawks from getting back in the game.
Only 5 points, 4 rebounds, and 1 assist but his impact was big.
To notice Carter-Williams true impact, you must look not at the box score (five points, four rebounds, one assist, 0-for-3 from the field), but at the tape.
Whether it was when he was defending the pick-and-roll (Steve Clifford praised MCW’s ability to maneuver his body and not get picked), diving to the floor for a loose ball (he made a save to Wes Iwundu that led to two free throws), or drawing fouls on the Hawks (he got to the line eight times and helped get Orlando into the bonus early in the fourth quarter), Carter-Williams made his impact felt. He even got a technical foul while talking trash with Trae Young, showing a fire that will be a welcome addition in Orlando...
Things have gotten chippy here.— FOX Sports: Hawks (@HawksOnFSSE) March 17, 2019
Michael Carter-Williams gets a tech and keeps yelling at Trae Young from the sideline.
Trae knocks down the free throw then winks at MCW. pic.twitter.com/mxxEXUYej6
For a player with clear limitations (a career 40.1 percent shooter, including 25.4 percent from three), those are the types of plays that must be made in order to compensate and survive in the NBA. They are also the type of plays the Magic desperately need right now.
Carter-Williams, just seconds into his Magic debut, proved that he is willing to make them.
“I just want to bring good, positive energy,” Carter-Williams told Fox Sports Florida after the game. “I probably went a little too far today…I was excited to be out there. Diving on the floor, making plays, whatever the case may be to win. I love to win and I’ll do anything to help the team win.”
That Amway Center crowd better give Michael Carter-Williams a standing ovation when he checks out. MCW has been big.— Adam Papageorgiou (Pau goaltended C-Lee in ‘09) (@PapageorgiouMBO) March 17, 2019