A long line of fans stretched outside a Philadelphia sports store, everyone having come in hopes of meeting one of the city's newest sports stars. Young boys anxiously waited. A few girls screamed.
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This is the reception that awaited Philadelphia 76ers rookie guard Michael Carter-Williams on Sunday afternoon, less than a day after the Sixers upset the Chicago Bulls to improve to 3-0 on the season. For many who expected the Sixers to challenge the NBA's worst record ever, Carter-Williams – who was named the NBA's Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday – has given Philly sports fans another reason to be excited.
"A lot of people were saying, 'Good job. Great start. Keep it up.' They were excited," Carter-Williams said in an interview with Yahoo Sports on Monday morning.
The Sixers entered the season with few expectations after trading All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans for draft pick Nerlens Noel, who is injured and expected to miss this season. Carter-Williams' arrival was one of the lone reasons for excitement. Philadelphia also has a rookie head coach in Brett Brown and has been expected to challenge not for a playoff sport but the top pick in next year's heralded draft.
The headlines entering last week's opening night were Allen Iverson's official retirement ceremony and LeBron James and the NBA champion Heat coming to Philadelphia. Carter-Williams, however, stole the show in his NBA debut with 22 points, 12 assists, seven rebounds and nine steals in a 114-110 victory over Miami.
"Unexplainable moment," Carter-Williams said. "It was a great way to start a season and a career. It gave me a lot of confidence."
James was impressed enough to compliment Carter-Williams during a stoppage in the fourth quarter.
"He patted me on the back and said, 'Good job,' " Carter-Williams said. "Coming from a great player like that, yeah, it did mean something."
The Sixers followed with a road victory over the Washington Wizards and overcame an 18-point deficit in the second half to beat Derrick Rose and the Chicago Bulls on Saturday. Carter has been a big reason for Sixers' strong start: He's averaging 20.7 points, nine assists, 4.7 rebounds and 4.3 steals.
Carter-Williams didn't believe the Sixers would be the doormat many projected. But he also didn't expect this start.
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"I'm definitely surprised," Carter-Williams said. "I knew we'd be OK. Not as bad as people were saying, but not like this."
Carter-Williams averaged 12 points, seven assists, five rebounds and three steals as a sophomore at Syracuse last season. Prior to draft workouts, he told Yahoo Sports that he hoped to get consideration for the top pick in the draft. He fell to the Sixers at No. 11.
"Every game I try to prove that I could've been the No. 1 pick," he said. "I have confidence in myself that I should've been."