Very few NBA players have had a career as tumultuous as point guard Michael Carter-Williams in his first four seasons. The former 2014 Rookie of the Year was traded twice in the past two seasons as a promising start to his tenure as a pro was sidetracked by injuries and shooting concerns. The Hamilton native signed a one-year contract with the Charlotte Hornets this past summer worth $2.7 million as he attempts to bounce back from a down year with the Chicago Bulls. The 26-year-old is on the verge of making his season debut for his new squad after being sidelined by a knee injury for the past few weeks
I caught up with Carter-Williams recently to talk about his experience growing up in New England, his admiration of Tom Brady, what it was like facing the Celtics in last year's first-round series and what lies ahead for him in Charlotte this year.
What was it like growing up in Hamilton?
I went all the way through eighth grade, I left for a little bit, and then I came back in ninth grade. It was great. I played against teams from all over the area. Just being from Hamilton, living there and growing up around there and in the suburbs, I got to see a lot of different things. It was great sportswise and peoplewise. It was awesome.
Did you get a chance to play in a lot of neighborhood games growing up?
There weren't too many neighborhood games. Not a lot of people from Hamilton actually played ball. A lot of people from Salem, Beverly, Peabody, that whole area played. I played in a few leagues growing up and of course AAU, travel and things like that. It has definitely helped me throughout my career.
What was your most vivid youth sports memory?
High school basketball was really fun for me. I had great teammates. Some people I still talk to up until this day, (including) my coaches. Playing AAU, BABC, we had a lot of fun on the road, just playing and competing in Peachton and Nationals. Times off the court were great too. It was a bunch of great people. I had a great time overall.
How tough was it for you to leave home in Hamilton and head to a boarding school for your high school career at St. Andrew’s in Rhode Island?
It was tough for me to leave home. My first year was tough, but I met some really great people. Some of my best friends still come and watch me play. I still hang out with a lot of those guys from St. Andrew’s. First, it was really hard to leave home and leave my family. I was a big family guy. It was hard, but for the most part, it was great.
What was your team growing up?
Celtics were my team. It’s always great when I get to compete against them. I’ve had some wars against them throughout my career so far. I always try to do my best whenever I step on the floor but it is special when I’m here.
Who was your favorite Boston athlete growing up?
Got to go Tom Brady. He still is my favorite. I remember still watching the game when Drew Bledsoe got hurt and Brady came in. I followed them even when Bledsoe was playing. My house has always been Patriots fans. Everyone grew up from this area, so Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins were always big. Especially during playoff hockey. There’s nothing like it.
Were you a Brady guy immediately during his first year?
I was definitely a big Brady fan from the start. I thought he brought a different dynamic. It was hard not to like him when he came in. His success rate was unbelievable. He’s so good, he’s so dedicated, he works so hard. I read his articles, things he says and how he takes care of his body. How he competes, his emotions, how he doesn’t fold under pressure, he’s exactly what you want to be as an athlete and as a person.
What has been your most memorable game to attend as a Boston sports fan?
Not going, but there was nothing like last year’s Super Bowl. I couldn’t go because of the schedule but there was nothing like seeing them come back against the Falcons. That was probably the greatest game I ever watched.
What is your favorite Boston Sports venue?
Garden. For sure.
You clearly still keep pretty close tabs on the Patriots. Do you still follow any other Boston sports teams?
I don’t follow the Red Sox and Bruins like I do with the Patriots. I try to keep up with the Celtics from time to time.
What is the thing you miss most about living in New England?
My friends and family. Being here and seeing my friends and family, they really make me, so that’s what I miss the most about not being here.
How much of a whirlwind was that first-round playoff series last year between the Bulls and Celtics?
It was tough because I was injured myself. It was fun though, just everything. The emotion, being up 2-0, playing in the games. They did a great job of coming back. It was hard fought games. Both of us were beefing the whole game. Isaiah was playing when his sister passed away, and just the passion that he showed to be on the floor was great. Just the whole series was great. If you look at it from an outside of basketball standpoint, there was really a lot going on. People showed a lot of toughness. We made adjustments, they made adjustments. They ended up winning and they were the better team. It was just fun. Being here, being home in front of my friends was just great.
What do you think about the Celtics roster overhaul this season? Could you believe they dealt away Isaiah Thomas?
It’s hard because I’m not upstairs in the business area. From my perspective, they had an opportunity. Kyrie is a great player, Isaiah is a great player. They changed the dynamic of their team, so there is only one way to find out. It must have been really hard for them to give up Isaiah, Jae Crowder and not re-sign Avery Bradley. They had a lot of other good players but those three guys made that team really good. They built some toughness and family with that group. It’s not like they didn’t get back anything though. They got back some great pieces.
How excited are you about an opportunity for a fresh start in Charlotte after a couple of up-and-down years in Chicago and Milwaukee?
I’m really excited to get started here. It’s been tough for me. I’ve had hip surgery, shoulder surgery, and I got some work done on my knee. I’ve been playing through a lot of pain for a couple of years now. It’s hard. Once you lose a step in this league, you are dead. That’s what I was feeling. I got those things taken care of, and now I have a fresh start here. I feel great. I got a chip on my shoulder and I feel like I have something to prove. I’ve shown I am a great player in this league and I just have to go out and play with confidence. I need to do my thing and I’ll be fine. I think I do a lot of things on the floor that can really help this team, and my teammates have confidence in me. I just do anything to win and once you have that mentality, it’s hard to beat.
Did you have a lot of choices during free agency or was signing with Charlotte an easy decision for you?
I had a few options. I had some longer deals, some two, three-year deals. I really wanted to show what I could do on this team. I spoke to Kemba Walker. He was a big part of the reason why I came here. I spoke to Coach Clifford. I really what he teaches and what he gives to the team. He’s a great coach, I can already tell. It’s definitely refreshing to me. I can’t wait until I can step on the floor.