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A Philadelphia 76ers blog, hosted by Christopher A. Vito

Monday, October 21, 2013

Sixers coach Brett Brown: 'I doubt ... (Nerlens Noel) is going to play this year'


76ers coach Brett Brown has indicated that it might be a longshot for rookie center Nerlens Noel to make it onto the floor this season.

Brown made that statement Monday night in Columbus, Ohio, before the Sixers played the host Cleveland Cavaliers in a preseason game on the campus of Ohio State University.

“I doubt, everybody doubts (Noel) is going to play this year,” Brown told reporters Monday.

Brown went on to say that Noel has shown improvement in his rehab, but added that progress been “slow.”

This is the first instance that Brown has ever hinted of Noel’s injury causing him to miss his entire rookie season. Noel has been traveling with the Sixers while rehabbing a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, an injury he sustained last February in a game at Kentucky, where he played one season.

The Sixers had intimated all along that Noel’s debut with the team seemed most likely in 2014, possibly as early as January, but had never assigned a timetable for the 6-11, 230-pound center. 

If anything, the Sixers’ decision to preserve Noel until he’s fully healed shouldn’t be viewed as a setback.  It was always assumed that the Sixers, who are in a rebuilding phase with a new coach, a new general manager and plenty of new faces on the roster, felt no rush in grooming Noel for on-court time in the regular season.

Still, Noel has looked strong and assertive on his feet following recent practices, working almost exclusively with assistant coach Greg Foster. In the post-practice shooting sessions, he’s taken low-post jumpers, field goals in the lane and worked on his free-throw shooting with Foster.

The Sixers traded for Noel on the night of the NBA draft, sending All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans in exchange for the draft rights for the 19-year-old Noel, taken sixth overall by the Pelicans, and a 2014 lottery-protected, first-round pick.

Last month at the team’s media day proceedings, Noel categorized the status of his knee as “improving.” He had said he expected to play this season. In the interim, Noel said he was using his rehab time as a means of better getting to know his new teammates and learning the ropes of the NBA.

“I prepared myself. I’m staying focused with everything,” Noel said at the time. “Although I won’t be playing (in the preseason), I’m a student of the game and I’m seeing how certain players play and their tendencies. I’m doing the job. Even though I’m not playing, I’m learning.”

Should Noel miss the 2013-14 season, he would represent the second big man in two years to have sat out an entire season with the Sixers. Andrew Bynum, the 7-footer acquired by trade in the 2012 offseason, did not play a single game while battling recurring knee injuries. Bynum this summer signed a two-year contract with Cleveland, the Sixers’ opponent Monday, but he’s yet to debut for the Cavaliers.

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