The Nerlens Noel era appears to have stalled. And it could be over soon.
Noel has been taken out of the 76ers rotation by head coach Brett Brown as Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor continue to start together.
Noel was the No. 6 overall pick in the 2013 draft and was later traded to the Sixers. After showing so much promise at times, the big man from Kentucky has been relegated to the bench. He missed the first 23 games this season after undergoing surgery on his left knee.
On Dec. 11, Noel made his debut at Detroit but suffered a sprained left ankle. Then came Friday night when he played just eight minutes in an 11-point loss to the Los Angeles Lakers.
Then he lashed out postgame.
“I just want to be on the court playing basketball,” Noel said. “I don’t really care who I’m playing with. I’m not an eight-minute player, so I don’t know what that’s about. So I don’t care where, I don’t, I don’t, I don’t really care. I need to be on the court playing basketball. I think I’m too good to be playing eight minutes. Nah, that’s crazy. That’s crazy. That’s crazy. Need to figure this s— out.”
Well, it has been figured out. Noel is out of the rotation.
“It’s a challenge and I’ve been with him with four years,” Brown said. “I personally have a soft spot for Nerlens Noel. We both have Boston connections. He’s been with me. Nerlens’ heart is in the right place. It’s an unfortunate situation. I think people need to be reminded that he missed all of the preseason and only recently, 20 minutes before I even realized he was even available. I think we make a mistake when we talk about our three bigs because really it’s four because we’ve got Richaun [Holmes] in that same mix.”
Noel is on the verge of becoming a restricted free agent in July. The Sixers could have moved him after last season but decided to wait. The wait may soon be over as the trade deadline quickly approaches in February.
“I think this has been decided a long time ago,” Noel said. “I think it [speaking out] had nothing to do with it. It’s been something that’s been set in stone. That’s why I’ve been staying very content and just focused on bettering myself and worrying about the things I can control. You’ve just got to prepare yourself for things like these and take it one step at a time.”
Embiid was absolutely sensational with a career-best 33 points to go along with 10 rebounds and three blocked shots in the Sixers’ 108-107 win over the Brooklyn Nets Sunday night. Okafor struggled with his shooting (0-for-10), but grabbed 11 rebounds and played solid defense in the post.
Noel watched the whole game from the bench. Moving forward, Noel’s future is very much a major question mark.
“A lot of people know it was going to get to a point like this,” Noel said. “Now I’m the one that’s in it. I’m going to deal with it the best way possible. That just means being a professional and getting better at every aspect that doesn’t involve being on the court and being in the game.”
Stay tuned. This developing situation is far from over.