Nerlens Noel has lofty aspirations.
He wants to become the next great center for the Sixers as they try to capture a championship for the first time since 1982-83.That next title seems light years away, but the main piece to their next championship puzzle down the road is ready to go.
“I’m so happy to be here,” said the 6-foot-10 Noel, who will wear jersey No. 4. “It’s been a long five months. I try not to get overwhelmed. I’m very focused. I take it day by day and can’t wait to get back on the court with the Sixers. It’s a dream to be holding up this jersey. I want to be a part of the great future with this franchise, which has so much history and great players.”
Noel slipped to No. 6 on draft night and was shipped to the Sixers, along with a first-round pick next season for point guard Jrue Holiday and a second-round selection. Some teams may have looked past Noel since he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in February and was limited to 24 games for the University of Kentucky.
Because of the injury, the Sixers may have gotten a No. 1 overall type of player. There’s no immediate timetable for his return. It’s even possible he could miss the entire season.
This move was clearly about the future direction of the franchise, which spiraled downward last season during the Andrew Bynum debacle.
“I’ll ask [doctors] every time what we would do that’s best for Nerlens’ 15-year career,” GM Sam Hinkie said.
Noel played just 24 games for the Wildcats, but was still named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.The Sixers are hoping he’s good enough to lead them where Moses Malone took them in 1983.
“I see him as a guy that every coach will see him as, a weapon defensively, as a guy who changes the game,” Hinkie said.
Noel is ultra-confident, but not cocky enough to believe there aren’t things to improve on within his overall game.
“I think I have a high ceiling,” Noel said. “I also know I’m going to be working every single day to get better. I want to be a 15-year type of player and playing meaningful games in April, May and June. I have so many goals ahead of me and it starts now with hard work.”
What about that coaching search?
The Sixers don’t appear to be any closer to hiring the next coach to replace Doug Collins.
Collins resigned after three seasons in April. His topassistant, Michael Curry, and San Antonio assistant, Brett Brown, have been rumored to be the leading candidates, though the Sixers have reportedly spoken to a number of other candidates.
The Sixers are the only team in the league without a head coach.
“We’re going to follow a really methodical approach,” Hinkie said. “It’s a process. It’s really critical that [the new coach] is playing a style they’re comfortable with.”