In his first post-practice media availability of the 2013-2014 season, 76ers forward / center and 2013 6th overall draft pick Nerlens Noel brought everyone up to speed on the last legitimate concern regarding the team until the post-season lottery takes place.
#Sixers Nerlens Noel: “I’m 100 percent.” Said he’s stronger than he had been. Had increased vertical leap by 3 inches.
— Christopher A. Vito (@ChrisVito) April 8, 2014
The quote, courtesy of the timeline of Delco Daily Times 76ers beat writer Chris Vito, was in response to a series of question directed towards the team’s big-man of the future. Given his level of confidence in both a psychological mentality and tangible results, one would have to be pleased with the recovery of the 19-year-old Kentucky product.
Noel, of course, tore his ACL during his freshman season at Kentucky. The 76ers acquired him via a draft-night trade sending guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans in exchange for a 2014 1st round pick, and Noel after he had already been selected by the Pelicans. Alongside potential Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams, many figure Noel and whomever the team ends up selecting with their first pick in the draft, which could fall anywhere from 1st to 5th at this point.
Along with rehabbing and strengthening his injured knee, Noel has also been put through a rigorous physical overhaul, both in terms of his body and his game. Not only has the lanky teenager had to put on significant weight while maintaining an elite-level of fitness, but coach Brett Brown also insisted upon Noel completely reinventing his jump shot. At least from what was seen in Lexington, Noel’s game was much more focused upon playing around the rim on both ends of the floor. The multi-layered commitments Noel had to juggle all while recovering from such a significant injury is an accomplishment in and of itself.
It would appear, given the underlying tone of both Noel and Brett Brown, that the 2013 1st round pick will not see game action this season. He will instead use 2014 as his rookie season, and join former AAU teammate Michael Carter-Williams and potentially a pair of lottery picks to form up the team’s nucleus.
Brett Brown on Nerlens Noel on having to miss games: ‘He can’t stand it. He loves playing. It’s a priceless quality.’
— Brian Seltzer (@BrianSeltzer) April 8, 2014
Noel did address the cryptic ‘4-4-14′ tweet that was sent out from his Twitter account a little more than a month ago.
#SixersTalk Nerlens on tweeting 4-4-14 “It was a goal of mine to come back by then and be cleared by the Sixers but it didn’t happen.
— Dei Lynam (@dlynamCSN) April 8, 2014
Though it is disappointing that fans will be unable to see the second half of their 2013 tandem that represents the largest overhaul the franchise has seen in the 21st century, it’s hard not to understand things from the organization’s point of view. Everything is riding on the success of the four (possibly) young players taken in the 2013 & 2014 drafts. The franchise has to be thrilled with Carter-Williams performance so far, and the returns on Noel’s injury are favorable as well. So much hinges on where the team falls in the lottery in the coming weeks, but a few bounces Philadelphia’s way and next year’s team could feature the most promising quartet of young talent the league has seen on one team in quite some time. Not to mention, given the apparent competitor Noel is, this time off is only going to make him hungrier going into the offseason and next regular season to show the league what they have been missing. Exciting, to say the least.