Prepare yourselves offensive players, Nerlens Noel is coming back. The former Kentucky Wildcat has been cleared for “limited on-court work” by the Philadelphia 76ers.
Noel suffered his season-ending ACL injury in February last year, and his doctor told ESPN.com that the 6’11” center is recovering well: “He is doing excellent, and the team is taking good care of him.”
General manager Sam Hinkie released a statement on Wednesday detailing their plans for Noel:
“After careful consideration and numerous discussions with our medical and performance teams, the consulting physician and rehabilitation staff, and Nerlens’ representatives, some of the restrictions on Nerlens have been lifted and he is now able to participate in limited on-court work.”
“There are several benchmarks Nerlens still must meet, and during that time we will closely monitor his progress and regularly evaluate his status. Our goal remains the same, which is to give Nerlens every opportunity to ensure a long, productive NBA career.”
Sources close to the organization believe it will be at least another month until we see the flat-top on the NBA court.
Noel’s return raises many questions for the franchise. First of all, the goal this season is to be bad in order to land one of the franchise-changing players in the 2014 draft. Having a defensive game-changer like Noel on the court hinders that.
On the other hand, having him fit and raring to go, only to sit him just doesn’t make sense. It could even be seen as detrimental to the player’s development.
Perhaps the best option would be to send him down to Delaware to play for the 87ers in the D-League. Let him find the pace of the game; dominate, and really boost his confidence ahead of a 10-game burst at the end of the regular season.
By then, the Sixers should have been able to move one of their more senior players. Thaddeus Young is a player that should be on the move, with the Phoenix Suns being one of the many possible suitors for the change-of-pace forward out of Georgia Tech.
All in all, Noel should be allowed to come back on the premise that the Sixers are doing horribly bad and have traded away enough of their remaining good players to ensure Noel’s contribution doesn’t make them significantly better than what they are now.
Are we forgetting just how good Noel was in college? A little raw offensively, granted, but a defensive savant. The kid will come in and protect the rim like few in the league. If he would have stayed healthy, there’s no way he would have been picked outside of the top two.
The Sixers are lucky to have Noel, and it will be exciting to see him come back. I’m already looking forward to the first Michael Carter-Williams-Nerlens Noel pick-and-roll ending in an alley-oop.