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Former Sixer Nerlens Noel reportedly accepts 1-year qualifying offer from Mavericks

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Former Sixer Nerlens Noel reportedly accepts 1-year qualifying offer from Mavericks

DALLAS -- Dallas Mavericks center Nerlens Noel has decided to wait a year to try to cash in as a free agent.

Two people with knowledge of the agreement said Saturday that Noel accepted a $4.1 million qualifying offer for one year, essentially betting on himself that he can get something closer to a max contract as an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Noel's decision as a restricted free agent means he can't sign a long-term deal until after the upcoming season, one of the people told The Associated Press. Both spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the contract is pending NBA approval.

The Mavericks acquired the 23-year-old Noel at the trade deadline last season when they were out of contention and retooling to get younger. He averaged 8.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 22 games with Dallas, which missed the playoffs for just the second time in 17 seasons.

The 6-foot-11 Noel hoped to get a max deal this year, with the likelihood that the Mavericks would have matched an offer sheet from another team after including young swingman Justin Anderson and a protected first-round draft pick in a deal with Philadelphia in February.

But Noel has never averaged more than 11.1 points or 8.1 rebounds in three seasons after missing his rookie year with a left knee injury suffered in his only season at Kentucky, where he was a shot-blocking phenom. The sixth overall pick in 2013 has career NBA averages of 10 points, 7.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.

The Mavericks envision Noel as an athletic rim protector who can also guard away from the basket, and they have hopes that he can become more of a scoring threat. He's potentially part of a young core alongside 39-year-old Dirk Nowitzki after Dallas used a rare high draft pick on former North Carolina State point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

Dallas made another commitment to youth a year ago by signing Harrison Barnes to a max deal as a restricted free agent out of Golden State. Barnes became expendable when the Warriors reached a deal with Kevin Durant.

Barnes, who turned 25 in May, led the Mavericks at 19.2 points per game last season, and undrafted rookie Yogi Ferrell emerged as a viable point guard. The Mavericks see Ferrell as a better fit as a backup, which he is likely to be along with J.J. Barea and Devin Harris behind the newcomer Smith.

There are still questions about how Noel fits in the rotation because Barnes was most effective at small forward, which meant Nowitzki had to play center when they were on the floor together. But Smith's arrival will make for an intriguing question of how good Noel can be as his pick-and-roll partner.

Banged-up Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

Banged-up Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

CAMDEN, N.J. — Brett Brown has been here before. The scenario isn’t as drastic in the past, but it’s familiar nonetheless: starting the season with an injured rookie for the fifth straight year.

Markelle Fultz will begin his first NBA season dealing with ongoing right shoulder and right knee soreness. The No. 1 pick is expected to play on opening night Wednesday, but will come off the bench after appearing in only two preseason games. 

Brown has learned to manage this type of situation after years of experience. Nerlens Noel missed Brown’s entire first season because of an ACL injury. Joel Embiid sat out the following two seasons with foot injuries. Ben Simmons suffered a season-ending foot fracture in last year’s training camp. 

The biggest lesson? 

“To go slow,” Brown said. “To not put them in a position where it’s going to produce some difficult times.” 

Fultz was likely to be a starter when the Sixers traded up to draft him first overall in June. The 19-year-old guard hasn’t had that much experience since then thanks to injuries in both summer league and preseason. 

The Sixers face John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry in the first three games alone. That would be a tall defensive task if Fultz were to start. 

“This league is driven by men, this league is driven by veterans,” Brown said. “To just put him in that environment is just, I think, poor coaching and I’m not doing it.”

Just as Simmons took advice from Embiid during his injury, he is offering words of wisdom to Fultz.

“[You’ve] got to to take your time and you definitely have to take care of your body,” Simmons said. “Put your body first. There’s no need to rush.”

The Sixers have the backcourt depth to adjust without Fultz in the starting lineup. They have been turning to veteran Jerryd Bayless at shooting guard alongside Simmons, their intended backcourt pairing last season. 

In the meantime, Brown will balance Fultz’s health, his growth as an NBA player, and the team’s success. 

“The end game needs to be developing Markelle Fultz," Brown said. 

Joel Embiid disappointed Brett Brown has him on another minutes limit

Joel Embiid disappointed Brett Brown has him on another minutes limit

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid would like to play 48 minutes every game. The Sixers are looking at a maximum of 20 for opening night.

"I don't really know if there's a solid number," Brett Brown said Monday after practice. "I can tell if you were to choose a number, it's somewhere in the teens."

Embiid was hoping for more playing time on Wednesday against the Wizards, his first regular-season game since Jan. 27 (left knee surgery).

"I didn't know about that, but that's very disappointing," Embiid said Monday of the minutes restriction. "I feel great and hopefully that changes based on today's practice and tomorrow's practice."

The Sixers are being cautious with Embiid, who has both a lengthy history of injuries and a massive new contract extension. He clocked 15 minutes in both of his preseason games last week. Embiid felt he could have played twice as many minutes.

While the Sixers aren't ready to go as high as 30 minutes yet, they could exercise some wiggle room based on the flow of the game.

"There will be some minutes restrictions, but it's also a judgment of how is the game being played, not just looking at rote, rigid number," Brown said.

The NBA's new timeout rules could impact Embiid's playing time. The updated format changes include a decrease in the maximum number of timeouts allowed (18 to 14), 75-second team timeouts and fewer timeouts in the final minutes of the game. 

"One of the things that we're doing this year unlike previous years is there's a little bit of a looseness in relation to it doesn't have to be rigid if the game didn't dictate some track meet," Brown said. "This is like I'm coaching in the London Olympic Games again. The game moves. I can have guys at a scorers table for two minutes with no stoppage. So sometimes the torrid pace of a game doesn't favor Jo where you go flying up and down."

In addition to individual games, it remains to be seen if Embiid will be cleared this season for back-to-backs. The Sixers face their first set of consecutive games this Friday and Saturday against the Celtics at home and the Raptors in Toronto.