76ers

Brett Brown: Nerlens Noel likely out for season

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Brett Brown: Nerlens Noel likely out for season

COLUMBUS, Ohio – In an odd and unexpected moment of candor, Sixers coach Brett Brown dropped a bombshell.

Nerlens Noel, the team's prized draft-night acquisition, probably won't play this season. He has been recovering from a torn ACL suffered Feb. 12 while playing for Kentucky.

Brown revealed the news nearing the end of a routine pregame interview when a reporter asked about Noel’s progress.

"Slow,” Brown said before the Sixers' preseason game against Cleveland. "I doubt, I think everybody doubts he is going to play this year. But he is with us in every way in terms of practices and shoot-around, film session. It is a classroom opportunity for him to learn [about] me and the NBA. We don’t want to waste this year.”

That said, this is not an official annoncement. Brown did offer a bit of hope that Noel could be play -- in part because it is possible and in part because it's Brown’s gut feeling.

“It most definitely was not the plan all along, and I think it is a work in progress,” Brown said. “It was a decision I thought was going to be made, but nobody ever said to me that this is a definite. I think everybody is expecting it to be a definite decision, but even now as we speak no one has said that this is 100 percent certainty.”

Brown appears certain that Noel's game will improve over the next year. The 19-year-old is often seen shooting free throws after practice or even taking on his coach in a game of Horse.

“This has been an opportunity to break down his shot, really work on his free throw and start a little bit from ground zero,” Brown said. “He has bought in. He’s been great. On my staff we have Greg Foster, who played 13 years as an NBA big, so he can pay attention to him. Although we won’t see him on the court, I feel a little bit better about his path with him being with us.”

Considered the likely top pick in this year's draft, Noel was drafted sixth by New Orleans and traded to the Sixers, who parted with Jrue Holiday but also received a protected, top-five, 2014 first-round pick.

With Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons set to debut, John Wall and Bradley Beal recall their early days

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With Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons set to debut, John Wall and Bradley Beal recall their early days

The Sixers will have two No. 1 overall picks make their NBA debuts on Wednesday night in Markelle Fultz (2017) and Ben Simmons (2016). They are in for a challenge with the Wizards, one of the best teams in basketball, and with guards John Wall and Bradley Beal.

Wall and Beal know that challenge well. They were both top draft picks in their own right, Wall the first pick in 2010 and Beal the third pick in 2012. They can recall in specifics their first games in the NBA and how humbling they were.

"My first game, I was going against Dwight Howard. It was fun," Wall said. "There was a lot of pressure. There were a lot of people talking."

It's often said that the point guard position is as deep as it's ever been nowadays. The last three MVP awards have gone to point guards, for instance.

There were some good ones back in 2010, too.

"I remember in a five-game span I played like [Rajon] Rondo, Derrick Rose here and then I went out west and played Steve Nash, Chris Paul and Russell [Westbrook]," Wall said. "I don't think it's gotten any harder than it was back then in 2010 with those five guys. You kind of understand what those guys are about when you get to see it firsthand and play against them."

Beal vividly remembers going up against the LeBron James-led Miami Heat as a 19-year-old. It wasn't easy.

"It was the Heat when they had [Dwyane Wade] and LeBron on the same team. That's when D-Wade was electrifying. He still had his quickness. He was strong as I don't know what and I was a baby at that time," he said.

"For me, it was like I was in awe because those are the guys I grew up watching and I was a fan of. Now I'm playing against them and I can't be a fan of them. It was amazing to play against them, but also an eye-opener like, I need to get better."

Now it's Fultz and Simmons' turn to see what matching up with NBA superstars is like and don't expect Wall or Beal to take it easy on them.

"I'm a competitive person, so I'm not going to back down from any challenge," Wall said.

Joel Embiid to start Sixers' season opener, but how much will he play?

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Joel Embiid to start Sixers' season opener, but how much will he play?

WASHINGTON — The first starting lineup of the Sixers' 2017-18 season will be Ben Simmons, Jerryd Bayless, JJ Redick, Robert Covington and Joel Embiid.

Brown is sticking with the group that closed out preseason competition. That group has a balance of veterans and young talent, including Simmons making his NBA debut after missing all of last season with a foot injury.

"It helps a lot (starting together in the preseason) because you're learning guys and how they move and how they play," Simmons said. "I think we have a pretty good connection going into tonight's game and it's only going to get better."

Embiid will be under a minutes restriction but Brown does not have a definitive number. The big man previously said he expected to play 16 minutes. Embiid was the last one to leave the court at the conclusion of shootaround. 

"There's a range that we'll work with," Brown said. "We're going to feel it together. We'll play Joel within some parameters and go from that base." 

Markelle Fultz also will make his NBA debut. The No. 1 pick, who has battled right knee and shoulder soreness, will come off the bench in front of his hometown crowd. 

"I'm excited," Fultz said. "It's anything you can wish for."