76ers

Formally introduced Noel calls Hinkie a 'genius'

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Formally introduced Noel calls Hinkie a 'genius'

We are learning from the new Sixers regime that patience is essential.

Tuesday, Nerlens Noel was formally introduced as a 76er almost a month after the team acquired him in a draft-night trade. The 19-year-old, 6-foot-11 center, whom the Sixers had to part with Jrue Holiday to get, has defensive skills that, if he reaches his potential, could be a game-changer.

At the press conference, the young man was dressed to the nines and forthcoming, answering questions about his surgically-repaired left knee and the prospects of tough times before what the Sixers hope is a bright future for him and the franchise.

“I just started doing layups,” Noel said of his current state of rehabilitation. His torn ACL was repaired in mid-February, and his projected timeline to getting back playing basketball looks to be around Christmas time or later.

“I run up and down the court,” Noel continued. “I do Ultra-G for cardio, squatting. I am really just doing a lot of rigorous exercise to build up my core and my hips so that injury prevention is less when I come back because I have stronger muscles around to keep the knees strong. It has been a long five months. I am happy to put in the work and I won’t stop until I am definitely able to come back stronger than before.”

Noel, it must be stressed, is 19. His defensive game is first backed by his 9.5 rebounds he pulled down as a freshman at Kentucky and next by his NCAA-best 4.4 blocks a contest. But he can develop a game at the other end, and he has to in the NBA.

Noel averaged 10.5 points on 59 percent shooting from the floor in his short time with the Wildcats, but needs to expand his range and develop a post presence. He currently weighs just 219 pounds.

“I see him as a guy who every coach from high school, to coach (John) Calipari, to any coach he ever plays for will see him as a weapon defensively -- a guy that changes the game at the other end,” Sixers president and general manager Sam Hinkie said. “When a guard is looking at the rim, they look to find him next, see where he is because they know he is a guy that is going to be coming over and over and over again. I think that is the critical component of his game right now, but then there is the untapped potential.”

And that untapped potential is at the offensive end for sure. But he will have help.

On draft night, Noel was contemplating how he went from the projected top pick to sixth overall to being traded in a very short amount of time -- when the unthinkable happened and made him smile.

“At one point I went back to the green room and heard that Michael Carter-Williams got drafted [by] the Sixers as well and I say to myself, 'How could that happen?'” Noel said. “Sam is just a genius. How else could you figure something like that out? Two guys who played AAU together and have a great relationship from point guard to big man? A lot of credit goes to him for thinking about that for the foundation of this franchise moving on.”

That point guard-big man corps was the very thing that had this city ecstatic last summer when Andrew Bynum arrived and Holiday was coming into his own.

Hinkie cannot live in someone else’s past -- he must trust his own future.

Noel and Carter-Williams are definitely Hinkie’s investments and he will proceed with caution, thinking about the distant future and its longevity before caving to criticism and any short-term fixes.

That starts with planning Noel’s rehab moving forward.

“There will be someone on our staff asking the same question, probably me, every time, if what we care about the most is Nerlens' long-term health and Nerlens having a 15-year NBA career, what will we do?” Hinkie said. “I will ask that every single time.”

Opening week affects MVP odds of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid

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USA Today Images

Opening week affects MVP odds of Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid

Ben Simmons had himself a historic first week in the NBA and as a result, his MVP odds have changed substantially.

Listed by Bovada on Oct. 10 at 80/1 to win MVP, Simmons is now at 33/1, tied with DeMarcus Cousins and ahead of Marc Gasol, Blake Griffin and Damian Lillard.

Simmons became the first player since Oscar Robertson to produce at least 10 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in each of his first three career games.

Teammate Joel Embiid had a less successful start to the year, averaging 14.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists in two games but shooting just 35.5 percent from the field and missing all 10 three-point attempts.

And yet somehow, Embiid's MVP odds have changed from 40/1 to 25/1. He has the same MVP odds as Karl-Anthony Towns and Kristaps Porzingis.

Griffin, at 50/1, is a sneaky good bet for MVP. The Clippers are his team now with Chris Paul in Houston, and Griffin has added long-distance shooting to his game, making three triples in each game. Two games in, he's averaging 29.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists. 

If he can stay healthy (a huge if) and lead the Clippers to 52-plus wins in a loaded Western Conference, you'd have to think Griffin would be looked at more favorably in terms of MVP odds than someone on a star-studded team like any of the Warriors or Rockets, if Paul returns from his knee injury within a month and affects James Harden's stats even slightly. 

Giannis Antetokounpo and LeBron James look like the two players most likely to win MVP, but 50/1 for Griffin is good value if you think this is the year he stays healthy. If he didn't have a history of injuries, his odds right now would be closer to those of John Wall (28/1) or Towns (25/1).

Sixers-Pistons thoughts: Joel Embiid vs. Andre Drummond takes center stage

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Sixers-Pistons thoughts: Joel Embiid vs. Andre Drummond takes center stage

Dust yourself off and try again.

That's all the Sixers (0-3) can do as they again go for their first win of the new season. They'll get a slight break this time when they face the Pistons (2-1) at new Little Caesars Arena in Detroit (7 p.m./NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports app). It's the Sixers' first opponent in 2017-18 that didn't reach the playoffs a season ago.

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

• After resting for the second game of a back-to-back set in Saturday's 128-94 loss to the Toronto Raptors, Joel Embiid will return to the Sixers' starting lineup on Monday night.

Embiid is still finding his way offensively to start 2017-18. He is averaging 14.5 points through two games but shooting just 35.5 percent from the field and he's missed all 10 of his three-point attempts.

Those outside shots should start to dwindle in the big man's first-ever meeting with Andre Drummond and the Pistons after Embiid made it clear that he wants more touches in the post.

• We'll see if Embiid's camping out in the paint can help the Sixers even out their foul disparity.

Through three games, the Sixers are ninth in personal fouls drawn (24.3). However, they have committed a league-high 28.0 fouls per game.

That has led to opponents attempting 35.7 and making 27.7 free throws per game against the Sixers, both NBA highs.

Officials definitely have tighter whistles when a new season begins as they want to drive home points of emphasis from offseason rule changes and discussions. Still, this is a problem the Sixers need to end quickly if they want to get in the win column.

• The Pistons have been strong on the offensive end so far, scoring over 100 points in each game.

While the entire team deserves credit with five players averaging in double figures, Tobias Harris is leading the pack with some impressive scoring marks.

Harris has put up 24.3 points per game on 55.8 percent shooting from the field and an insane 47.1 percent from beyond the arc.

While Embiid's matchup with Drummond will likely take top billing heading into this contest, the real heavyweight battle could end up being between Harris and defensive ace Robert Covington.

• The Sixers managed one win in three contests against the Pistons last season. The teams split the two matchups at the Palace of Auburn Hills, which has now been replaced by the $862.9 million Little Caesars Arena. The Sixers have the opportunity to become the NBA's first visiting team to notch a win in the new arena.

Richaun Holmes (wrist) is out for the Sixers.

Dwight Buycks (hip) and Reggie Bullock (suspension) are out for the Pistons.