76ers

Noel on return: 'Going to be something special'

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Noel on return: 'Going to be something special'

The Sixers are in a strong position to add key pieces to their rebuilding roster with the Nos. 3 and 10 picks in the first round of next week's NBA draft.

The team's front office is doing all of its homework on which players to take with the club's seven total picks, particularly now that center Joel Embiid's injury has likely changed things at the very top of the draft.

Players currently on the roster are also interested in which new faces will be joining the fold, but first and foremost the attention is on taking care of their own craft. That's especially the case for Nerlens Noel, the No. 6 pick a season ago, who is sharpening his game to finally take the court as a Sixer when the team opens up summer league action next month.

"When I step back on that court it's really going to be something special," Noel said at a youth basketball camp in Lexington, Kentucky. "I've been 100 percent for a while now. I've been working on everything, every part of my game. Just continuing to get better, add size and strength and just continue to improve my game."

Noel has reason to be eager to get on the floor after missing the entire 2013-14 season while rehabbing a torn left ACL suffered during his lone season at the University of Kentucky. The time was also spent reconfiguring the 20-year-old center's shot under the tutelage of Sixers head coach Brett Brown and getting acclimated to NBA life.

Still, Noel explained there is no replacement for taking part in actual live games.

"Probably been the toughest part of my life," he said. "Just not being able to play the game I love. Just coming back from this I've learned not to take things for granted."

Noel will finally get the first chance to start putting his injury behind him when the Sixers begin play in the Orlando Pro Summer League on July 5 against the host Magic.

Sixers refuse to look at silver linings from season-opening loss

Sixers refuse to look at silver linings from season-opening loss

BOX SCORE

WASHINGTON — In years past, overcoming a 12-point deficit and trailing a playoff-contending team by just two points with a minute to go would be considered an “A for effort” for the Sixers

If they held their own against a more experienced team and didn’t get dominated by John Wall, a 120-115 loss on the road wasn’t really that bad … was it?

Not this season.

The Sixers are in a new phase, one with actual pieces versus promising potential. With that comes higher expectations to win, and it starts in the locker room after the first game. 

“I don’t like taking positives from losses,” JJ Redick said. “We need to clean up a lot of stuff. We need to be better. It takes a lot to win in this league. We need to figure that out, and we will. We are good enough to do that.” 

The Sixers were in the game until the end (see observations). They withstood the combined 53 points from Wall and Bradley Beal with a 29-point performance by Robert Covington and double-doubles from Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. 

The team acknowledged it had a chance to win. Yes, there were encouraging moments. No, they weren’t hanging their heads and writing off the season after opening night. 

At the same time, they are not ignoring the missteps that landed them in the loss column. Those are the turning points to learn from this season. 

The Sixers gave up just three points off four turnovers in the first half. The second half was a different story: 20 points off 13 turnovers. Down two points late in the fourth, the Sixers committed a pair of turnovers in a span of 30 seconds that hindered them from closing the gap. Those errors have been a focal point of conversation among the players. 

“Too many turnovers. That's big,” Embiid said. “That's been the talk in the locker room. Got to work on that.”

The Sixers have one day of practice before facing the Celtics and Raptors in back to back games. It's just a small taste of what's to come in a stacked schedule over the first two months of the season. The attitude is be good enough to win, not good enough to compete. 

“We’re not going to try to lose this season and take a bunch of positives from that,” Redick said. “We’re trying to win. We’re trying to be in the playoffs this year. That’s got to be the mindset.”

Joel Embiid 'surprised' by amount of playing time in Sixers' opener

Joel Embiid 'surprised' by amount of playing time in Sixers' opener

WASHINGTON — In the end, Joel Embiid’s playing time was a non-issue.

After days of frustration leading up to opening night, Embiid played just three seconds shy of 27 minutes against the Wizards. That far surpassed the 16 minutes he anticipated a day earlier on Tuesday (see story)

“I was surprised,” Embiid said following the Sixers’ 120-115 loss on Wednesday night (see observations). “I was expecting way less than that, but it just shows you they trust me.”

Brett Brown had maintained Embiid’s minutes were going to be more flexible than last year and he wasn’t locked into a specific number by the medical staff. Initially, Brown projected Embiid would play somewhere in the teens, but the game presented an opportunity for him to log more. 

Embiid had played 21:38 through three quarters and it seemed, based on last season, he was done for the night. The coaching staff calculated Embiid had over 20 minutes to rest between the third and the fourth quarters, so Brown put him back into the game with just over five minutes to play. He finished the game with 18 points, 13 rebounds, three assists, a block and four turnovers. 

“It’s a range,” Brown said. “It’s more of a plan that we have this year than a restriction. When you look at and you feel the flow of the game, that’s where the variables come in.”

Embiid wants open lines of communication between him and the medical staff — for him to know what its planning and for him to be honest about how he is feeling.

“It’s on me to not lie to them and tell them how my body feels when I’m tired,” Embiid said. “At some point through the game I was tired and I told them to take me out.”

Embiid is ready for a new outlook on his availability moving forward. 

“We’ve got to stop calling it 'minutes restrictions,'" Embiid said. "There’s a plan with that — it’s just go out and play. If you’re tired, get out because injuries happen more often when you’re tired.”