CAMDEN, N.J. — After rehabbing in Alabama, Nerlens Noel continued his recovery with the Sixers on Sunday and, just as importantly, spending time with the team.
Noel had been in Birmingham to rehab from surgery for localized soreness associated with inflamed plica (left knee). On Sunday, he watched film, went through physical therapy and worked on strength and conditioning with the Sixers' staff at their training complex.
“First, (I want Noel) just embracing the team aspect of everything,” Brett Brown said after practice. “To come into this and to try to draw his own line in the sand and reclaim minutes that he will want. This is going to be on a deserved basis. We have a lot of people at that spot. We will help him. I will coach him. I will put him in an environment where he can succeed and get him back in shape and integrate him with the team.”
Last season, Noel averaged 11.1 points, 8.1 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 29.3 minutes per game. Even though he is one of the most tenured members of the Sixers, Noel is coming back into a new chapter of the organization in which Joel Embiid is the centerpiece.
The Sixers are logjammed in the frontcourt, a situation that existed before Embiid returned and one that Noel spoke out about at the start of the season. Brown sees him bringing a new aspect to the bigs position that is unique from Embiid or Jahlil Okafor.
“He’s different than all of our five men,” Brown said. “He’s probably more like Richaun (Holmes) than he is anybody else. He’s an elite roller. He gets out of pick-and-rolls quick. He is a big lob guy … I think that defensively he’s very disruptive in his pick-and-roll defense. … He can make plays at the rim, he’s an elite shot blocker.
“It’s just Nerlens being Nerlens. Notice I haven’t said anything about just becoming a really reliable 18-foot jump shooter or really becoming a 90 percent free throw shooter. It’s just effort, athleticism, fitness, energy stuff.”
The Sixers have not announced a timeframe for Noel’s return. Before he is cleared to play, there is work to be done for him to get game-ready.
“Most people that I talk to talk about a few week period that’s just going to let him play basketball again,” Brown said. “After that, when he actually plays a game, I don’t know. But it’s going to take, for sure, a few weeks just to get him back, moving around and playing basketball again. I think after that base, that limited base, has been established, we can be more sort of specific of what it really means time-wise.”