Nerlens Noel has been sidelined all season to rehabilitate his surgically repaired left knee. Many Philadelphia 76ers fans want to know if he will attempt to play at all this season.
One thing that Sixers fans have to realize is that it is not up to Noel to decide whether or not he is ready to step on the court. A committee will decide when the rookie is healthy enough to participate in basketball activities that include contact. There is no point to rush him back on the court and risk worsening his knee or potentially causing another injury because he is not fully recovered.
The 76ers rookie originally was expected to need 10 months of recovery and rehabilitation because of the anterior ligament tear he suffered during his lone season at Kentucky.
Philadelphia fans are eager to see what the 6-foot-11 center can bring to the table, but what’s the point? If there was a blueprint for tanking without jeopardizing integrity, general manager Sam Hinkie has found it. Philadelphia should think of this 82-game season as the final five minutes of a blowout. You don’t take any chances when there’s no benefit to gain.
One of the only benefits of playing Noel would be a few more ticket sales for a team that could eclipse its own NBA futility record of 9-73 it set in the 1972-73 season.
Human nature makes playing this season a chancy temptation. At this time, Noel is an underdeveloped 228-pounder who must compete against physically mature post players. If he comes back too early, it could potentially stunt his growth.
He needs to take this time and gain some weight. Noel also needs time to feel good about his knee and understand what it takes to be an elite player in the NBA. And that’s important in Philadelphia, where centers are expected to dominate either offensively or defensively.
There’s no need for Noel to be in a hurry to get back on the floor. Brett Brown is already prepping him for when he does return by constantly going over floor spreads and various offense strategies they will use when he does return. Hopefully he emerges not as a center but one of the league’s best four men.
I look forward to seeing Noel play in the Orlando Pro Summer League next year, fully expecting that to be the first time seeing him as a professional. Noel turns 20 years old in April. He has plenty of time ahead of him and it would serve him best to spend it healthy rather than going back on the shelf.
The franchise will have two first-round picks and substantial cap space next summer that will enable it to build around Noel the next several seasons. He and rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams may be this team’s only holdovers three years from now.
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