Nerlens Noel practices with D-league 87ers, but future with Sixers still unclear

Nerlens Noel practiced with the Delaware 87ers, the Philadelphia 76ers' NBA D-League affiliate, on Wednesday, and he will rejoin the Sixers on Thursday, according to the team. This was part of the center's ongoing left knee rehabilitation -- Noel had "minor" knee surgery in October, and has not played since Philadelphia's preseason opener on Oct. 4.

The Sixers did the same thing with Jerryd Bayless a couple of weeks ago -- the guard went to Delaware as he was in the final phase of rehab for his left wrist injury on Nov. 14, and then he made his season debut on Nov. 21. This would seem to suggest that Noel will be back on the court with Philadelphia at some point in the near future.

Nerlens Noel in the preseason
Nerlens Noel is on the road to recovery. USATSI

Simply seeing Noel suiting up for the Sixers again will be a surprise for some people. On the eve of media day, he said their front court logjam is "silly" and "doesn't make any sense." Trade rumors have swirled around Noel since last summer, and just last week, ESPN's Marc Stein reported that, "He'd still prefer to be shipped to a new address." The front office, however, has been unable to find an acceptable deal.

In the absence of Noel and rookie Ben Simmons, who is sidelined with a broken foot, Philadelphia's front court minutes have been split among Joel Embiid, Ersan Ilyasova, Jahlil Okafor, Dario Saric and Richaun Holmes. If Noel is available to play in the near future, then coach Brett Brown will have to get creative to find playing time. If Noel wants to elevate his trade value, he'll need to produce with efficiency in a less-than-ideal situation.

Noel's rookie contract expires at the end of the season, at which point he will be a restricted free agent.

CBS Sports Writer

James Herbert is somewhat fond of basketball, feature writing and understatements. A former season-ticket holder for the expansion Toronto Raptors, Herbert does not think the NBA was better back in the... Full Bio

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