The Sixers have several key players out right now. No. 1 pick Ben Simmons is out until January at least, Jerryd Bayless is just now starting his rehab stint in the D-League, and Nerlens Noel has finally returned to the team after undergoing knee surgery in October. reports that Noel met with coach Brett Brown to discuss the plan for his reintegration to the squad:

"I'm not able right now to lay out the perfect road map to everybody," Brown said. "But it was a great conversation. It was good to see him as we always do with our players and me with Nerlens. I've been with him a long time. It's very clear and candid what his role and what's going to happen. How are we going to try to make it work."

Source: Noel meets with Sixers coach.

That is some carefully-worded language right there. There are a number of issues along the way. There's a concern in NBA circles about Noel's maturity which may have complicated his trade value. Noel struggled at power forward last year, and won't be starting over Joel Embiid at center. He won't be starting at power forward, either, once Simmons returns.

Nerlens Noel looks upset
Nerlens Noel is returning to the Sixers. USATSI

Noel was once thought to be the franchise's future, but that looks less and less likely. He's been on the trade block for some time and that was before the nasty business with that rental home.

But on the other hand, NBA careers are not linear paths. There are turns. If Noel comes back in shape, fully healthy and excels next to Embiid for stretches before and after Simmons returns, there's no reason he can't still be a key part of Philadelphia's plan (not to be confused with the Process). He has incredible talent and had an amazing rookie season. There's a lot of basketball left for Noel. The first step is getting him back on the court so his career can play itself out, whatever that entails.