Nerlens Noel says he's 'too good to be playing eight minutes' for Sixers
Things are starting to turn for the team that relied on future optimism for so long
Nerlens Noel is back for the Philadelphia 76ers after months of rehab from injury, so now things will be better for the 6-19 Sixers, right?
Yeah, about that.
Noel has made it clear for some time that there's just not enough room for him, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid on the same team. He said in September that it was "silly" to have all three of them on the roster, when they all need minutes at center, and Noel struggled so much next to Okafor last year.
But after the Sixers' 100-89 loss to the Lakers on Friday night, Noel's frustration seems to be reaching a boiling point. Noel played just eight minutes while Embiid played 28 and Okafor just under 24. Noel finished with two points on 1-of-4 shooting and five rebounds. He sounded off to reporters after the game.
"I'm too good to be playing eight minutes," Noel said. "We need to figure this s--- out."
Coach Brett Brown said after the game it was about Noel's injury and matchups.
"When they started going [small], something had to give," head coach Brett Brown said, referring to his second half adjustment. "Nerlens was a casualty to that, as well as his health is not 100 percent."
Noel's quotes are going to get the most attention, as they should. That's a visibly frustrated young stud center who is stuck in a logjam. However, there are two other quotes you should notice.
From that same Philadelphia Magazine piece, here's Noel:
"I think there's too much on the coach's plate," Noel said. "[But] the guys that run the operations, they do what they do."
"We've got a lot to work on to be able to play together," Joel Embiid said about his pairing with Okafor. "I thought we had a bad defensive game. I'm the type of guy, if I play defense, I want everybody around me to do the same. I think the whole team needs to do a better job, especially when coach wants to play [Okafor] and I at the same time.
"I think the offense is kind of too focused on the post play instead of just playing basketball," Embiid went on to say.
That's two star players for the Sixers saying that there are issues with the coaching. It's not throwing Brown under the bus, by any means, but after years of the happy-go-losing Sixers being 100 percent supportive of Brown, who seems like a really good coach trapped with the worst roster maybe in NBA history, there are some cracks in the facade. The Sixers either must find a way to make a deal to clear up the center rotation and get Brown some more help, or things are only going to get worse.
The problem is that the Sixers can't get anything for Noel. Here's what Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski said about the problem on a podcast this week:
"The research teams have done on him is not good. They don't get good reports back on their intel, how he's carried himself there, of his habits. It's not a great return. There are teams willing to do a deal for him and bring him in, but they don't want to give up much. And so at some point there, Philly has got to make a decision, 'What's the best we can get for him?' I think at some point he probably moves, too."
The Sixers' best hope is that they can get a team that's also in a tailspin to take a gamble on Noel. The research Wojnarowski alludes to aren't secrets. The word has been out for some time that Noel has maturity issues, with the house he allegedly destroyed being cited as an example. That doesn't mean that he's untouchable, Noel's far from the first player to carry that kind of baggage, and desperation will make a GM overlook nearly anything.
But getting the kind of return the Sixers would want back for Noel, whom they traded often-injured but very talented point guard Jrue Holiday for, will be difficult.
The Sixers were a fascinating experiment for three years under Sam Hinkie. Now they're starting to turn into a team with more problems than upside, despite the promise of Embiid and No.1 pick Ben Simmons, who is scheduled to finally begin his career in January.
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