Nerlens Noel Will Make Season Debut Sunday Against the Pistons
Philadelphia 76ers center Nerlens Noel will make his season debut Sunday against the Detroit Pistons, head coach Brett Brown told members of the media earlier this afternoon.
Noel had surgery on October 24th to repair an inflamed plica above his left knee, an injury that had been troubling the fourth-year center for much of the preseason. Noel hasn’t played since October 4th, when the Sixers opened up the preseason against the Boston Celtics.
Noel spent the first few weeks of his rehabilitation in Alabama, where he trained with Kevin Wilk of Champion Sports Medicine. Noel had previously trained with Wilk when undergoing rehabilitation to return from the torn anterior cruciate ligament he suffered in college.
Earlier in the season, Noel voiced his frustration over the abundance of centers the Sixers have in their frontcourt, which includes Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor, and Richaun Holmes in addition to Noel. He reiterated his stance last week when he pointed out that “I don’t think the roster’s changed’.
Noel averaged 11.1 points, 8.1 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.8 steals, and 1.5 blocks per game last season for the Sixers. His return could help booster a second unit that has been struggling to compete defensively when Joel Embiid has been off the floor. The Sixers allow the opponent to shoot 46.8 percent from the field and score 109.4 points per 100 possessions when Embiid’s on the bench, which would be the lowest defensive rating in the league.
Brown said Noel will come off the bench in tomorrow’s game and will not have a predefined minutes restriction.
In other injury news, starting center Joel Embiid will not play because of elbow inflammation he suffered in Thursday’s 99-88 victory over the New Orleans Pelicans. Brown said the decision is precautionary, and he doesn’t expect Embiid to miss more than one game because of the injury.
In addition, Brown said that Jahlil Okafor is also available to play. Okafor missed the previous three games because of an illness.
Derek Bodner covers the 76ers for Philadelphia magazine. Follow @DerekBodnerNBA on Twitter.