Noel hits ground running in Sixers summer debut

Noel hits ground running in Sixers summer debut
July 5, 2014, 6:00 pm
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Nerlens Noel scored a game-high 19 points and went 7 for 7 from the line in his Sixers summer league debut. (Dei Lynam/CSNPhilly)

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Nerlens Noel did not disappoint in his professional debut.

The Sixers' center scored 19 points and added two rebounds, four steals and three assists in the team's summer league opener, an 83-77 loss to the Magic at the Amway Center.

"I was nervous in the beginning, but I seem to play a little better when I am anxious," Noel said. "I have to keep working on my stamina and conditioning so I can be more active with rebounds and continue operating for my team."

Noel played 26 minutes. He impressed from the opening tip, which he won. He then instantly sprinted to the basket, made a great cut down the lane and finished with a dunk on an assist from Travis Bader (watch Noel's highlights).

"It was great to see him out there," said Sixers assistant coach Lloyd Pierce, who is coaching the team's games in Orlando.

"Anytime you are in a position like Nerlens was and you can get a dunk to start the game, it settles you instantly. It wasn't by design. It fell in his hands. He made a great play. It relaxed all of us and it relaxed him."

Noel saw his first action on the hardwood in 18 months following knee surgery.

"That definitely calmed my jitters and set the tone for the game," Noel said of his dunk. "I was confident. I stepped to the free-throw line and knocked all of them down. I was feeling it."

Making all seven of his free-throw attempts was especially satisfying given the work Noel and the coaching staff put into improving his shooting mechanics throughout last season.

Noel came to the Sixers a 52.9 percent free-throw shooter in his lone season at Kentucky.

"I have worked very hard on my free throws through this past week," Noel said. "Even yesterday, I shot 40 free throws and made 33. I was feeling great coming into today."

"I remember (general manager) Sam (Hinkie) saying work on 60 percent. I told Sam I would surpass that. I worked as hard as I could to shoot a lot better than 60 percent. It is going to take time, but working hard helps."

Noel was one of three Sixers scoring in double figures. Casper Ware scored 16 points, and Ronald Roberts Jr. added 12.

Hollis Thompson was the team's leading rebounder with 14 boards.

The Sixers play their next game Sunday against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Whether Noel plays in that game is to be determined.

"Obviously there are a couple guys ahead of me that make those decisions," Pierce said, smiling. "We will talk and see what the schedule for Nerlens will be, not only for tomorrow but every game."

The guys ahead of Pierce include Hinkie and head coach Brett Brown. Both men are with the team.

"We are going to be cautious and smart," Pierce said. "As well as [Noel] played today, we are still going to be smart with the rest of the summer."

"I don't have many limitations, but we will be diligent," Noel said. "This being my first game, I want to see how I feel tomorrow. I am pretty sure I will feel good. We will just keep it going."

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