Brett Brown: Nerlens Noel likely out for season

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Brett Brown: Nerlens Noel likely out for season

COLUMBUS, Ohio – In an odd and unexpected moment of candor, Sixers coach Brett Brown dropped a bombshell.

Nerlens Noel, the team's prized draft-night acquisition, probably won't play this season. He has been recovering from a torn ACL suffered Feb. 12 while playing for Kentucky.

Brown revealed the news nearing the end of a routine pregame interview when a reporter asked about Noel’s progress.

"Slow,” Brown said before the Sixers' preseason game against Cleveland. "I doubt, I think everybody doubts he is going to play this year. But he is with us in every way in terms of practices and shoot-around, film session. It is a classroom opportunity for him to learn [about] me and the NBA. We don’t want to waste this year.”

That said, this is not an official annoncement. Brown did offer a bit of hope that Noel could be play -- in part because it is possible and in part because it's Brown’s gut feeling.

“It most definitely was not the plan all along, and I think it is a work in progress,” Brown said. “It was a decision I thought was going to be made, but nobody ever said to me that this is a definite. I think everybody is expecting it to be a definite decision, but even now as we speak no one has said that this is 100 percent certainty.”

Brown appears certain that Noel's game will improve over the next year. The 19-year-old is often seen shooting free throws after practice or even taking on his coach in a game of Horse.

“This has been an opportunity to break down his shot, really work on his free throw and start a little bit from ground zero,” Brown said. “He has bought in. He’s been great. On my staff we have Greg Foster, who played 13 years as an NBA big, so he can pay attention to him. Although we won’t see him on the court, I feel a little bit better about his path with him being with us.”

Considered the likely top pick in this year's draft, Noel was drafted sixth by New Orleans and traded to the Sixers, who parted with Jrue Holiday but also received a protected, top-five, 2014 first-round pick.

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers lost Jahlil Okafor for the final 23 games last season because of a small meniscus tear in his right knee. Now they are being cautious as he prepares for his second year.

As part of the Sixers’ prescheduled load management for Okafor, he participated in a portion of practice and then worked out individually with head strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright.

“They just told me to relax once I did what they wanted me to do today,” Okafor said. “I was off to the sidelines. I feel fine. I’ll be good tomorrow.”

Okafor learned during his first NBA season that he should speak more openly with the staff about his body.

“Communication is key,” he said. “I think last year I didn’t really communicate how I was feeling, so I wasn’t able to get the help I needed.”

The team held three practice sessions in the first two days of training camp. Okafor said he knew the Sixers would be cautious with his workload. He is poised to improve upon his rookie year in which he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 53 games last season.

“I’m 100 percent healthy,” he said. “I’m all good.”

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- With Joel Embiid's excitement to be on the court following two years of injuries comes the reality of his lengthy setback.

Embiid is participating in his first NBA training camp this week. While he has impressed with his natural abilities and improved skills, Embiid is facing challenges as he gets accustomed to the league.

"Everything is kind of off right now as far as catching the ball or shooting," Embiid said after practice Wednesday. "I've still got to get in the flow of the game."

Embiid has yet to play since being drafted in 2014. For the past two years he has worked out individually and in controlled settings. Practices, even in training camp, are different. 

"You see all the time when you realize he hasn't played basketball for a long time," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. "He's trying to gather his feet and find his balance, he's trying to figure out stuff in real time speed on defensive assignments and rotations."

On Wednesday, Embiid went through practice without any minute restrictions and was feeling healthier from the cold and virus he had been battling (see story). Teammates have praised his physical presence and eagerness to compete. He makes an impact with his 7-foot-2 presence alone, but there is more he wants to improve. 

Embiid is adjusting to the speed of the game. He has been facing challenges with getting the ball in the post and spoke to the coaches about his frustrations. The staff explained they are focusing on pick-and-roll defense and getting out to run during training camp, but he will get that desired location in game situations. 

“You continue to see the size of Joel Embiid,” Brown said. “He's a big man and he's got a mindset to back up his physical gifts. He really wants the ball. He wants to get deep catches. He wants to dunk on people.”

Embiid always has been realistic about his transition to his rookie season. He has pointed out many times that he is a fast learner, and is anxious to soak up new knowledge and apply it to the court.

"It's really frustrating," he said. "But like I've said, you've got to trust the process, which I've been doing."