Brown knows Sixers must be smart with Noel

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Brown knows Sixers must be smart with Noel

After talking with reporters for a few minutes at practice Tuesday, Sixers head coach Brett Brown, much to his surprise, hadn't been asked about Nerlens Noel.

So Brown brought up the topic himself.

“Anyone want to talk about Nerlens?” Brown said with a smile.

Less than 24 hours earlier, before the Sixers' preseason loss to Cleveland in Columbus, Ohio, Brown had revealed that he didn't expect Noel to play this season. Noel, the Sixers' prized draft-night acquisition, is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in February.

“I want to talk about Nerlens," Brown said. "Of course we want him back, but that decision is going to be made by a lot of smarter people then me. Doctors, trainers and the obvious people, and so who knows what is going to happen with Nerlens? I've gone to media training this morning before I came here, and we hope he can come back. So since you didn’t ask about Nerlens, I thought I would just bring it up."

It's a worthy topic given what Noel represents for fans this franchise: hope.

"We get it. I get it. The coaching staff, teammates -- we want to see him back," Brown said. "How can you not want to see that man back? With his bounce and size and athleticism? ... We want to see him. I get the disappointment, and so the club will make a responsible decision based on his future."

We can only hope the long season doesn’t steal Brown’s humor and his willingness to be forthcoming. The Sixers are building a reputation, and it is that they are in for a long year. Throughout this preseason various scouts and player personnel people around the league have stopped to share that sentiment.

It will be a different year for sure. Wins will be scarce. When the Sixers first decided to start from scratch by trading Jrue Holiday on draft night, fans applauded the boldness of president/general manger Sam Hinkie.

But seeing the product during the preseason -- they're 2-4 -- and learning that Noel may indeed be sidelined for the entire year has those same fans disgruntled before opening night has even arrived.

It wasn't the first time Brown said he wasn’t expecting Nerlens to participate. During Saturday's practice at the Palestra, he said as much -- but included two other teammates in his statement.

“You can carry a roster of 15. So right off the bat you start the season with four of them out,” Brown said. “Nerlens, Kwame (Brown), Arnett (Moultrie) and Jason Richardson. And there is no daylight except Kwame at some point. The other ones are done.”

The other ones are done.

Brown doesn't expect Noel, Moultrie (ankle) or Richardson (knee) to play this year.

I understand that Moultrie and Richardson being sidelined for the season resonates little with fans. I also understand the instinct to think Noel is another Andrew Bynum situation -- the acquisition of damaged goods.

Unfortunately, jumping to that conclusion is not accurate. Their injuries are different; their bodies are different; their ages are different.

And while we are on the subject of Bynum, nothing was more frustrating than the false hope that was continually put out there last season that Bynum was progressing and would soon take the court.

Maybe Bynum really did experience multiple setbacks, but it came across as a façade.

This year’s team will struggle, and even Noel can’t change that. Not as a rookie who, if they did bring him back, hasn’t played basketball in a year.

The good news is plenty of NBA players have recovered from torn ACLs: Al Jefferson, David West, Baron Davis, Jamal Crawford -- and hopefully we are seeing the same for Derrick Rose.

Noel’s time will come to join that list, but like those who recovered before him, the timetable is lengthy and has its stages.

Be patient.

Sixers-Bucks 5 things: Joel Embiid back to face the 'Greek Freak'

Sixers-Bucks 5 things: Joel Embiid back to face the 'Greek Freak'

Sixers at Bucks
3:30 p.m. - CSN/CSNPhilly.com/streaming live on the NBCSports App

The Sixers (12-26) look to get back in the win column when they face the Milwaukee Bucks (20-19) at the Bradley Center in a Martin Luther King Day matinee.

Let's take a closer look at Monday afternoon's matchup:

1. Back on the Embiid express
The Sixers have started to show flashes of coming together and finally turning the corner on their massive rebuild. However, they are nowhere near the point that they can remove the biggest piece of the puzzle and still expect to win games.

The Sixers found that out again on Saturday night, as they were pummeled during the second half of a 109-93 loss to the Washington Wizards with Joel Embiid sidelined for rest.

The team didn't want to use the rookie phenom's absence as an excuse, but it was clear his presence was missed.

“We didn’t have that extra oomph,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said after the loss. “Obviously, the omission of Joel Embiid clearly is impactful, but that’s the challenge. We just didn’t have it tonight.”

Embiid and his 19.6 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.3 blocks per game will be back in the lineup against the Bucks.

2. Freak of nature
The Sixers won't be the only squad with a star in the making on the court Monday afternoon.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has shown plenty of potential since he was selected by the Bucks 15th overall in the 2013 draft (Anthony Bennett, who was recently released by the Brooklyn Nets, was taken No. 1 overall that year, for those of you keeping track at home). But the man known as "The Greek Freak" has taken his game to new heights this season.

Antetokounmpo is averaging 23.4 points on 53.5 percent shooting in addition to 8.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, 2.0 blocks and 1.8 steals per game this season - all career highs. He's also coming off a 33-point, eight-rebound and six-assist performance in the Bucks' 111-98 loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Sunday.

With Antetokounmpo playing point guard full time now and the Bucks' starting five boasting players all above 6-foot-7, it's hard to determine how the Sixers will match up on defense. Whatever the plan is to slow down "The Greek Freak," it will have to be a total team effort.

3. Protect the paint
All of that size and athleticism for the Bucks is a big reason they attack the rim so much. Milwaukee is tied with Oklahoma City for the league lead in points in the paint with 50.6 per game.

The Sixers were dominated on the low block for 54 points by the Wizards on Saturday with Embiid out. For the season, they rank 14th in the league in points in the paint allowed at 42.3 a night.

One thing that might help the Sixers is their shot blocking. They swat 5.6 shots a game (sixth in the NBA), which could deter some of those romps to the rim by the Bucks.

4. Injuries
T.J. McConnell (right wrist), Ben Simmons (foot) and Jerryd Bayless (wrist) are out for the Sixers.

Khris Middleton (hamstring) is out for the Bucks.

5. This and that
• The Sixers have lost 12 of their last 14 games to the Bucks.

• Ersan Ilyasova spent the first seven seasons of his NBA career with the Bucks (see story on his return to Milwaukee). This will mark the fourth time he has faced his former team.

• Jabari Parker, selected No. 2 overall in the 2014 NBA draft right before Embiid, has emerged this season with 20.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game.

Sixers' T.J. McConnell (sprained right wrist) out Monday vs. Bucks

Sixers' T.J. McConnell (sprained right wrist) out Monday vs. Bucks

The Sixers will get Joel Embiid back in the lineup when they meet the Bucks on Monday afternoon in Milwaukee, but they'll be without their starting point guard.

T.J. McConnell will miss Monday's game with a sprained right wrist suffered in Saturday night's loss to the Wizards in D.C., the Sixers announced Monday morning.

McConnell reportedly did not travel with the team to Milwaukee and is back home in Philadelphia.

The 24-year-old McConnell has been a presence this season for a Sixers team that desperately needed something from the point guard spot. In 38 games this season, McConnell has averaged 4.8 points, 5.8 points and 4.8 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists a night in an average of 22.3 minutes a game.

The highlight of McConnell's season, of course, came last week when he nailed the game-winning shot at the buzzer to give the Sixers a 98-97 victory over the Knicks.

Sergio Rodriguez is expected to start in McConnell's place Monday against the Bucks.