Formally introduced Noel calls Hinkie a 'genius'


Formally introduced Noel calls Hinkie a 'genius'

We are learning from the new Sixers regime that patience is essential.

Tuesday, Nerlens Noel was formally introduced as a 76er almost a month after the team acquired him in a draft-night trade. The 19-year-old, 6-foot-11 center, whom the Sixers had to part with Jrue Holiday to get, has defensive skills that, if he reaches his potential, could be a game-changer.

At the press conference, the young man was dressed to the nines and forthcoming, answering questions about his surgically-repaired left knee and the prospects of tough times before what the Sixers hope is a bright future for him and the franchise.

“I just started doing layups,” Noel said of his current state of rehabilitation. His torn ACL was repaired in mid-February, and his projected timeline to getting back playing basketball looks to be around Christmas time or later.

“I run up and down the court,” Noel continued. “I do Ultra-G for cardio, squatting. I am really just doing a lot of rigorous exercise to build up my core and my hips so that injury prevention is less when I come back because I have stronger muscles around to keep the knees strong. It has been a long five months. I am happy to put in the work and I won’t stop until I am definitely able to come back stronger than before.”

Noel, it must be stressed, is 19. His defensive game is first backed by his 9.5 rebounds he pulled down as a freshman at Kentucky and next by his NCAA-best 4.4 blocks a contest. But he can develop a game at the other end, and he has to in the NBA.

Noel averaged 10.5 points on 59 percent shooting from the floor in his short time with the Wildcats, but needs to expand his range and develop a post presence. He currently weighs just 219 pounds.

“I see him as a guy who every coach from high school, to coach (John) Calipari, to any coach he ever plays for will see him as a weapon defensively -- a guy that changes the game at the other end,” Sixers president and general manager Sam Hinkie said. “When a guard is looking at the rim, they look to find him next, see where he is because they know he is a guy that is going to be coming over and over and over again. I think that is the critical component of his game right now, but then there is the untapped potential.”

And that untapped potential is at the offensive end for sure. But he will have help.

On draft night, Noel was contemplating how he went from the projected top pick to sixth overall to being traded in a very short amount of time -- when the unthinkable happened and made him smile.

“At one point I went back to the green room and heard that Michael Carter-Williams got drafted [by] the Sixers as well and I say to myself, 'How could that happen?'” Noel said. “Sam is just a genius. How else could you figure something like that out? Two guys who played AAU together and have a great relationship from point guard to big man? A lot of credit goes to him for thinking about that for the foundation of this franchise moving on.”

That point guard-big man corps was the very thing that had this city ecstatic last summer when Andrew Bynum arrived and Holiday was coming into his own.

Hinkie cannot live in someone else’s past -- he must trust his own future.

Noel and Carter-Williams are definitely Hinkie’s investments and he will proceed with caution, thinking about the distant future and its longevity before caving to criticism and any short-term fixes.

That starts with planning Noel’s rehab moving forward.

“There will be someone on our staff asking the same question, probably me, every time, if what we care about the most is Nerlens' long-term health and Nerlens having a 15-year NBA career, what will we do?” Hinkie said. “I will ask that every single time.”

Best of NBA: Cavs roll after getting rings; Warriors blown out

Best of NBA: Cavs roll after getting rings; Warriors blown out

CLEVELAND -- LeBron James had his 43rd career triple-double, Kyrie Irving scored 29 points and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who raised their championship banner before the game, beat the New York Knicks 117-88 on Tuesday night in the NBA season opener.

James scored 19 points and added 11 rebounds and 14 assists in front of a raucous home crowd that was on its feet from the pregame ceremony until late in the game, celebrating the city's first championship in 52 years.

James, who spoke to the crowd before the game, continued his perfect record on ring nights. He was 2-0 when the Miami Heat players were presented with their championship rings.

Irving scored 19 points in the third quarter, when Cleveland used a 20-4 run to take a 74-53 lead. Kevin Love scored 23 for the Cavaliers.

Carmelo Anthony led New York with 19 points and Derrick Rose had 17 (see full recap).

Leonard, Spurs blow out Warriors in Durant's debut
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Kawhi Leonard scored a career-high 35 points and the San Antonio Spurs emphatically spoiled Kevin Durant's long-awaited Warriors debut Tuesday with a 129-100 rout that sent Golden State fans for the exits early on opening night.

Durant had 27 points and 10 rebounds, but little looked in sync for MVP Stephen Curry and the reigning Western Conference champions in a forgettable first game -- and quite a different one after the Warriors dominated at home and came out of the blocks last season with a record 24-0 start.

Leonard scored 31 points by the end of the third, LaMarcus Aldridge added 26 points and 14 rebounds and Gregg Popovich thoroughly outdid a couple of his close friends on the opposite bench in reigning NBA Coach of the Year Steve Kerr and top assistant Mike Brown (see full recap).

Yes, San Antonio sent quite a message to the West.

Blazers win 16th straight home opener
PORTLAND, Ore. -- Damian Lillard scored 39 points and the Portland Trail Blazers extended their winning streak in home openers to a league-record 16 straight games with a 113-104 victory over the Utah Jazz on Tuesday night.

CJ McCollum added 25 points for the Blazers, who trailed 83-77 at the start of the fourth quarter. They were still down 102-99 with under 5 minutes left before McCollum made a pull-up jumper and 3-pointer to give Portland a 104-102 lead.

Lillard made a pair of free throws before nailing a 3-pointer that put Portland up 109-102 with 1:02 left and the Jazz couldn't catch up.

Joe Johnson scored 29 points in his debut with the Jazz and Rodney Hood added 26, including a rim-rattling dunk in the third quarter (see full recap).

Nerlens Noel undergoes surgery on sore left knee

Nerlens Noel undergoes surgery on sore left knee

Nerlens Noel has had surgery on his sore left knee, and the Sixers have not disclosed a timetable for the disgruntled center's return.

Noel has been out since the team's first preseason game. He initially had a left groin strain before experiencing soreness in the knee during rehab, and it was discovered he had an inflamed plica. 

The team is calling the surgery a "minor elective arthroscopic procedure." It was performed in New York by Dr. Riley J. Williams at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

Noel eventually will travel to Birmingham, Ala. to rehab with associate clinical director Kevin Wilk at Champion Sports Medicine.

The Sixers expect to have a timetable for his return once Noel returns to Philadelphia. According to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Noel is expected to miss three to five weeks. 

This has been a rough preseason for Noel, who hasn't hidden his displeasure with his role on the Sixers' jammed frontcourt. The team has until Oct. 31 to extend his rookie contract but, per a report in the Inquirer earlier this month, the two sides have yet to discuss it.