No timeline, but 'limited on-court work' for Nerlens Noel

No timeline, but 'limited on-court work' for Nerlens Noel

January 15, 2014, 6:00 pm
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Sixers head coach Brett Brown said Wednesday that no "definitive timeline" has been established for Nerlens Noel's return. (AP)

Statement on Noel

The Sixers on Wednesday evening released the following statement from GM Sam Hinkie on the status of Nerlens Noel:

“Since his arrival in Philadelphia, Nerlens' capacity for work both in his rehab and in our weight room has been incredible. Our sports performance and training staff have been extremely complimentary of his efforts thus far during this methodical rehab process.

"After careful consideration and numerous discussions with our medical and performance teams, the consulting physician and rehabilitation staff, and Nerlens' representatives, some of the restrictions on Nerlens have been lifted and he is now able to participate in limited on-court work.

"There are several benchmarks Nerlens still must meet, and during that time we will closely monitor his progress and regularly evaluate his status. Our goal remains the same, which is to give Nerlens every opportunity to ensure a long, productive NBA career."

Updated: 8:45 p.m.

Before Wednesday’s game against the Charlotte Bobcats at the Wells Fargo Center, Sixers head coach Brett Brown refuted a report that a timeline has been established for Nerlens Noel to return. The 19-year-old rookie is recovering from an ACL injury and has yet to play this season.

During Wednesday's game, Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie released a statement (see box) indicating that Noel is ready for "limited on-court work." 

When Noel will be ready for unlimited on-court work remains uncertain.

“When it does become real, we’ll be more than transparent with his progress and his timeline,” Brown said. “There’s nothing clandestine going on. There’s no conspiracy theories flying around. It’s very clear that he’s moving forward. But timelines and that type of timeline, we don’t see it like that.”

On Wednesday, ESPN reported that Dr. James Andrews cleared Noel to resume basketball-related activities. The piece said the rookie center visited Andrews in Florida last week and that, barring a setback, Noel could play in his first professional game following the All-Star Break. That would put the timetable for his return somewhere in the four-to-six week range.

“There are some things that have been lifted, in relation to only being able to shoot one-handed with him, but there are so many different layers to this,” Brown said. “To get all excited now about a timeline that has been put out would be not a wise thing to do. He’s got to tick a lot more boxes. He’s progressing well. But there really isn’t a definitive timeline.”

Hinkie's statement echoed Brown's evaluation and further clarified Noel's status. Hinkie said "some of the restrictions on Nerlens have been lifted" and that Noel "is now able to participate in limited on-court work." Noel also still must meet "several benchmarks," and the team will "closely monitor his progress."

Noel, who tore his ACL last February while playing for the Kentucky Wildcats, was selected by the Sixers with the sixth overall pick in the 2013 NBA draft. The 6-foot-11 Noel has reportedly added between 10-15 pounds to his frame since then and currently weighs 228 pounds.

Noel often spends time shooting on the court prior to Sixers home games at the Wells Fargo Center. Earlier this week, his rehabilitation also included some one-on-one against Sixers assistant coach Greg Foster. It was the first time since injuring his knee that Noel played one-on-one -- though Brown called it “shadow one-on-one” that was “nothing serious.”

If the Sixers insist there’s no established timeline for Noel to return, does Brown expect Noel to play this season?

“I really don’t know,” Brown said. “I really don’t know. He’s ticking boxes at a rate that we had hoped. He’s moving there. But to project anything or guess anything, that’s all I’d be doing -- taking a wild-shot guess. We’ll keep everybody in the loop and keep it wide-open and very transparent. But at this stage, it’s just only really fair to say he’s doing well. He’s moving forward.”

Brown said Noel’s rehab will include work on jump hooks and turn-and-face shots next week.

“We’ll watch how quick he is,” Brown said. “He’s so explosive. He has such a quick first step and jumps quick and can jump twice. You look at the great shot blockers, they can hit a floor and go back up. Jumping twice is a hard thing to do. We’ll just beat up on all those types of things. That’s really as honest as I can be now, and that’s exclusively from a coaching standpoint.”