Noel increases rehab activity, dunking off rolls

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Noel increases rehab activity, dunking off rolls

To some it might be considered a tease. To the Sixers it was just the next step in a grueling rehab process.

Nerlens Noel spent time on Thursday working against assistant coach Greg Foster in the half court, rolling to the basket and catching the ball before throwing down a dunk.

“I think the message is two-fold,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. “You would be as excited as I am to project out what could be in Nerlens Noel. But don’t get tricked. There is a long ways to go and when it happens is anybody’s guess right now.”

Noel, the 6-foot-11 rookie who was selected sixth overall last June, is working his way back on the hardwood following ACL surgery almost a year ago. The moves he was displaying on Thursday were an increase in activity.

“He is going a little harder,” Brown said. “He is going against a little bit more weight, so yes that is an upgrade from what he has been doing,”

“The stuff you are seeing is slow and shadowboxing. He is not feeling bodies or making sharp cuts. When he gets medically able to do that, cleared to do that, then you start going five-on-zero, one-on-one, five-on-five and up and down.”

The team will not say if Noel is out for the entire season. The Sixers have 32 games remaining, but there is still a long checklist ahead of Noel before he would make his NBA debut.

Whenever he does get back on the court, the Sixers know what they will be getting in Noel. He is definitely a rim protector. That was shown when he blocked 4.4 shots a game during his lone season at the University of Kentucky.

The Sixers believe that will be the first part of Noel’s skill set to resurface when he does play in a game.

“Athletically what he can do, how he gets from point A to point B, how he gets up and down and the fact that he can do it twice,” Brown marveled. “He can hit the floor and go back up. That is just how he was born and that will come back to him instinctively.”

That shot-blocking ability may come naturally, but Noel’s own jump shot is still a work in progress.

The big man can often be seen shooting prior to games with Brown. The difference in his mechanics is night and day.

However, Brown likes to think that what Noel has learned off the court will have a greater impact on the 19-year-old’s future.

“His biggest improvement is going to be him absorbing the NBA landscape,” Brown explained. “Hearing a coach, hearing players, experiencing good and bad. Really just him being able to take a step back and be able to observe things on protocol. Being on time for the weight room and film sessions. All those things are so important.”

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers' abundance of big men lends itself to numerous combinations in the frontcourt.

On Thursday, Nerlens Noel had his first experience playing with Ben Simmons. The center gelled with the rookie forward.

"It's a great duo, I think," Noel said following the morning practice session of training camp at Stockton University.

Noel has been paired with many big men during his career with the Sixers. Last season, he faced the challenge of playing out of position at times with Jahlil Okafor. The logjam prompted him to speak out about the current makeup of the roster (see story).

After playing with Simmons, Noel saw how the two can share the court.

"I think we complement each other very well, especially on the defensive end," Noel said. "He's definitely a lockdown type defender that digs in."

Even though Simmons has yet to play an NBA game, Noel already envisions how he can help the Sixers.

"He just plays basketball the right way," Noel said. "When your big man does that, it makes it a lot easier because he is very versatile being a point-forward type. That opens up a lot of things for him to be able to open up for his teammates."

Sixers intend to use Ben Simmons, Dario Saric in same lineup

Sixers intend to use Ben Simmons, Dario Saric in same lineup

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Training camp is an opportunity for Brett Brown to assess all the pieces he has available to construct the best roster possible. There are no clear-cut formulas to create the most successful lineups, not when the team has so many players that can be utilized at multiple positions. 

“There are a lot of moving parts,” Brown said Wednesday after Day 2 of training camp. “You’re going to see a bunch of different looks, blue and white. That’s part of my job. That’s part of what I’ve got to get done when we play on opening night.” 

Among these combinations is pairing Dario Saric and Ben Simmons. Given their versatility, the rookies can play multiple positions to share the court. Brown has eyed their size and skills at the two- and three-spots.

“The pluses are you have 6-10, do-alls that really can jump into a very versatile defensive world with perhaps a lot of switching,” Brown said. “I think they’re elite defensive rebounders that can rebound and lead a break and take off. ...

“The disadvantages are, you’re playing two guys out of position that’ve never played a second of NBA basketball and have never played together. It comes down to familiarity, it comes down to some type of comfort level that they’re going to have to navigate and figure out each other a little bit more.”

Saric and Simmons, like the rest of the Sixers, are learning one another’s games in training camp. Saric described Simmons’ skill set as “amazing” considering his stature and speed, noting, “I never played with somebody who’s that [many] kilograms.” 

“I think we will find a way to play together,” Saric said. “I think we can do it. Coach said most of the time we will play together. Maybe I can push the ball, he can push the ball too. ... He’s an unbelievably good passer and I think we’ll find a way how to play and I’m very happy because of that.”

Simmons entered the league touted as a point-forward. Exceeding the combo position, Simmons has played pure point at times, both on the offensive and defensive ends. He has been tapping into the Sixers' guards and veteran leader Elton Brand to help enhance his communication running the floor.

“[The] challenge is probably guarding the point guard position. They’re a lot quicker,” Simmons said. “But I also have a lot more length and strength. I think just being able to get to the rim. Also, if I have a smaller guy I can post it up.”

Saric also has ball handling skills in his arsenal. He grew up playing point guard from ages 8 to 14 before hitting a growth spurt. Saric looked up to Magic Johnson at the position. 

“To make other players happy and to make other players better, I think that’s the role of point guard,” Saric said. 

Brown will use the next four weeks as a trial period to maneuver different combinations and looks, including a towering duo of rookies.  

“Now is the time to do that," Brown said, "with the end game being whenever that type of thing happens, you have something quite special if they’re paired — when they’re paired, because I’m going to play them together — when they start really feeling each other’s game out in the environment that I've put them in a lot better."