Still recovering, Noel set to travel with Sixers

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Still recovering, Noel set to travel with Sixers

Typically, injured players don’t travel with the team in the NBA. Instead, they stay home so they can get the proper treatment and rehab in order to get back on the court.

But Nerlens Noel isn’t the typical injured player. The No. 6 overall pick in last June’s draft will hit the road with the Sixers while recovering from knee surgery through the early part of the season, and that includes the trip to Spain and England, where the team will play a couple of exhibitions.

The reason is pretty simple. At age 19, with just 24 college basketball games to his credit and two years removed from high school, new head coach Brett Brown says Noel needs to see the NBA life.

“I look forward to him traveling with the team and being a part of the team and being in the team meetings and video sessions and seeing a grumpy coach and a sad player and vice versa,” Brown said during a media session on Wednesday afternoon.

Why? Well, on one side it will keep Noel motivated. As Brown said, a player fighting for playing time or a roster spot doesn’t have to do anything special to get motivated to play. It’s kind of a given.

Noel, acquired on a draft day deal that sent All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to New Orleans, will not be ready to play until December. To open training camp and head to Europe without the 19-year old would be like the NBA version of “Home Alone.”

So Brown and the teenaged center sat down for a chat a couple of days ago to talk about the early portion of the season when it hit the coach ...

“I’m sitting there thinking, ‘This is probably the most important meeting we’re having,’” Brown said. “Because it’s easy to motivate people that are playing and to monitor people that are playing. It’s really hard to take a 19-year-old kid that’s come out of Boston and all of a sudden has been paid a lot of money and put into the city of Philadelphia, and make sure that we help him stay on track and we help him understand what it takes to be a pro, and the long path that’s ahead for him.

“And the main thing that came out of that meeting is that, and ‘How do we do that?’”

Watching his new teammates go about the business of playing basketball while Noel can only watch could be a form of torture to some players. If anything, the rookie will get a chance to understand how he can help the team and how fast and physical the game can be.

However, Noel won’t learn what an 82-game season can do to a player. That’s something he’ll have to go through on his own. Because Noel hasn’t played a competitive game since tearing his ACL on Feb. 12, he is going to have a short learning curve.

So what the heck, take the kid on the road and let him get a taste of it.

From what Brown can tell so far, keeping Noel motivated might not be so difficult.

“When I see him, I see a wide-eyed, bouncing, competitive, can-be-what-he-wants-to-be player,” Brown said. “You feel the weight and responsibility to develop him and give him all that you can. I just feel like there’s a real freshness to his face, there’s a bounce and a spark to his personality. He’s endearing. I think he’s going to be special and has a chance to be really special.”

Big men down
When the Sixers open training camp on Saturday morning, big men Arnett Moultrie, Kwame Brown and Lavoy Allen will be nursing undisclosed injuries. Last season, Allen appeared in 79 games and showed his mettle a year after playing hard minutes in 12 playoff games as a rookie.

Moultrie is coming off a rookie season in which his minutes were limited and his development was negligible. He also started last season with an ankle injury that impeded his fitness.

Brown did not appear in any of the last 30 games last season, though not because he was injured. Nevertheless, an injury limited Brown to just nine games in 2011-12 while a rash of nicks and dings -- to go with ineffectiveness -- limited him to 22 games in 2012-13.

Best of NBA: Nets end 11-game skid by routing Pelicans

Best of NBA: Nets end 11-game skid by routing Pelicans

NEW ORLEANS -- Brook Lopez and Bojan Bogdanovic scored 23 points apiece and the Brooklyn Nets ended an 11-game losing streak, routing the New Orleans Pelicans 143-114 on Friday night.

Caris Levert added 17 points on 6-of-6 shooting for the Nets, who had seven players in double figures while beating their season high for points by 16. Their 29-point victory was 11 more than their previous largest. They also set season highs for points in the second quarter (37) and points in any quarter with 43 in the third.

Anthony Davis led New Orleans with 22 points and nine rebounds despite leaving in the third quarter with a leg injury. The defeat was a huge comedown for him and the Pelicans a day after he was named a starter for the NBA All-Star Game in New Orleans (see full story).

Warriors top Rockets to win 6th straight
HOUSTON -- Kevin Durant scored 32 points and the Golden State Warriors used a big third quarter to build a huge lead and coast to their sixth straight victory, 125-108 over the Houston Rockets on Friday night.

In a matchup of two of the best teams in the Western Conference and All-Star starting guards Stephen Curry and James Harden, the Rockets fell short. Houston, which entered the game leading the NBA with 667 3-pointers, was just 7 of 35 behind the arc. Harden went 0 for 5 and Eric Gordon, who entered the game leading the NBA with 160 3s, missed all seven attempts.

Clint Capela had 22 points and Harden added 17 points with 11 assists for the Rockets, who are third in the West behind Golden State and San Antonio (see full story).

Kemba Walker scores 32 to lead Hornets past Raptors
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Kemba Walker scored 32 points on 11-of-16 shooting, and the Charlotte Hornets beat the Toronto Raptors 113-78 on Friday night.

Walker, who came in averaging 23 points and looking to earn his first All-Star selection, scored 16 points in the pivotal third quarter, including a four-point play as the Hornets outscored the Raptors 33-15 to build a 25-point lead.

Walker didn't play at all in the fourth quarter after the Hornets stretched their lead to 30. He finished with eight assists.

Frank Kaminsky had a solid night off the bench for the second straight game, scoring 16 points and grabbing eight rebounds.

Kyle Lowry had 24 points and DeMar DeRozan added 23 points for the Raptors, who have lost two straight (see full story). 

Magic pull away for convincing win over Milwaukee
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Elfrid Payton scored 20 points, Jeff Green added 18 points and seven rebounds off the bench, and the Orlando Magic snapped a three-game losing streak by beating the Milwaukee Bucks 112-96 on Friday night.

The Magic, returning home from a 1-5 road trip, played with a small lineup for much of the night and it provided the offense they needed with two of their top scorers out. Orlando had six players in double figures, including starters Aaron Gordon (17), Serge Ibaka (13) and Nikola Vucevic (13).

Orlando shot 46 percent from the field while limiting the Bucks to 41 percent.Jabari Parker led Milwaukee with 25 points and Giannis Antetokounmpo contributed 17 points and 14 rebounds as the Bucks dropped their fourth straight game (see full story). 

Instant Replay: Sixers 93, Trail Blazers 92

Instant Replay: Sixers 93, Trail Blazers 92

BOX SCORE

Let’s get the injury scare out of the way first. 

Joel Embiid went up for a monster dunk in the third quarter, landed on his left foot, lay on the ground momentarily, then came up grabbing his left knee. Embiid limped off the court on his own as a gasp fell over the arena.

Embiid was diagnosed with a left knee contusion. The crowd erupted into a standing ovation when he returned to the bench minutes later. They would erupt again in the final seconds of regulation when Robert Covington nailed a go-ahead three-pointer with 4.5 left to cap a come-from-behind, 93-92 win over the Trail Blazers on Friday night.

The Sixers finished without Embiid, who returned to the game but looked as if he aggravated his knee on a fourth-quarter drive to the basket. He made a few trips up and down before Nerlens Noel subbed in for him with 8:50 to go. Embiid walked off the court in visible discomfort. The Sixers ruled him out for the remainder of the game for precautionary reasons. Embiid recorded a double-double with 18 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in 22 minutes.

After the game, Embiid said he felt "great" and "everything looked good" following an MRI. 

So while an Embiid injury dominates any night, there was also a game played.

The Trail Blazers jumped out on the Sixers early, led by 16 points in the first quarter from Damian Lillard. The Sixers fought back from a 13-point halftime deficit to only one point (without Embiid) in the third, when they outscored the Trail Blazers, 27-15. Ersan llyasova scored 11 points in the quarter. 

The fourth quarter got physical, including an exchange between former Trail Blazers teammates and fellow Duke products Gerald Henderson and Mason Plumlee. A Covington three-pointer made it a one-point Trail Blazers lead, 91-90, with 38.2 seconds to play. The biggest one came shortly later as Covington made his second game-winning shot of the season when he drained another trey from T.J. McConnell to give the Sixers another victory at the Wells Fargo Center. The Sixers fended off Plumlee’s final layup attempt to close it out.

The Sixers improved to 15-26 and have won eight out of their last 10 games. 

Inside the box score
• Ilyasova scored a season-high 24 points.

• Covington scored 22 points, including 5 for 12 from long range.

• Lillard led all players with 30 points.

• Plumlee posted a 14-point, 11-rebound double-double. 

Roster moves before game
The Sixers claimed veteran point guard Mo Williams off waivers on Friday and then waived him, according to a league source (see story). Later in the day, they re-signed Chasson Randle to a second 10-day contract (see story). His first expired on Thursday.

“Albeit new, he really adds to what we're trying to build in relation to the guys that we invite in our program,” Brett Brown said of Randle. “He's a high-character guy."

Up next
The Sixers will travel to Atlanta to play a back-to-back game against the Hawks (24-18) on Saturday.