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: Harden's 38-points fuels Rockets past Bucks

Best of NBA: Harden's 38-points fuels Rockets past Bucks

HOUSTON -- James Harden had 38 points, eight assists and six rebounds, and the Houston Rockets beat the Milwaukee Bucks 111-92 on Wednesday night.

Harden drilled a straightaway 3-pointer with six minutes left to give Houston a 13-point lead and shimmied his shoulders down the court in a celebratory dance as the Bucks called timeout.

After losing three of four, the Rockets regained their form while improving to 17-4 at home this season.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and three blocks for Milwaukee (see full recap).

Rose powers slumping Knicks past Celtics 117-106
BOSTON -- Derrick Rose matched his season high with 30 points, and the slumping New York Knicks beat the Boston Celtics 117-106 on Wednesday night.

New York played without injured starters Kristaps Porzingis and Joakim Noah, but Mindaugas Kuzminskas and Willy Hernangomez each scored 17 points to help make up for their absence. It was just the third win in 14 games for the Knicks.

Isaiah Thomas led Boston with 39 points, his 13th time this season with 30 or more points. Jae Crowder added 21 for the Celtics, who lost for only the fourth time in 17 games.

Al Horford, Boston's big free-agent acquisition during the summer, had five points on 2-of-14 shooting. He was 1 for 8 on 3-point attempts.

Boston closed to 97-96 on Jaylen Brown's two free throws with just under eight minutes to play, but Justin Holiday and Courtney Lee nailed 3-pointers 29 seconds apart, pushing New York's lead back to seven. Rose then capped an 8-0 spree by putting in his own miss after Thomas missed a jumper -- his seventh straight shot that was off (see full recap).

Home cooking: Wiz top Grizz 104-101, 13th win in row in DC
WASHINGTON -- A vastly different team at home, the Wizards won their 13th consecutive game in Washington by edging the Memphis Grizzlies 104-101 Wednesday night behind two late layups from John Wall, who finished with 25 points and 13 assists.

James Ennis III missed a potential tying 3-pointer at the buzzer for Memphis.

The Wizards are just 4-13 on the road but now 18-6 at home, where they've compiled their longest winning streak since a 15-game run in the 1988-89 season.

Washington never trailed and led by as many as 19 points in the first half, then held on after a 10-0 run by Memphis made it a two-point game with 2 1/2 minutes left. That's when Wall took over, scoring on consecutive drives (see full recap).

Walker, Hibbert lead Hornets past Blazers 107-85
CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Kemba Walker scored 23 points, Roy Hibbert provided a huge boost off the bench, and the Charlotte Hornets stopped a five-game slide with a 107-85 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday night.

Nicolas Batum added 17 points for the Hornets, who limited the Trail Blazers to 35 percent shooting and snapped an eight-game streak of allowing at least 100 points. But it was the 7-foot-2 Hibbert who stole the show.

Hibbert, who came in averaging 5.2 points per game, had a season-high 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting.

Damian Lillard scored 21 points and C.J. McCollum had 18 for Portland, which has lost three straight and 16 of 22 since Dec. 5 (see full recap).

Instant Replay: Sixers 94, Raptors 89

Instant Replay: Sixers 94, Raptors 89

BOX SCORE

The Sixers proved their recent success is for real with a grind-it-out 94-89 win over the Raptors on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. 

Facing the Eastern Conference’s second-best team, the Sixers beat the 28-win Raptors in what they had identified as their most challenging matchup during this stretch of success. They now have won seven of their last nine games.

The Sixers closed out this victory with late-game execution and fended off a Raptors comeback attempt. DeMar DeRozan gave Toronto a one-point lead, 86-85, with just under two minutes to play. The team that had struggled greatly with fourth quarters showed poise and composure down the stretch against a veteran playoff contender, as the Sixers sealed a win that seemed unlikely just a few weeks ago.

Embiid knotted the score with a free throw and grabbed a key defensive rebound before T.J. McConnell converted a layup and two free throws on back-to-back possessions, handing the Sixers a 90-86 lead. On the ensuing trip down the other end, Robert Covington and Embiid delivered blocks on Kyle Lowry, all but putting Toronto away for good with 20 seconds left.

The Sixers improved to 14-26 and the Raptors dropped to 28-14. 

Inside the stats
• Embiid recorded his 10th straight game of 20-plus points, scoring 26 and grabbing nine rebounds for a plus-20 rating.

• Ersan Illyasova put up 18 points on 7 of 14 shooting.

• DeRozan scored 25 points, while Lowry poured in 24.

• The Sixers snapped a 14-game losing streak to the Raptors.

• The Sixers posted seven blocks as Embiid, Dario Saric and Nik Stauskas all had two apiece.

• Saric finished with eight points and nine rebounds off the bench.

• The Sixers turned the ball over 22 times. Every player other than Illyasova had at least one turnover.

Super Dario
Saric blocked Jared Sullinger at the basket during the fourth quarter, sending the Sixers into a frenzy (see video). He followed that play up with getting tied up for a jump ball and minutes later knocking down a three. These aggressive plays were signs of growth for the rookie, who is visibly getting more comfortable as the season progresses and playing more aggressively with each game. 

Embiid snapshot
Embiid went through a 44-second span that encapsulated the versatility of his game. Check out these key plays in the fourth quarter, listed in order of time remaining: 

• 10:32: Dunk

• 10:03: Three-point shot

• 9:48: Draws offensive foul against Lowry

Injury scare
DeMarre Carroll hit the ground halfway through the third after his head collided with teammate Pascal Siakam’s knee during a tie-up at the Sixers' basket. He lay on the floor while members of both medical staffs tended to him. Carroll walked very carefully off the court on his own while being held on to by Raptors personnel (see video). The Raptors conducted tests during the game, which came back clear. Carroll was diagnosed with a sore neck and was unavailable to return.

Up next
The Sixers host the Trail Blazers (18-25) on Friday for their first meeting of the season. Then they travel to Atlanta for a back-to-back against the Hawks (24-17).