Zoo's Views: Now is the time for Moultrie

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Zoo's Views: Now is the time for Moultrie

Exactly when Andrew Bynum finally plays is not the only great mystery of this 2012-13 Sixers season.

Arnett Moultrie, the 6-10, 245-pound rookie, has also been an unknown to this point. However, now we may finally find out what Moultrie can do as an NBA player.

To this moment in the season, Moultrie’s playing time has come in teaspoonfuls. He has 15 appearances in the Sixers' 47 games and a total of just 83 minutes.

It’s not as if the Sixers didn’t need him, with Bynum yet to play a single second and -- until recently, anyway -- the team’s big-man rotation in a state of flux. But Moultrie was hurt by a slow start to the season and troubled by a summertime ankle injury, which equaled a bigger learning curve. The Sixers even sent him down to the NBA’s developmental league, though his production there was noticeably unspectacular.

Then, with 5:46 left in the second quarter on Monday against Orlando, the urgency to see what Moultrie can do suddenly increased. That’s when the energetic Thaddeus Young went skidding out of bounds in front of the Sixers' bench after a loose ball, straining his left hamstring in the process. The diagnosis, an estimated three weeks of rest and rehab for the Sixers' starting power forward, subsequently opened up 35 minutes of nightly playing time for somebody or some bodies.

The best guess is that Lavoy Allen will soak up many of those minutes as a starter. Allen started Monday's second half, looking more like the guy who refused to concede to Kevin Garnett’s shtick during last year’s playoffs. Moultrie got some minutes, too, and seemed to ready to play, hitting a jumper without hesitation, defending, hitting the glass and even blocking a shot. Afterward, he earned a positive response from head coach Doug Collins.

The Sixers thought enough about Moultrie to spend a future first-round pick on him during last summer’s draft. Selected at 27 by Miami, Moultrie spent two years at Texas El Paso before transferring to Mississippi State, where he proceeded to lead the Southeastern Conference in rebounding. He even displayed a noticeable face-up game there, including the occasional college three.

The timing of Young’s injury is such that the All-Star break will eat away at one of the presumed three weeks. That still leaves a handful of games for Moultrie to play important minutes and show that he belongs.

Wouldn’t it be nice for the Sixers if Moultrie plays well, and before the end of the month, Bynum makes his Sixers debut? Add that with the return of last year’s Allen and it could allow Young to take whatever time he needs to come back from his hamstring injury.

Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor to play Sunday, Joel Embiid out (right elbow)

Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor to play Sunday, Joel Embiid out (right elbow)

CAMDEN, N.J. — Two bigs back, one big out.

Nerlens Noel will make his regular-season debut Sunday against the Pistons in Detroit. Noel has been out since the preseason after undergoing elective arthroscopic left knee surgery in October.

Jahlil Okafor also will return following a bout of gastroenteritis, which sidelined him for the last three games. Neither Noel nor Okafor will have minute restrictions. 

Joel Embiid, on the other hand, will not play Sunday. He will miss the game because of minor inflammation in his right elbow, which he suffered in Thursday’s game against the Pelicans. The decision also is in conjunction with the load management plan the Sixers have mapped out for him. Embiid did not practice Saturday and will not travel to Detroit. 

“It’s very minor and we expect him back soon. Not much concern at all,” Brett Brown said of Embiid, adding, “I think it’s far more precautionary than anything people should get nervous about.”

With Embiid out, the addition of Noel will help the Sixers when they battle the Pistons and big man Andre Drummond, who is averaging a dominating 15.0 points, 13.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks this season. Noel will come off the bench as he gets reacclimated to the team and the flow of the game. 

“I felt great [to be cleared to play],” Noel said. “I was anticipating it so I got my mind right and this is what I’ve been working for throughout the whole rehab process. I’m feeling good and looking forward to it.” 

The Sixers are mindful of the fact Noel has not played in a regular season game since the finale last April. He has been working on getting his wind back up, and the Sixers will watch it closely in-game when determining his playing time. Noel said he has a “good starting foundation” with his conditioning. 

“You can do as much as you want on a treadmill,” Brown said. “You can do as much as you want one-on-zero … but there is nothing that’s like an NBA game. Everything goes faster, everything goes quicker, you have emotions involved which can also drown how fast and how long you can go. Those things are just part of him coming back into it, and we’ll manage him accordingly.”

Noel’s debut is the first step for him, regardless of how many plays. His athleticism will give another look to the lineup. Brown foresees having Noel back will allow the Sixers to play faster and protect the rim with a greater “bounce.” 

“We miss playing with Nerlens, just his presence,” Okafor said. “He’s an athlete. Obviously we miss him on the defensive side. We miss him as a leader vocally. It’s just going to be great having him back on the floor.”

The Sixers could counter the Pistons with the combination of Noel and Okafor, a duo they struggled to utilize together last season. Brown’s decision will be based on matchups. He pointed out a situation in which Drummond and Jon Leuer are on the court would be more favorable than one in which Tobias Harris is playing power forward. 

“You just try to pick your moments where you can maybe pair those guys up,” Brown said. “I think it will be a more genuine conversation as Nerlens starts playing more with us. He’s just really come back into it. But we come back and you play Toronto and you have all three bigs available, then it becomes another level of a conversation. I do look forward to it when we have an opportunity to intelligently match up with other people and we’ll play it out like that.”

The Sixers' next game after Sunday is Wednesday against the Raptors, when they expect to have their bigs ready to go.

Sixers' game vs. Kings rescheduled for Jan. 30

Sixers' game vs. Kings rescheduled for Jan. 30

The NBA has determined a new date for the Sixers home game against the Kings, which was postponed on Nov. 30 because of unsafe playing conditions on the court.

The game has been rescheduled for Monday, Jan. 30 at 6 p.m. This will create back-to-backs for both teams.

The Sixers are playing in Chicago on Jan. 29. They will play consecutive games against the Bulls and Kings, then have a road back-to-back against the Mavericks and Spurs on Feb. 1 and 2.

The Kings will be on what is now an eight-game road trip. They will play a back-to-back against the Rockets the next night in Houston.