Well, at least in the last few hours, we've downgraded the urgency on reports out of Ohio State from "Brett Brown says Nerlens Noel will miss the whole season because his rehab is going slower than expected" to "Brett Brown says Nerlens Noel might miss the whole season just to be on the safe side." The former would be new and somewhat depressing news, the latter isn't that new and is more sobering than outright bumming.
In any event, yes, Coach Brown did talk about Nerlens Noel tonight in Ohio, and his comments were not terribly optimistic about the chances of the Sixers' lottery acquisition playing for Philly this season. Jason Wolf of Delaware Online has the quote:
I doubt, everybody doubts that [Noel]’s going to play this year...we don’t want to waste this year. I think from a skill perspective, it’s an opportunity for us to break down his shot, really work on his free throws and start a little bit from ground zero.
A little tough to hear for those of us who just finished waiting an entire season for the return of Andrew Bynum that never materialized, though going into the season without any kind of expectation of a comeback will ultimately be far more merciful than waiting the 'Fro of Damacles that dangled over Sixer fans all last year.
In any event, several Sixers beat writers who were there for Brown's words made a point of stressing that this does not mean that the Sixers have ruled out Noel playing this year, just...well, don't draft him for your fantasy league or anything. If he plays, he plays, but Brown and company are clearly operating under the assumption that he won't, and that's fair enough for the time being.
I did hope we'd get to see the Eraser play a little this season--it would have been a nice little reward for sticking it out through the sure-to-be-brutal first couple months of this season, to get to see a little glimpse of the guy who might be the first building block in the construction of the next contending Ballers roster. Noel wouldn't have contributed enough in his first year to mess up our draft positioning, and it would have just been fun to watch 20-30 games of this future beast in his germination stage.
But again, we always knew this was a possibility--hell, if it wasn't, some team probably would have taken him in the top five of the draft, and we'd have never gotten him via New Orleans at #6. It'll just have to be another reason why next season (as in the one after this one) is going to be the official Best Sixers Season Ever, when Noel and our two first-round picks next year all get to take the court for the first time ever, and the rest of the Eastern Conference weeps for their future in the dark underneath our imposing shadow.
It'll all be worth it. Sam Hinkie promises.