Brown knows Sixers must be smart with Noel

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Brown knows Sixers must be smart with Noel

After talking with reporters for a few minutes at practice Tuesday, Sixers head coach Brett Brown, much to his surprise, hadn't been asked about Nerlens Noel.

So Brown brought up the topic himself.

“Anyone want to talk about Nerlens?” Brown said with a smile.

Less than 24 hours earlier, before the Sixers' preseason loss to Cleveland in Columbus, Ohio, Brown had revealed that he didn't expect Noel to play this season. Noel, the Sixers' prized draft-night acquisition, is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in February.

“I want to talk about Nerlens," Brown said. "Of course we want him back, but that decision is going to be made by a lot of smarter people then me. Doctors, trainers and the obvious people, and so who knows what is going to happen with Nerlens? I've gone to media training this morning before I came here, and we hope he can come back. So since you didn’t ask about Nerlens, I thought I would just bring it up."

It's a worthy topic given what Noel represents for fans this franchise: hope.

"We get it. I get it. The coaching staff, teammates -- we want to see him back," Brown said. "How can you not want to see that man back? With his bounce and size and athleticism? ... We want to see him. I get the disappointment, and so the club will make a responsible decision based on his future."

We can only hope the long season doesn’t steal Brown’s humor and his willingness to be forthcoming. The Sixers are building a reputation, and it is that they are in for a long year. Throughout this preseason various scouts and player personnel people around the league have stopped to share that sentiment.

It will be a different year for sure. Wins will be scarce. When the Sixers first decided to start from scratch by trading Jrue Holiday on draft night, fans applauded the boldness of president/general manger Sam Hinkie.

But seeing the product during the preseason -- they're 2-4 -- and learning that Noel may indeed be sidelined for the entire year has those same fans disgruntled before opening night has even arrived.

It wasn't the first time Brown said he wasn’t expecting Nerlens to participate. During Saturday's practice at the Palestra, he said as much -- but included two other teammates in his statement.

“You can carry a roster of 15. So right off the bat you start the season with four of them out,” Brown said. “Nerlens, Kwame (Brown), Arnett (Moultrie) and Jason Richardson. And there is no daylight except Kwame at some point. The other ones are done.”

The other ones are done.

Brown doesn't expect Noel, Moultrie (ankle) or Richardson (knee) to play this year.

I understand that Moultrie and Richardson being sidelined for the season resonates little with fans. I also understand the instinct to think Noel is another Andrew Bynum situation -- the acquisition of damaged goods.

Unfortunately, jumping to that conclusion is not accurate. Their injuries are different; their bodies are different; their ages are different.

And while we are on the subject of Bynum, nothing was more frustrating than the false hope that was continually put out there last season that Bynum was progressing and would soon take the court.

Maybe Bynum really did experience multiple setbacks, but it came across as a façade.

This year’s team will struggle, and even Noel can’t change that. Not as a rookie who, if they did bring him back, hasn’t played basketball in a year.

The good news is plenty of NBA players have recovered from torn ACLs: Al Jefferson, David West, Baron Davis, Jamal Crawford -- and hopefully we are seeing the same for Derrick Rose.

Noel’s time will come to join that list, but like those who recovered before him, the timetable is lengthy and has its stages.

Be patient.

Sixers 2016-17 Player Evaluation: Richaun Holmes

Sixers 2016-17 Player Evaluation: Richaun Holmes

Richaun Holmes

Position: Center

Status for 2017-18: Under contract for $1,471,382

Holmes in 2016-17
This year very well could have been a lost season for Richaun Holmes. The 23-year-old center was fourth on the Sixers' depth chart to begin the season, sitting behind top-10 picks Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel. Cracking the lineup, even with Embiid not playing back-to-backs and Noel hurt to start the year, was a daunting task.

Early in the season, Holmes provided solid minutes when he received them, reeling in 12 rebounds in a win vs. the Pacers on Nov. 11 and picking up 11 points and eight boards against the Nuggets on Dec. 5. However, Holmes was sent to the D-League soon after and with centers excelling ahead of him, it seemed his time in Philly may be numbered.

But then Embiid got hurt. This opened the door for consistent playing time for the former second-round pick and he shined. He averaged 7.1 points and 4.8 rebounds in 17.9 minutes during February, then shot up to 14.1 points and 6.8 rebounds over 26.4 minutes in March after Noel was traded. He put up 14 games with double-figure scoring despite eclipsing 30 minutes only four times. 

In all, Holmes proved himself to be a force off the bench for the Sixers, as well as when he got into the starting lineup. In 57 games, he started 17 and averaged 9.8 points and 5.5 rebounds, both increases from his rookie season. He upped his field goal percentage to 55.8 percent and became a viable three-point threat, shooting 35.1 percent, up from 18.2 percent as a rookie. Holmes finished the year with five straight games in double figures as he was one of the only healthy players left on the roster.

Signature game
Soon after returning from the D-League in January, he put up 18 points on 8 for 11 shooting against the Clippers in a win. He also had a double-double against the Wizards in late February after the trade deadline.

However, his signature game is one of two. He had 24 points, 14 rebounds and five assists against the Magic on March 20, giving a tremendous effort over 42 minutes. Nine days later, he had 25 points — a career-high — while facing off against Dwight Howard and the Atlanta Hawks, earning the praise of the veteran center (see below).

Looking ahead to 2017-18
It may have seemed unlikely in early January, but Holmes is likely a rotation piece for the Sixers next season. Noel is gone, Okafor may follow soon and Embiid may have trouble with back-to-backs again next season, although president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo has indicated otherwise. That opens the door for a lot of playing time, including more starts, for the Bowling Green product. 

The Sixers may bring in veteran help at center if Okafor is dealt, but it likely won't deter the 6-foot-10 forward in securing a role for next season. He proved too valuable at the end of the season. The energy Holmes provides is a necessary element to a second-unit and something the Sixers will gladly take next season.

On Holmes
"He's a kid that I remember the first time he stepped on the court with me, he was just like excited. He kept saying, 'Wow, I'm on the floor with Dwight Howard.' He just kept saying he was excited. Just to see his growth from that moment, he plays with such passion, it's great to see especially from a young guy like him. I'm proud of him."
- Atlanta Hawks center Dwight Howard

"He just sat there and accepted whatever we gave him: go to the D-League, sit there and clap, start, play behind Joel — whatever it was, he accepted. And he did it where it didn't diminish his work ethic, it didn't diminish his ability to coexist within a team. He found ways to improve individually, and he did it with a great level of maturity."
- Sixers head coach Brett Brown

NBA Playoffs: Raptors advance past Bucks despite blowing 25-point lead

NBA Playoffs: Raptors advance past Bucks despite blowing 25-point lead

MILWAUKEE -- DeMar DeRozan scored 32 points and the Toronto Raptors squandered a 25-point lead late in the third quarter before holding on for a 92-89 victory Thursday night over the Milwaukee Bucks to take their first-round playoff series in six games.

Cory Joseph had five points in a 9-0 run in the final 2 minutes, including a 3-pointer with 1:27 left, to help stave off the pesky Bucks.

The Raptors move on to face the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference semifinals in a series that starts Monday. They'll need to work on finishing off opponents in the second half.

Jason Terry's 3 with 3:06 left gave the Bucks an 80-78 lead, completing an unlikely comeback from the 25-point deficit with 5:16 left in the third quarter. The Raptors looked as if they were on cruise control after DeMarre Carroll's 3 gave them the 71-46 advantage.

Giannis Antetokounmpo spearheaded the second-half rally for Milwaukee. He had 34 points.

But the Bucks finished one comeback short.

The furious effort appeared to sap the energy of the young Bucks. Even Antetokounmpo, a renowned gym rat, looked tired with his hands on hips as he caught his breath during fourth-quarter breaks. He played 47 minutes.

Antetokounmpo finished 13 of 23 from the field but was 2 of 6 in the fourth.

The Raptors could finally breathe easy after DeRozan went 2 of 2 from the foul line with 3.1 seconds to play for a three-point lead. Tony Snell's inbounds pass on the ensuing possession was intercepted by DeRozan (see full recap).

Spurs advance: San Antonio beats Grizzlies in Game 6
NASHVILLE, Tennessee -- Kawhi Leonard scored 29 points, helping the San Antonio Spurs advance to the Western Conference semifinals by beating the Memphis Grizzlies 103-96 Thursday night to take the series 4-2.

The Spurs now have beaten Memphis four of the five playoff series between these teams, and this was San Antonio's second straight win over the Grizzlies in the first round.

Tony Parker added 27 points on 11-of-14 shooting, while LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and 12 rebounds. Patty Mills had 10 points off the bench for the Spurs. San Antonio outrebounded Memphis 46-28, with 16 of those offensive boards. That led to 17 second-chance points.

Their semifinal with Houston will start Monday night in San Antonio.

Mike Conley scored 26 points, leading the five Memphis starters in double digits. Marc Gasol added 18, Zach Randolph 13 points and 11 rebounds, and Vince Carter had 12 points (see full recap).