Noel exciting Sixers coaches with practice efforts

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Noel exciting Sixers coaches with practice efforts

The date Nerlens Noel tweeted that was speculated as being his Sixers debut is only three days away.

Noel had fans excited when he initially sent that message out on social media, but now it’s the big man’s coaches that are getting riled up about his progression.

“The first thing that I have fallen in love with is that he is beyond competitive,” Brown said after Thursday’s practice. “There is a dog in him, a toughness in him that I misjudged.

“He doesn’t talk a lot, but he is a fantastic listener. You go through all those months shooting one-handed with him and then you see him come out here.”

Brown witnessed that edge when the 6-foot-11, 228-pound Noel practiced with teammates Brandon Davies and Jarvis Varnado along with assistant coach Greg Foster on Thursday, an activity that has become a daily routine for the Sixers’ big men.

With just eight games remaining it seems unlikely Noel will participate in a contest this season. However, Brown would not confirm that. The coach simply reiterated the special ability he sees in the center and how that bodes well for the franchise’s future.

“He is a fierce competitor and that is the number one quality for me that makes someone special,” Brown said. “Then you get into the athleticism. He has a bounce. People that can block a shot, hit the floor and go back up are special and he can do it with both his right hand and left hand.”

Noel will likely participate in a game for the first time since February of last year during this summer when the Sixers field a summer league team. When Noel does finally take the court how will that year and a half out of action with an ACL tear impact his game?

“He’ll do what everybody does -- he will play too fast,” Brown explained. “He will try to rush things. He won’t let the game come to him. He will try to impose himself on the game. He will be very erratic. He will be turnover prone and foul prone.

“He’ll do all those things, but that’s to be expected. But for him to be doing what he is doing now in itself is exciting and this city should be really excited.”

Brown doesn’t know how much or how little the Sixers will play Noel whenever the center returns to game action. The coach just knows it will be a process and he will trust his gut.

“We won’t make him play 38 minutes and try to force feed it,” Brown said. “We will go at a pace that is realistic and see how he goes. It will be more of a gut-feel formula than anything. We won’t be shy with him, but we will be smart.”

NBA trade deadline: Buyer's market? Lakers got next to nothing in Lou Williams trade

NBA trade deadline: Buyer's market? Lakers got next to nothing in Lou Williams trade

If the two NBA trades this week indicate anything, it's that we're in a buyer's market.

Two days after DeMarcus Cousins was traded by the Kings to the Pelicans for a shockingly light return, Magic Johnson made his first move as the Lakers' new head honcho, shipping Lou Williams to Houston.

In exchange for Lou-Will, the Lakers got Corey Brewer and the Rockets' first-round pick, another surprisingly modest return.

Williams, 30, is having the best season of his 11-year career and it's not just because he was playing big fish on a bad team. You'd think the Lakers' lack of talent would result in somewhat inefficient scoring from Lou-Will, but that's not the case.

He's averaging a career-high 18.6 points, shooting a career-best 38.5 percent from three and 88.4 percent from the line. Only once, 2009-10 with the Sixers, did Williams shoot better than his current 44.4 percent from the field.

Because Williams signed his three-year deal with the Lakers before the salary cap spiked last offseason, he's underpaid in the current NBA landscape. He's owed just $7 million next season, a team-friendly salary for a player who can provide instant offense off the bench.

Brewer is a non-factor in the trade and won't have much of a future role with the rebuilding Lakers, so the trade was basically Williams for a very late first-round pick. The Rockets are 40-18 and would pick 27th if the season ended today.

Picks that late in the first round just aren't that valuable. Over the last five drafts, only eight of the 30 players selected in the 25 to 30 range have even cracked an NBA rotation. And two of them are Spurs, which is almost like its own separate category given how regularly San Antonio unearths talent in the draft.

Even those who've cracked rotations after being drafted 25-30 over the last five years are not impact players: Pascal Siakam, Larry Nance Jr., Andre Roberson, Miles Plumlee. Keep in mind that's a good scenario for that late of a first-rounder. The only two actual difference-makers drafted in that range the last five years are Rudy Gobert and Clint Capela.

Keep this return in mind when wondering what the Sixers might be able to recoup in a deadline trade of players like Ersan Ilyasova or Nik Stauskas. 

It's a worse return for the Lakers than the Kings received on draft night last summer for Marco Belinelli. Sacramento traded Belinelli, a journeyman bench player, for the No. 22 overall pick.

Could the Lakers have possibly gotten less than the 27th pick if they just held onto Williams and traded him in the offseason?

When I opined last night on Twitter that the Lakers didn't do well in the Lou-Will deal, a few people replied that the Lakers aren't trying to win, they're trying to finish with a bottom-three record and keep their pick rather than ship it to the Sixers.

But keep in mind that finishing with even the second-worst record in the NBA guarantees the Lakers nothing. The team that finishes with the second-worst record has a 55.8 percent chance of landing a top-three pick. The team that finishes with the third-worst record has a 46.9 percent of chance of landing a top-three pick.

Far from a sure thing.

One sure thing is the Lakers won't be catching the Nets for the league's worst record. Even if the Lakers go 0-24 the rest of the way to finish 19-63, they'd still need the Nets to go 11-15 or better. Brookyln's lost 14 games in a row, so that ain't happening.

Ersan Ilyasova looks to re-find rhythm as All-Star break concludes

Ersan Ilyasova looks to re-find rhythm as All-Star break concludes

The Sixers resume practice on Wednesday and Ersan Ilyasova will look to be recharged and refocused when he hits the court in Camden. The veteran power forward is determined to find his rhythm after hitting a shooting snag prior to the All-Star break.

“I need it right now, just get away from basketball,” Ilyasova said of the time off following the Sixers’ final game before the break. “Obviously, the last week was kind of up and down. The season is long. Obviously, you have to get your mind out of it. It’s good timing.”

Ilyasova’s plans for the break included traveling to West Palm Beach, Florida, where he owns a home, to spend time with his wife and children who live in Milwaukee. He hoped unwinding with his loved ones would help him move beyond his struggles at the basket.

Ilyasova scored a total of 10 points off a combined 4 for 16 from the field and 1 for 7 from three in the Sixers’ last two games against the Hornets and Celtics.

After shooting above 40 percent from the floor each month since being traded from the Thunder in November, Ilyasova shot 35.6 percent in February. More significantly, his three-point shooting dropped from 35.4 percent in January to 23.4 percent this month.

So what’s caused the hiccup for Ilyasova, who had been a consistent double-figure contributor earlier in the season? There are several factors in play.

“It’s tough,” Ilyasova said. “Obviously, a lot of things going through your mind. Obviously, being a free agent next year, you’re going to kind of overthink it sometimes. It’s like I said, the season is long.”

While Ilyasova’s contract expires after this season, he isn’t pointing to that as the root of all his struggles. He remembers being in a skid like this before when he played for the Bucks and understands it comes with the territory of the league.

“I am not going to say it’s just because of free agency,” Ilyasova said. “You have 82 games, you can’t play perfect. Sometimes you have good games and bad games. Last week I was kind of out of rhythm and missed a lot of shots.”

Ilyasova arrived in Philadelphia with an ultra-professional attitude and his effort is not going to change whether or not his shots are falling. Ilyasova is averaging 5.3 rebounds this month, including three games of nine boards or more.

The Sixers won three of their last four games before the All-Star Break, and even though they weren’t his best offensive performances, Ilyasova is more concerned about the final result.

“It’s not about one person,” he said. “We’re doing something right to win the games. I’m going to try contribute the best way I can.”