Noel out to prove doubters wrong with Sixers

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Noel out to prove doubters wrong with Sixers

NEW YORK -- Nerlens Noel walked into his first press conference still wearing a New Orleans Pelicans hat. The questions were coming in as reports surfaced that he had been traded to the Sixers in a deal that involved point guard Jrue Holiday (see story).

Either Noel didn’t know he was traded or was told to avoid answering questions regarding the deal because it wasn’t made official.

When Noel finally did answer a question pertaining to him being traded to the Sixers, he said he was looking forward to joining a “great organization.”

Short and sweet.

After Thursday’s draft wrapped up, officials said Noel would be returning to comment on his trade to the Sixers. At about 12:30 a.m. on Friday, the 6-foot-10 Kentucky center stood outside the press room in the Barclays Center and answered questions about a night in which he was passed over by five teams before being selected by the Pelicans, only to be dealt to the Sixers.

“It’s definitely been a little hectic, but I’m definitely staying focused and staying positive through this,” he said.

Noel said he was notified that he had been traded to the Sixers after initially being confused about the deal. After the move was clarified, he reminded everyone that he was looking forward to coming to Philadelphia.

“They have a great organization, especially being there with one of my best friends growing up in Michael Carter-Williams (drafted 11th overall by the Sixers),” Noel said. “I’m definitely looking forward to that.”

Noel averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks in 24 games in his first and only season at Kentucky before tearing his left ACL.

Standing there, a few reporters surrounding him, one could get the sense Noel was upset about how the night unfolded. When he arrived at the Barclays Center on Thursday, the consensus was Noel would be drafted first overall. When he departed, that wasn’t the case.

“In a few years down the road, when I am established in the NBA, I’ll say this is the night that gave me motivation that I needed to be the player that I wanted to be,” Noel said.

Carter-Williams agreed with Noel’s notion.

“That’s how things end up,” Carter-Williams said. “It was meant to be. I am sure he has a chip on his shoulder now, and who knows, maybe that’s what he needs for him to be great in the NBA.”

Noel understood why he dropped in the draft, though. It was that ACL tear he suffered in February. Coming into the NBA draft, teams were said to be concerned about the injury and whether a December return was realistic.

Noel was asked if he thought teams were nervous to take a chance on him.

“I’d have to say so,” he said. “I mean, [teams] are going to make their own decisions that are best for them and, you know, later down the road let’s hope they made the right decision.”

Noel said he has started advanced workouts, added some defensive slides to his rehab and is even doing a little running. He estimated a comeback “around November.”

When it all shook out, was Noel happy to be drafted? Yes. He confessed it was a little hard to look at the positives but vowed to take any frustration out on the court.

“As hard as I was working," he said, "I’m definitely going to [rehab] with a bigger chip on my shoulder and come back for this and show the reason why …”

He didn’t finish the sentence. No need. Noel will be out to show the world why he, and not Anthony Bennett, should have been drafted No. 1 overall on Thursday.

Noel looked different when he met the media this time. He stood tall, this time without a New Orleans Pelicans hat on his head.

He is a Sixer now. A Sixer with something to prove.

Instant Replay: Pacers 107, Sixers 94

Instant Replay: Pacers 107, Sixers 94

BOX SCORE

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Pacers continued their playoff push with a 107-94 win over the Sixers on Sunday at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Sixers dropped to 27-46 while the Pacers improved to 37-36, as they fight to maintain position in the Eastern Conference.

The Sixers trailed by as many as 25 points, as the Pacers rolled out a total team effort. Led by 21 points from Paul George, they had seven players in double digits.

The Pacers extended their home winning streak against the Sixers to seven games. The Sixers have not beat the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse since April 17, 2013.

Inside the box score
The bigs were aggressive on the boards. Myles Turner (17 points, 16 rebounds), Shawn Long (15 points, 10 rebounds), and Richaun Holmes (11 points, 12 rebounds) recorded double-doubles.

Dario Saric came close with nine points and 10 rebounds. He snapped his 22-game streak of 10-plus points, which began on Feb. 6.

George finished with 21 points, eight rebounds and three assists.

Sergio Rodriguez led the Sixers with 16 points, including four of six from long range.

Jeff Teague scored 16 points and four assists.

Pacers' injury scare
Al Jefferson suffered a sprained left ankle and was carted off the court in a wheelchair during the fourth quarter (see video). He landed awkwardly after fighting for a rebound and hit the ground in pain. The veteran big man had scored 14 points with seven rebounds in 11 minutes off the bench before leaving the game.

What it means to be a center
Big men are not restricted to the basket anymore. Holmes exemplified what it means to be a center in the NBA today with a first quarter sequence that started with an emphatic dunk. He followed it up with a three-pointer. Holmes and Long work on long-range shots in practice to stretch the floor.

Head coach reunion
Pacers head coach Nate McMillan was Rodriguez’s first coach when he played for the Trail Blazers in 2006. McMillan sees similarities in Rodriguez’s game 10 years later.

"He's the same guy," McMillan said. "Sergio is very aggressive. I think he's a playmaker, he's really good in transition, he's really good in the pick-and-roll game. I think the tempo they're playing suits him."

Up next
The Sixers will travel to New York to face the Nets on Tuesday. They will wrap up their road trip before heading home for a back-to-back against the Hawks on Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center.

Jahill Okafor (right knee soreness) out again Sunday vs. Pacers

Jahill Okafor (right knee soreness) out again Sunday vs. Pacers

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Sixers will be without Jahlil Okafor when they take on the Pacers Sunday night.

Okafor will miss his second straight game and third out of the last four because of right knee soreness. This will be his ninth game this season where he's sidelined by the injury.
 
Brett Brown does not have a timeframe for Okafor's return. The Sixers' next game is Tuesday against the Nets in Brooklyn.

"I am a complete prisoner to his body and medical news," Brown said after Sunday's shootaround.

In the meantime, Okafor has been going through film sessions with the Sixers' coaching staff. He did not participate in shootaround Sunday morning.

Gerald Henderson also did not go through shootaround but is available to play. The veteran, who has been dealing with hip soreness this season, played 28 minutes in Friday's win over the Bulls.

The Sixers are 1-1 against the Pacers this season. Both games went into overtime.