Sixers big man Nerlens Noel could make his season debut on Sunday against the Pistons, coach Brett Brown told beat reporters, including Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News. Noel has been rehabbing from the arthroscopic left knee surgery. “We want to integrate him with the team, watch a lot of tape, with the understanding that we have a chance to see him soon,” Brown told Cooney. Once Noel returns, all eyes will be on how Brown juggles his Big Three of Noel, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor, as well as veteran Ersan Ilyasova. Noel recently expressed trepidation over the impending logjam in the frontcourt.
In other news around the Atlantic Division:
- Al Horford is thriving in his new role as a point forward in the Celtics’ offense, Chris Forsberg of ESPN.com notes. Horford is averaging a career-high 5.3 assists and has notched eight or more assists three times after doing that just seven times previously in his career, Forsberg adds. “Coach is calling my number to make plays, and honestly, the guys are just cutting great to the basket, and I’m finding them,” Horford told Forsberg. “It’s a lot of easy looks.”
- Knicks president Phil Jackson has to stop feuding with Carmelo Anthony or the team’s season could fall apart, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post opines. Jackson cannot afford to have a strained relationship with his top player, considering he was the executive who decided to re-sign Anthony to a long-term deal, Vaccaro continues. The drama between them is silly and counterproductive, Vaccaro adds.
- Nets shooting guard Sean Kilpatrick credits GM Sean Marks for his emergence from an unheralded D-League addition to a high-scoring starter, Chris Mannix of The Vertical writes. Marks told Kilpatrick to be aggressive offensively and he’s developed into Brooklyn’s second-leading scorer after signing a multi-year deal in March, Mannix adds. “As soon as I came to the team, he told me, flat out, just to play my game, just to continue to do the things I’d been doing the last couple of months in the D-League,’ Kilpatrick told Mannix. “I think when you have that type of confidence in a player, coming from your GM, it’s a big boost, at least it was to me.”