Nerlens Noel is one of the NBA’s top trade candidates, but it seems the Sixers won’t be showcasing him for potential suitors in the immediate future. Earlier today, head coach Brett Brown told reporters, including Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer, that he doesn’t expect to use Noel in tonight’s game against Brooklyn unless someone gets into foul trouble, and will likely keep him out of the rotation for the foreseeable future.
According to Brown, the decision wasn’t a direct reaction to Noel’s comments after Friday’s game. The fourth-year big man – frustrated by playing just eight minutes in the first game all season in which he, Joel Embiid, and Jahlil Okafor were all healthy – suggested the Sixers “need to figure this s–t out.” Although the updated rotation may not be punishment for those comments, it seems Brown took Noel’s suggestion to heart, attempting to figure out a way to put the team in the best position to win (Twitter link via Christopher A. Vito).
The situation in Philadelphia will likely remain fluid. If either Embiid or Okafor is forced to miss time with an injury, or Embiid is rested for a night, Noel figures to get a chance to play. Still, it’s somewhat surprising that the Sixers wouldn’t find a way to get the former sixth overall pick regular minutes. Based on Noel’s apparent unhappiness and his looming free agency, he seems very likely to be moved by February’s trade deadline, and keeping him on the bench certainly won’t improve his trade value.
While the move may hurt Noel, it could have a positive impact on Embiid, the Sixers’ franchise center. The third-year big man hasn’t thrived playing alongside Okafor so far, suggesting after Wednesday’s game that he didn’t love “standing on the perimeter” when the two bigs were on the court together. Keeping Noel out of the rotation should reduce the amount of time Embiid and Okafor share the floor.
For his part, Noel said tonight that he’ll handle the decision like a pro and will continue to work on his game, adding that “everyone knew it was going to come to this” (Twitter link via Bob Cooney of The Philadelphia Daily News).