76ers introduce Noel

Rookie center Nerlens Noel during his introductory news conference on Tuesday. ANDREW RENNEISEN / Staff Photographer
Rookie center Nerlens Noel during his introductory news conference on Tuesday. ANDREW RENNEISEN / Staff Photographer
Posted: July 25, 2013

The 76ers did their homework on NBA draft night.

While they knew they'd be taking a chance on the knee of Kentucky's Nerlens Noel, the Sixers were persuaded by what they saw on film.

The videotape showed a tenacious center in the middle, a defensive presence, a rim protector, and a young man capable of dominating for 15 years.

That's all they needed to know before acquiring the sixth overall pick's rights in a trade with the New Orleans Pelicans for all-star point guard Jrue Holiday at the June 27 draft.

The Sixers also received the Pelicans' 2014 first-round pick, which is protected from picks one through five, for one of their second-round picks (42d) in June's draft.

"Adding talent of Nerlens' caliber is really critical to build the kind of thing we want to build," said Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie, who introduced Noel Tuesday, 11 days after the trade became official.

"It's surely a factor," Hinkie said about Noel's season-ending tear of the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Feb. 12 at Florida. "If it wasn't a factor, we wouldn't have been able to get him. I will say that for sure. We wouldn't have been able to get him with the sixth pick. So we feel fortunate about that."

Noel, a 6-foot-11, 219-pounder who left the Wildcats after one season, was a candidate for the first overall pick.

The 19-year-old averaged 10.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, and 4.4 blocked shots while shooting 59 percent from the field in 24 games. He had a school-record 12 blocks against Mississippi.

Initially, Noel was confused on draft night. One minute he was a Pelican. The next he was being traded to the Sixers.

But all that changed once he realized that the Sixers drafted Syracuse point guard Michael Carter-Williams, a close friend and former AAU teammate, with the 11th overall pick.

"Sam is a genius," Noel said. "How can you think of something like that? . . . A lot of credit goes to him for building that as a foundation for this organization into the future."

The Everett, Mass., native isn't expected to be ready to play until December at the earliest.

Noel has been in Birmingham, Ala., rehabilitating six hours a day for the last 41/2 months. He will be examined Wednesday morning by orthopedic surgeon Brian Sennett at Penn Sports Medical Center.

The Sixers also spoke with Noel's surgeon, James Andrews, and his physical therapist, Kevin Wilk.

"I will say the report we are getting from Dr. Andrews and Kevin Wilk is everything is going great," Hinkie said, "and that he is working his tail off in their facility every day and they've been really, really pleased with how aggressive and how professional he's been about his rehab thus far."

Noel is able to do layups and run up and down the floor. He's also doing exercises and weight training to strengthen his core.

Hinkie was asked about the possibility that Noel won't play this season.

He basically said he would leave that up to the doctors.

"If what we cared about most is Nerlens' long-term health, and Nerlens' having a 15-year career, what would we do?" he said. "I will ask that every single time of every doctor we come in contact with to see how they perceive that.

"I think that's something we should weigh pretty heavily. How all that plays out, I don't even know."

The one obvious thing is that Noel is determined to become a solid all-round NBA player. He wants to develop a consistent 15-footer to draw opposing centers away from the paint. Noel believes that would create opportunities for teammates driving to the basket.

"I have a high ceiling, I believe," he said. "I definitely want to keep working so I can be a complete player."

Coaching search. Asked about the coaching search, Hinkie said the Sixers were following a process. Tuesday marked the 96th day since Doug Collins resigned. Hinkie didn't answer a question regarding a report that it is down to Sixers assistant Mike Curry and San Antonio Spurs assistant Brett Brown.

"At this point, we are going to follow a really methodical process," he said. "When we are sure we have the right person, we will do it."


Contact Keith Pompey at kpompey@phillynews.com. Follow on Twitter @PompeyOnSixers.

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