Sixers Notes: Noel gets green light from surgeon

Nerlens Noel (center) watches his team. The rookie might be ready to play in four to six weeks.
Nerlens Noel (center) watches his team. The rookie might be ready to play in four to six weeks. (STEVEN M. FALK / Staff)
Posted: January 17, 2014

The surgeon who operated on Nerlens Noel's left knee says the 76ers rookie should be ready to play in a game in four to six weeks.

The Sixers say Noel's return isn't that simple, and it will be on their terms.

Orthopedic surgeon James Andrews told on Wednesday that Noel was "doing excellent, and that team is taking good care of him." A source close to the situation added that "his knee is fine. He just needs to get in basketball shape."

Noel had surgery after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in February during his lone season at Kentucky. The 6-foot-11, 228-pounder met with Andrews last week and the surgeon cleared him to participate in basketball-related activities.

Now, he just needs to be cleared by the Sixers before he can play in a game.

That's where things get dicey.

Until Tuesday, Noel's workouts have consisted mostly of taking one-handed set shots under the supervision of coach Brett Brown and/or player development coach Greg Foster.

The source close to the situation said he believes that Andrews wants credit for putting Noel in position to return to the court, regardless of whether he is ready to return.

The Sixers say they don't know when Noel will return.

"There are so many different layers to this," Brown said before Wednesday's game against the Charlotte Bobcats at the Wells Fargo Center. "To get all excited now about a time line that has been put out would not be a wise thing to do. It's going to take a lot more boxes [to check]. He's progressing well. But there really isn't a definitive time line."

There's a thought that the Sixers don't want to rush Noel onto the court and would be content if he missed the entire season. In October, Brown said Noel was not likely to play this season.

However, Brown said Tuesday that Noel was making improvement. He also said that the 19-year-old participated in one-on-one drills with Foster on Tuesday. Noel is not ready to face teammates one-on-one, Brown said.

"There are several benchmarks Nerlens still must meet, and during that time we will closely monitor his progress and regularly evaluate his status." general manager Sam Hinkie said. "Our goal remains the same, which is to give Nerlens every opportunity to ensure a long, productive NBA career."

Brown said he really doesn't know if Noel will play at all this season.

"He's [checking off] boxes at a rate that we had hoped," Brown said. "You know he's moving there. But to project anything or guess anything - that's all I would be doing is taking a wild-shot guess."

Brown added that selfishly he wants Noel to play this season to get games under his belt. The Sixers just want to make sure that the rookie steps onto the court with the proper fitness. There's also the fear of risking further injury by rushing him back too soon.

"We are not going to recklessly put him on a stage and expect results," Brown said. "To think he's going to go from one-handed shooting [to] guarding Tim Duncan in a six-week period is kind of ambitious."


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