Brown: Noel's spirit is willing, but flesh is weak

Posted: March 13, 2014

HAD A TWEET come out that Jairus Byrd said he would play only for the Eagles, that probably would have been the most talked about social media communication of the week in Philadelphia. But that didn't happen, so Nerlens Noel's tweet on Sunday with the numbers 4-4-14 still remains the biggest subject here.

But while the Sixers still try to defuse the notion that maybe their 19-year-old center wants to take the court on that date in Boston, just a few miles from his hometown of Malden, Mass., the talk still swirls around the player obtained following a draft-night trade with the New Orleans Pelicans and whether he might make his debut from ACL surgery this season.

"Slowly, [he's doing] some contact stuff," coach Brett Brown said. "He's going through slowly some halfcourt stuff with the group. [Yesterday], it was clear that his wind got the better of him. It was fantastic to see him move around, for sure. Even in such an unscripted setting, you can see quite special qualities, athletically."

Could putting him on the court, when his game undoubtedly would be rusty, hurt his confidence and dampen fans' expectations?

"I feel the responsibility to put him in the situation where he can have a chance of playing well," Brown said. "It's more from the physical side of it than what it's going to do to him mentally. Physically, we got to make sure that he's so ahead of the power curve, in regards to ticking the physical boxes with all the medical things that he has to go through. If you were to say experience not success, not having success, that it would harm him, [it's uncertain]. There's a cocky side to him that I really like; there's a competitive side that he feels like at some point he'll be there. It's more the physical side of it.

"It is a realistic goal in practice where we can bring him in and do that and maybe even beyond that, where we can see him get up and down the floor a few trips. But how that translates to being approved to playing in an NBA game is really sort of guesswork right now."

The coach again preached patience, reiterating that Noel is quite far from being ready to get on a court with NBA players who are in their prime physically. There is a glimmer in his eye when he talks, as if the prospect of getting the 7-footer out there to protect the basket is as enticing as a juicy steak to a hungry man. But patience remains the key. And while Noel might feel he's ready to don a uniform and show the world what he can do at the NBA level, the team is not ready to go there just yet.

"He's worked his tail off in the weight room and shooting, and in one-on-zero, and in coaching with coach [Greg] Foster, and in working with me," Brown said. "I can't ask anything more from him. What he's seen on NBA benches and in video rooms has been great. But now all of the sudden, we start playing three-on-three, four-on-four and five-on-five, and you can see his conditioning isn't what it should be. It's short, because he does go so hard, his chest is going to beat out. He's really got to take time off, and then we go back at it again. But, in general, to watch him go at it has been great. It doesn't compare when you start seeing him play against another unit vs. one-on-zero. It's not even close, that's the bottom line.

"[We have to] remind him where we're at, the importance of us making sure that he's above 100 percent, that he's just good to go. I think that type of conversation happens often. He knows how excited I am to coach him. I love the kid. I spend a ton of personal time with him. I've enjoyed watching his growth with his shot. But, more importantly, as I've said on record, there's an endearing side of him that I just find a bit contagious. You get very much attracted to him as the person. I look forward to coaching him."

Six shots

Though there was no official announcement for some reason, it appears as if forward/center Jarvis Varnado will stay with the team for the rest of the season, according to a source. It was reported that the team might bring in a couple of players to work out yesterday, but the team said that didn't happen, and practice went as planned.

On Twitter: @BobCooney76


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