Brown continues rebuilding Noel's shot

Posted: March 22, 2014

Brett Brown kept his right hand extended and walked backward from the free-throw line. His shot swished through the hoop and the scoreboard clock neared zero.

The Sixers head coach knew he sealed the win in his post-practice shootout against rookie Nerlens Noel on Thursday afternoon. The pair - as they often do - traded foul shots for five minutes on the rear basket of the practice court at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

More important than Brown's win was the progress of Noel. The 6-foot-11 forward shot with two hands, and Brown said he has been doing that for about five weeks. It's the latest step in the coach's project to craft Noel's shot, which Brown said was undergoing a "total makeover."

"His shot was blown up," said Brown. "We totally rebuilt his shot. For almost four months we didn't let him bring his guide hand to the ball. Then he's been starting to do some stuff where he has to bring his guide hand to the ball. It's the evolution of a total rebuild."

Brown said Noel's shot looks a lot better. The coach's goal is to make Noel a 60-percent free-throw shooter, which he conceded may be a low mark to aim for. But Brown said it's a "high goal" for both Noel's position on the court and his free-throw history. Noel made 52.9 percent of his free throws in his one season at Kentucky.

Noel will sit again Friday, likely wearing a tailored suit as his team hosts the New York Knicks. He has missed all 68 of the Sixers' games while recovering from knee surgery last March. So he has been a spectator for the Sixers' 22-game losing streak.

Noel tweeted "4-14-14" earlier this month, perhaps a cryptic message of his debut date. Brown said he's unsure Noel will play this season.

"It's the flavor-of-the-year question," Brown said. "I really don't know. He's moving in a slow direction. Only time will tell."

The pair tossed friendly barbs when they switched during their game from rebounder to shooter. Brown bounced on his toes as Noel readied to shoot, hoping to distract him. Both grew up in New England and often share stories from back home.

The coach loves working with Noel because, he said, the rookie wants to learn. He's all ears, Brown said. The two often talk about other players, the ones Noel strives to be like.

Noel is incisive, Brown said, and brings up things that a normal 19-year-old would not. He notices how star players talk to referees. He studies how they gather their teammates after free throws. And on Thursday he watched his own progress. One free throw at a time.


mbreen@phillynews.com

@matt_breen

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