Sixers' Noel eager for summer ball

Posted: April 10, 2014

YES, THE "4-4-14" tweet sent out by 76ers rookie Nerlens Noel was one of hope, hope that he would be able to make his NBA debut in his hometown of Boston.

But to fault a 19-year-old for tweeting his wishes would be a waste of time, as it's done all over the world by kids the same age as Noel. It's just that his wish sent a city buzzing and a basketball organization scrambling to squash an innocent remark.

This has been a struggle of a season for Noel, the 6-11 center the Sixers got in a surprising draft-night trade that sent packing their only seemingly building block, Jrue Holiday. He's been doing his due diligence in the weight room, trying to pack on some bulk onto the draft-night body that weighed close to 210 pounds. He has been coached on his shot, on his conditioning and, after listening to him address the media yesterday, his way to answer questions. But the biggest hurdle he has yet to clear, and the most important one, may still be a season away. Seeing Noel in a Sixers uniform in one of the five remaining games would seem to be doubtful, but who knows with this organization?

"It was definitely a goal of mine for me to get back and get cleared by the Sixers, but I was not, so that's that," Noel said. "But this year has been great. I've been sidelined, obviously, but I've learned a lot from coach [Brett] Brown and some of the veteran guys who have been traded as well as Thaddeus [Young]. I've been taking it all in. It's been a great learning experience for me."

It was just last week that a couple of reporters were able to watch Noel in some real action for the first time this season, playing hard one-on-one with teammates Jarvis Varnado and Brandon Davies. He looked freakishly athletic, if not very basketball ready. His legs have the spring of a rubber ball. Often, his shots in the lane were taken from an area of height that few defenders could reach. And his ability to block a shot by jumping after an attempt left the offensive player's hand was remarkable.

"Obviously, I do want to play. As a 19-year-old, I've been sitting on the sideline, really wanting to get out there and show my abilities and to be able to play ball," Noel said. "It's been tough but something that I had to do. I'm definitely looking forward to play.

"I'm very encouraged. Through this past year, since I had my injury, I've pushed myself through different things and I've had some struggles and I've played with it and definitely feel I've worked my butt off to get to where I'm at now. I feel confident that I'm at my best point. I've definitely increased my vertical leap and just gotten my body better this past year."

Word is that the Sixers will be competing in both the Orlando and Las Vegas summer leagues. That will be more interesting than ever this year with all the upcoming draft picks (two in the first round and five in the second), and the first real look at Noel.

"It's going to be a great summer, I feel," the rookie said. "I'm going to put in a lot of good work this summer and bring my game along and just keep working and working. I don't know all the details to that [summer league]. Obviously, I'll be able to play.

"When I made the 4-4-14 thing, I really wanted a good amount of games to really get a feel for the league. As it's winding down now, it's being thought over a little bit. Nothing is decided yet, so I'll just stay focused and keep working hard like I have been."

On Twitter: @BobCooney76


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