Sixers looking forward to big contributions from Noel

Posted: April 11, 2014

TORONTO - The smiles always seem to come before the answers when players and coaches are asked to talk about what Nerlens Noel has looked like lately, now that he has amped up his practice time with his team. (Stay calm, it is still very doubtful he will suit up this season).

Following practices, it is evident that Noel is doing more, as the amount of sweat on his practice jersey increases. He has been doing more in front of the media, for the 10 minutes or so that they are allowed into the end of practice. He even was allowed to speak with them on Tuesday, the first time he's done that since media day in September.

"He's very, very, very athletic. Super quick off his feet," Thaddeus Young said. "We will need him as far as blocking shots. I told him the other day that I need all the shots blocked to that [pointing up to the shot clock high above the backboard]. He was, like, 'I got you.' That was all I needed to hear. I love bigs like that, where they take pride in their job and they go out there and just basically do it. They don't worry about scoring, just block shots, rebound and run the court."

Jarvis Varnado is one of only two players in NCAA history to collect 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 500 blocks - the other is David Robinson. He is in the NBA to block shots and does it very well. Even he is amazed at Noel's shot-blocking ability.

"He gets up really high when he's blocking shots. Higher than me," said Varnado, averaging 1.5 rejections a game. "His quick jump is unbelievable. He can get up off the floor fast. His quick jumping and how high he rises is unbelievable."

Young has had to play power forward in a small forward's body a lot in his career. Should he still be here next season, being on the court with Noel would be more than welcomed.

"He can play the 'five' or the 'four,'" Young said. "If you have a guy like me, he'd definitely help me out. I'm always guarding bigger guys, and bigger guys tend to try to pound, pound, pound and get into the paint and throw up hook shots and stuff like that. He'll be great for that [blocking shots]. He's shown a lot of athleticism and the ability to go up and rise above guys and try to block shots or even connect with certain guys on lobs [on offense]."

Game stuff

DeMar DeRozan gets most of the publicity for Toronto, but it's Philly native Kyle Lowry who makes the engine run smoothly for the playoff-bound Raptors.

Returning last night after missing three games with a knee bruise, Lowry was his tough self, racking up 29 points and eight assists to aid the Raptors to a 125-114 win over the Sixers.

Since the Dec. 9 trade that sent Rudy Gay to Sacramento, the Raptors (46-32) have gone 39-20. Lowry has been instrumental in the team play that Toronto has developed.

"It's an interesting sort of case study because when they traded Rudy Gay, I'm assuming there was a part of that plan where they were going to step back and say, 'Where was the program going to go?' Were they going to try and rebuild or try to grow it? If I'm betting, I'm assuming it was going to be more of a rebuild, and it's just my guess," said Sixers coach Brett Brown, whose team fell to 17-61. "What they've done is they've grown something quite special. They're playing together and they started finding ways to win, so now they find themselves amongst the better teams in the East and getting ready for the playoffs. It's a case of addition by subtraction, or less is more, whatever you want. But I think that coach [Dwane] Casey has done a really good job with the group. They've played a good defense that they're now playing together."

Jonas Valanciunas collected 26 points and 12 rebounds for the Raptors, while Patrick Patterson and DeRozan had 17 points each. Terrence Ross rounded out the starting five in double figures, with 11.

Michael Carter-Williams played another solid game for the Sixers, posting 19 points, nine rebounds and eight assists. Henry Sims scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds, but only two in the fourth quarter. James Anderson had 17, Thaddeus Young 16, and Tony Wroten and Elliot Williams 11 each off the bench.

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