Twin Towers Embiid and Noel are glad to team up

Hobbled 76ers rookie Joel Embiid said he and Nerlens Noel will be like Duncan and Robinson.
Hobbled 76ers rookie Joel Embiid said he and Nerlens Noel will be like Duncan and Robinson. (AP)
Posted: July 02, 2014

Joel Embiid certainly sounded excited Monday in a telephone conversation with reporters. Three hours later at the 76ers' practice facility, Nerlens Noel was amped up and couldn't stop smiling.

The 76ers used the third overall pick in Thursday night's draft on Embiid, a 7-foot center from Kansas, to line up next to the 6-foot-11 Noel in the post. The thought is that the two 20-year-old rim protectors will become the Sixers' version of the Twin Towers for years to come.

Embiid might miss the 2014-15 season while he recovers from surgery to repair a stress fracture in his right foot. But Noel is dreaming already.

"I'm just foreseeing the future with all those blocked shots, and me finding him and him finding me," Noel said at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine as the Sixers began preparing for summer-league play. "I think it is going to be a real good tandem like [Tim] Duncan and [David] Robinson."

The 6-11 Duncan and the 7-1 Robinson teamed up to lead the San Antonio Spurs to NBA titles in 1999 and 2003.

"I feel like Nerlens and I, we are going to be really good," Embiid said during the conference call.

Unlike Duncan and Robinson, the two young Sixers have played exclusively at center during their careers. But they don't see that as a problem.

"Going forward, I see myself as a forward," said Embiid, a native of Cameroon who has played just three seasons of organized basketball. "I think my shot is getting a lot better. I'm working on my handle and passing skills. I feel like I can become a forward."

The 250-pounder said he wants to remain on the block and post up defenders.

However, Embiid probably won't get the opportunity to do that until the 2015-16 season while he recovers from his injury. In the meantime, he can lean on Noel, who knows about dealing with a long period of inactivity.

The rookie out of Kentucky missed all of last season while recovering from knee surgery.

"I'll be in his corner, making sure that he's good," Noel said of Embiid. "Obviously, I went through this this past year. I'd love to give him my advice and my feedback on anything. . . . I'm going to make sure I'm there for him whenever he needs it."

If not for their injuries, both players likely would have been the first players selected in their respective drafts.

Noel dropped to the New Orleans Pelicans at No. 6 last year. The Sixers acquired him and a 2014 first-round pick from the Pelicans in exchange for 2013 all-star point guard Jrue Holiday.

On Thursday, Embiid was passed over by the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Milwaukee Bucks after he hurt his foot while training in Los Angeles two weeks ago. Embiid expects to visit Philadelphia next week. He said he had been fearful he would slide to the second round.

"I love the fact that they took a chance on me," Embiid said of the Sixers. "I love the fact that they believe in me. I won't disappoint them."


kpompey@phillynews.com

@PompeyOnSixers

www.inquirer.com/deepsixer

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