Cautious Sixers keep Noel out of latest summer league game

Posted: July 17, 2014

LAS VEGAS - There is not a whole lot you can read into summer league games, so there doesn't really seem to be a reason to wonder why the 76ers are being so protective of Nerlens Noel.

The team played its eighth summer league game last night over the past 11 days, which is quite a handful. And for the fourth time, they chose to rest the 6-11, 220-pounder who was out all of last season recovering from ACL surgery. He's played four games in those 11 days, which is a little less than you'd play in an NBA season. Plus, he did tweak his left ankle in Monday's loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, so further caution was exercised.

The Sixers dropped a 97-88 decision to the Phoenix Suns last night, and did so without rookie K.J. McDaniels, who was resting a tender ankle, and Casper Ware, who played a lot of minutes in the five games in Orlando and flew in Monday from Los Angeles to join the team he originally wasn't scheduled to be with.

"I feel I haven't been good enough, yet," Noel said of his play. "I haven't been vocal enough. I have to block shots, but not try to block every shot. I have to interfere with what they want to do offensively."

He has been good at that and seems to get better as his conditioning improves. Monday, he got up and down the floor the best he has in either summer league and appeared to have more energy at the end of the game than at the beginning.

Last night, Jordan McRae scored 21 points before he left the game with a sprained ankle with just over 2 minutes to go. Adonis Thomas scored 15 and Elijah Millsap 12 for the Sixers, who dropped to 1-2 in Las Vegas.

Temple alum Dionte Christmas scored 15 for Phoenix, which was led by T.J. Warren's 28 points.

The Sixers' next game is tonight at 10:30 against the Lakers as the teams begin single-elimination play.

Vegas reprise?

In 2007, the NBA held the All-Star Game in Las Vegas at the Thomas & Mack Center, home arena for UNLV. Afterward, then-commissioner David Stern said that the NBA wouldn't go back to Vegas until there was a better venue. That will happen in 2016, when a new arena, capable of holding 19,000 for basketball, is built.

"We have no prohibition about bringing All-Star weekend back to Las Vegas," new commissioner Adam Silver told reporters. For fans, there may be no better place to go.

Did Sixers miss out?

We will not know for at least 2 years what kind of NBA player Dario Saric turns out to be. We've watched the video of him. The highlights are eye-popping, but there are plenty of shortcomings in his game, too. Maybe he will wind up being the Toni Kukoc-type that many foresee. And that would be a very nice fit for the Sixers.

But could there have been a terrific fit for them right now? Could there have been a player available at No. 10 that would have brought a huge interest this season, besides an all-around game that Saric may never bring - or possess?

After watching the Bulls' Doug McDermott a couple of times and then talking to scouts and general managers around the league, one thing is apparent - this kid is the real deal. Forget the points. Forget the opposition he's playing against in Las Vegas, and just look at how he plays the game. He is constant motion on offense, and his terrific shooting touch forces defenses to pay attention to him all the time. Imagine how much more space a Michael Carter-Williams would have to operate if defenses had to spread out? Imagine McDermott coming off a pick-and-roll with Nerlens Noel. If they collapsed, he'd hit the open shot more times than not. If they came out on him, he has proved here to be a very good passer.

Defensively, he is nothing flashy, but, as one scout said: "He'll be fine there because he is such a smart player. He is always in the right position."

Or as another said: "With the way Philly loves to run, he'd be perfect spotting up on the break, because he's a great shooter, and if you fly after him, he can put the ball on the floor with no problem and hit pull-ups."

The excitement surrounding the kid in Las Vegas was outdone only by Andrew Wiggins. Imagine if that type of excitement were in Philly this season. Would be a nice carryover until the rebuild is complete, no?

Let the arguments begin.

Statistical update

Here are some numbers out of Las Vegas of notable players taken in last month's draft (through three games, except for Dante Exum and Julius Randle, whose are through two):

* Andrew Wiggins: 13.7 points, 37.8 FG percentage, 2-for-11 three-point FG.

* Jabari Parker: 14 points, 7.3 rebounds, 37.5 FG percentage, 2-for-10 three-point FG.

* Dante Exum: 8 points, 3 assists, 38 FG percentage.

* Julius Randle: 12 points, 3 rebounds, 3.5 turnovers.

* Nik Stauskas: 13 points, 48.1 FG percentage, 5-for-9 three-point FG.

* Noah Vonleh: 7.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, 24.1 FG percentage.

* Doug McDermott: 20.3 points, 18-for-19 FTs, 11-for-21 three-point FG.

On Twitter: @BobCooney76


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