Eric Bledsoe and Nerlens Noel get into it early in Sixers-Suns game
Every basketball season, a few people proclaim that the best team in college basketball could beat the worst team in the NBA. This year, that discussion started a little earlier than usual. After the No. 1 Kentucky Wildcats thumped the No. 5 Kansas Jayhawks on Tuesday night, many said that the stacked Cats could take the woeful Philadelphia 76ers, winless at 0-11 heading into Friday night's home game against the Phoenix Suns. The claims are not always with merit — even John Calipari has said his team wouldn't stand a chance against an NBA opponent — but merely floating the idea speaks to the state of the Sixers this fall.
Somewhat surprisingly, a few NBA players joined the pro-Kentucky crowd this week. Suns guard and former Wildcats star Eric Bledsoe made his comments in a radio appearance, stating that his alma mater would beat Philadelphia handily in a seven-game series. No matter the obvious bias, Bledsoe's comments didn't sit well with the Sixers and their fans, and he later claimed to be joking.
This context might explain the combative opening to Friday's Suns-Sixers game. On Phoenix's first possession of the game, Bledsoe drove to the hoop after receiving a pass in transition. He was fouled hard by Nerlens Noel at the rim and fell to the floor. Bledsoe took offense and got in Noel's face, although things didn't escalate beyond a yelling match:
Noel was issued a flagrant-1 foul, while Bledsoe was hit with a technical foul. It's unclear if Noel was trying to send a message to anyone who would disrespect the Sixers (a team that has not earned much respect with their play) or if Bledsoe was simply getting out in front of any possible retribution for his comments. Regardless, it's difficult to take the incident by itself after one of the players spent some time talking about how the Sixers couldn't beat a college team led mostly by freshmen and sophomores.
The odd thing here is that Noel also attended Kentucky, playing in 24 games for the Wildcats in 2012-13 before suffering the ACL tear that also kept him out of his first season with the Sixers. If Noel was trying to get back at Bledsoe, then he appears to have shown no ambivalence in picking his current squad over his college team.
Unfortunately, the Sixers didn't go on to show the Suns that they are as competitive as any other NBA squad. Philadelphia lost 122-96 to run their record to 0-12 and fall by 20 points or more for the fifth time in their last six games.
On the bright side, fans will get 50 percent off their Papa John's online order this Saturday. Way to go, guys.
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Eric Freeman is a writer for Ball Don't Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter!