Nerlens Noel to undergo surgery and should be back in time for the trade deadline

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We haven’t seen Nerlens Noel on a basketball court recently, and we won’t be seeing him anytime soon. (AP)
We haven’t seen Nerlens Noel on a basketball court recently, and we won’t be seeing him anytime soon. (AP)

There’s been another twist in the twisted script that’s been Nerlens Noel’s 2017-18 season.

The Dallas Mavericks center will undergo surgery and miss 4-6 weeks to repair the ligament he tore in his left thumb earlier this season, according to Dallas Morning News beat reporter Eddie Sefko.

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The news came before the Mavericks’ loss to the Boston Celtics on Wednesday night, the same week Noel made headlines upon grabbing a hot dog from the media room at halftime of Saturday’s game.

“He’s got a torn ligament that’s affecting his ability to catch the ball and things like that,” Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle told reporters in Boston, via The Dallas Morning News. “As for all the other stuff. He’s a part of this team and he’s been very professional. Our No. 1 thing as a franchise is to get him 100-percent healthy and go from there.”

Noel could play with the injury, since it’s on his non-shooting hand, and he’s not much of a shooter anyhow, but why put off until tomorrow what has no bearing on today? Noel hasn’t played since Nov. 22, when he saw the floor for four minutes, and he hasn’t gotten any serious run since weeks earlier.

Noel lost his starting job to a 39-year-old Dirk Nowitzki, and he’s tumbled down the depth chart behind Dwight Powell, Salah Mejri, Maxi Kleber and Jeff Withey. Speaking of which, guten tag, Kleber:

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As for Noel, he can’t remember when he tore the ligament in his thumb? It was a while ago now.

Did the injured thumb play a role in Noel’s disappearance? Or has he just fallen out of favor after turning down a four-year, $70 million offer from the Mavericks in search of a max contract that never came, only to sign his one-year, $4 million qualifying offer in order to become an unrestricted free agent next summer? Noel’s response to questions about his status didn’t lend itself to the former.

“It’s not anything crazy,” said Noel. “It’s a pretty common injury for a basketball player. I’m just going to get it taken care of. I showed it to the trainers and they said, that it’s not right. They said I should probably get some surgery and get it fixed up now.

“I can play basketball with it. A couple guys in here have had it.”

Carlisle made it clear last month that he believes Noel hasn’t earned minutes over guys who are out-competing him, namely Mejri. “There’s no doghouse here,” the coach said. “There just isn’t. It’s pretty simple: You compete, and if you earn minutes, you get minutes.” So, Noel must’ve been more competitive before his contract dispute, when he averaged 22 minutes in Dallas following his trade from the Philadelphia 76ers, earning high praise for his work as an athletic rim-runner and protector.

And while Mavericks owner Mark Cuban told Sefko that the decision to conduct the surgery now is not an attempt to “put out to pasture” Noel just as rumblings of a rift between the team and their once valuable asset are growing louder, it’s not lost on anyone that by repairing the torn ligament now, the 23-year-old former lottery pick should be healthy and ready to help just in time for the trade deadline.

But if they were looking to cash in on Noel, this was the perfect opportunity for the Mavs to blame his lack of production on his thumb injury, but that wasn’t the case on Wednesday. Strange times indeed.

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Ben Rohrbach is a contributor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!