Nerlens Noel, after barely playing, says the Philly front office needs 'to figure this s--- out'

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<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nba/players/5157/" data-ylk="slk:Nerlens Noel">Nerlens Noel</a> gets ready. (Getty Images)
Nerlens Noel gets ready. (Getty Images)

Nerlens Noel has done what’s expected. What’s surprising is that it took him this long.

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The Philadelphia 76ers center, stuck in basketball purgatory ever since being drafted by the endlessly-rebuilding team back in 2013, played just eight minutes in a nationally-televised loss to the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday evening. He contributed two points and five rebounds in that limited stretch, but the move from Sixers coach Brett Brown marked the second time in as many 2016-17 games for Noel that the defensive-minded prospect was limited to fringe minutes.

Following the contest, Noel (who has missed most of the season after undergoing offseason surgery on his left knee) shared his frustration in a NSFW chat with the press:

From Jessica Camerato at CSN Philly:

“I just want to play basketball,” Noel said in response to whether or not he wanted to be paired with another center. “I don’t really care who I’m playing with. I’m not an eight-minute player so I don’t know what that’s about. I don’t really care. I need to be on the court playing basketball. I think I’m too good to be playing eight minutes. Like, no, that’s crazy. That’s crazy. That’s crazy. They need to figure this s— out.”

Nerlens did not play in the second half, after coach Brett Brown reacted to Los Angeles’ small(ish) lineup:

“When they started going (small), something had to give,” head coach Brett Brown said, referring to his second half adjustment. “Nerlens was a casualty to that, as well as his health is not 100%.”

In addition to his lingering knee issues, Noel sprained his right ankle in his first game of the season last Sunday, necessitating that he sit for his team’s loss on Wednesday to the Toronto Raptors.

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Noel did not start against Los Angeles, but saw early minutes in reserve of starters Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor. When the Lakers pulled away early in the second half behind a lineup that featured Luol Deng playing minutes at big forward, the Sixers were left to counter with what they had.

Which meant no Noel. Who, to his credit, saw this as a reflection on the front office that drafted him, Embiid and Okafor (run by former general manager Sam Hinkie) and the current administration run by the Colangelo family, who has sat on Noel for months knowing that he doesn’t play well alongside Okafor, and that he’ll demand big minutes at some (healthy) point:

“I anticipated this,” Noel said. “Like I said before, I think it’s just too much on the coach’s plate. Pretty much, I think like I said, the guys that run the operations, they do what they do.”


“I control what I can control,” Noel said. “I’m that smart. I know I’m still in a situation. The smartest thing I can do is control what I can control and work hard and work on the things I need to work on. But like I said, it’s just too much on the coach’s plate. So regardless of who handles it, I think there’s a lot of frustration.”

As well there should be. The Sixers are stuck at 6-20 and set to hit the lottery for the fifth straight season. Noel’s value – given his limited offensive contributions and injury background – is at an all-time low. The same goes for Jahlil Okafor, 2015’s top pick, even though he works with 11.7-point and 4.7-rebound averages in under 23 minutes a contest.

It’s still a mess. Embiid doesn’t play well with Okafor …

… and Noel and Embiid haven’t even gotten a solid chance to work alongside one another:


And we know, based on a disastrous 2015-16 campaign, that Noel and Okafor cannot play alongside each other.

This, yet again, leaves the public explanations up to Brett Brown:

Noel is in the final year of his rookie deal, making $4.3 million, and he’ll become a restricted free agent this summer when the Sixers offer him the qualifying offer. Due to Noel’s injury concerns and the still-flighty, coltish aspects of his developing game, there is only a small chance trading for the big man would put a contending team over the top. Despite his gifts, there’s no guarantee that Nerlens will develop into the sort of starting-caliber big man worth giving assets up for.

Which once again leaves Philadelphia as a bit of a condemned outfit. It will look to not waste the mess of a year that was 2012-13 – the lottery prize of which (Noel) was the result of poor execution by the front office that came before the one the Colangelos replaced, with the prize in question once considered a top overall prospect before an ACL tear lowered his draft standing.

It’s easy to pity 76ers GM Bryan Colangelo for the unenviable task he’s taken on – but he has, gladly, taken it on. And the Colangelo family has had months to work up a deal, with the bulk of the talk coming in the summer months that often see front offices talking themselves into just about anything. Perhaps the Colangelos, bereft of an obvious move, talked themselves into thinking the season itself would help straighten the mess out.

That clearly hasn’t been the case. And Noel’s frustrated tone on Friday was absolutely well-earned, for all involved.

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Kelly Dwyer is an editor for Ball Don’t Lie on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at or follow him on Twitter!

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