Three months ago, Nerlens Noel said that he had no idea how the Philadelphia 76ers were going to handle having three true centers on the roster. Now, he knows how they’re handling it—by playing him a whole lot less. And he’s pissed, as he told reporters after last night’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers:
“I need to be on the court playing basketball. I mean, I’m too good to be playing eight minutes.... that’s crazy, that’s crazy, that’s crazy. Need to figure that shit out. Fuck it.”
After missing most of the season so far while recovering from knee surgery, Noel has averaged 9.0 minutes of play in his first two games of the year. It’s a pretty sharp drop from the 30 minute mark he hovered around during his first two seasons with the Sixers. In his stead, meanwhile, Jahlil Okafor has been averaging 22.7 minutes and rookie Joel Embiid is getting 24.1—and would almost certainly be getting more were he not still on a minutes restriction due to his injury history. Embiid’s cap has been bumped from 20 minutes at the start of the season to 24 to 28, and it should only keep going up if he stays healthy. A favorite for rookie of the year, he currently leads the Sixers in points, rebounds and blocks.
All of which is to say that Noel is probably not getting an increase in playing time soon. It certainly doesn’t bode well for him that having just Okafor and Embiid on the floor together has led to problems: “Never from the start to the finish did you feel like you were in any type of rhythm or flow,” head coach Brett Brown said after trying to put Embiid at power forward while Okafor was at center on Friday. “It doesn’t surprise me. It saddens me, but it doesn’t surprise me.”
The result here is either inevitable frustration from the three big men or a much-needed trade. Or some of the former leading to one of the latter.