Is Friction Growing Between Nerlens Noel and the Sixers?
Things are getting messy in Philadelphia.
After publicly stating his displeasure with the Sixers roster as currently constructed– and his place in it – Nerleans Noel missed the vast majority of the team’s preseason with a vague groin injury, and his status for the regular season’s start is up in the air at this point. This is a rough break for a team that is already dealing with a plethora of injury issues heading into the season.
However, it seems that there is more going on behind the scenes than just an injury issue. According to a league source, Noel and the Sixers are at an impasse of sorts, and there is ‘friction’ between the two sides. Noel’s absence is an attempt to put additional pressure on the team to make a move, per the source.
Noel – who has watched Philadelphia select Joel Embiid, Dario Saric, Jahlil Okafor, and Ben Simmons since his own selection in 2013 - is unhappy with his current role and status with the team, and wants a swift resolution to the Sixers’ big man roster dilemma; something General Manager Bryan Colangelo has repeatedly stated that he is in no rush to provide. Thus the impasse.
“I don’t see a way it can work,” Noel said of the situation last month. “It’s just a logjam. You have three young talented centers that can play 30-plus minutes a night. No three centers can play 30 minutes a night. So, that’s that. Things need to get situated. I think things obviously need to be moved around, someone needs to be moved around.”
Though he didn’t say so explicitly, the strong impression was given that Noel wouldn’t mind being the one moved – he just wants a move made. In this vein, Noel has done his best to make his feelings known, but the leverage in the situation belongs to the Sixers, who control the trade timeline. Though the team faces the prospect of losing Noel to free agency next summer if they don’t want to match outside offers, so moving him for a return this season would be logical.
It is not known at this point if Noel would be content to remain in Philadelphia if, say Jahlil Okafor was the one moved, but with Joel Embiid looking like the team’s starting center of the future, Noel’s role would likely be limited regardless. Not to mention any potential distaste he may have developed for the organization throughout the course of the past three seasons of restructuring.
At this point, a happy, productive long-term union between Noel and the Sixers appears increasingly unlikely.