Nerlens Noel Unhappy with Sixers Situation
Optimism and excitement were in abundance at Sixers media day on Monday at the team’s sparkling new training facility in Camden, New Jersey, as young players and recently acquired veterans alike took turns expressing their excitement regarding the upcoming season.
Ben Simmons spoke of leadership and tempered expectations. Jahlil Okafor discussed his offseason workout routine and his recovery from recent injury issues. Dario Saric detailed his transition to the United States. Joel Embiid discussed video games, and his distaste for college basketball.
Then, Nerlens Noel came to the microphone(s) on the heels of a recent report in which he basically proclaimed his unhappiness with the Sixers situation.
Before Noel even answered a single question, he had the media room echoing with keyboard clicks due to his appearance alone. Gone was the classic high-top haircut that had become synonymous with his appearance. In its place was a dreaded ‘do. Unlike his teammates who had been prior to the podium sporting Sixers gear, Noel donned a black NBPA shirt (Several other players wore the same shirt to the podium, but Noel was the first, and at the time it seemed like an ominous sign).
“I'm a real person, I really can't sugarcoat anything,” Noel said of his current feelings regarding the Sixers situation – and sugarcoat he did not. On the contrary, the Kentucky product was very straight-forward when discussing his thoughts regarding the current construct of the Sixers roster.
“I don’t see a way it can work,” Noel stated flatly. “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.”
What Noel had hinted at with his actions throughout the offseason - removing Sixers-centric stuff from his social media, being noticeably away from the team - he made abundantly clear with his words on Monday.
"Things need to get situated," Noel said. "I think things obviously need to be moved around, someone needs to be moved around.”
Though he didn’t come out and say it, the distinct impression was given that Noel wouldn’t mind being that someone moved.
“It's just a tough situation,” he continued. “It's just a whole different position that I didn't picture being in. I can't really say too much because I have no say in the matter, so obviously that's for who can handle the situation in the right manner.”
For not saying ‘too much’, Noel sure said a lot.
Noel, the elder statesmen of the big man crew, clearly feels slighted by the organization that traded for him on draft night in 2013 , and then went on to subsequently draft several other similarly positioned players. He clearly isn’t on-board with GM Bryan Colangelo’s patient approach to move making either. Colangelo said on Monday that he doesn’t feel like he’s on any deadline to make a move.
"I can't say I do really understand [the waiting],” Noel said. “If you have a group of players, I just don't think it makes too much sense to just still come into the season with such a heavy lineup at the center position. I don't know what there is to wait and see.”
Noel, 22, came off as a player jaded to his current work situation and ready for a change.
"I've gone through a whole lot. Probably the most, arguably, that any player has gone through in the NBA as far as losing. It's a tough situation to still be in. Year by year, to see things get more difficult to show your value. Year by year, it's always been something. It's really at a point where it's just a lot."
Parts of Noel’s truncated media day session – he was cut short by Sixers PR after six minutes, other players spoke for ~20 – sounded like a farewell speech, or breakup note.
"I want to emphasize how much I love my guys. Jahlil [Okafor] and Joel [Embiid] are some of the closest friends on this team that I have. It's definitely nothing to do with that. I love the city of Philadelphia. The fans are some of the best fans in the country.”
So, what is the ideal basketball future for Nerlens Noel?
“The perfect future for me is a position where I’m utilized to my full abilities,” Noel explained. “To be able to show what I can contribute to a winning program.
For Noel, it is yet to be seen if that perfect future will occur in Philadelphia.