Nerlens Noel has played in all of two games since missing the first 23 of the season following knee surgery, and already he’s livid about his lack of playing time.
Noel played just 8:02 — all the minutes in the first half — in the Sixers’ sloppy loss Friday night to a Lakers team that had lost eight in a row coming in. Noel came in off the bench and was largely paired with Ersan Ilyasova as the other big, he was never paired with Joel Embiid or Jahlil Okafor.
“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.”
Brown said that the Lakers started to go small, which forced him to sit big men and match up, leaving Noel glued to the bench for the final 24 minutes. Noel played a little more than 10 minutes in his season debut against Detroit Sunday, until he rolled his ankle and was taken out (he did not play in the next game against Toronto due to that ankle).
But here’s the thing: Teams aren’t eager to bring in a guy they see as a chemistry problem. A guy with bad body language who complains about his minutes, a man whose work habits they question. Which is exactly what is happening now. Noel is in a tough situation, but he has responded immaturely. Teams see all this, see his complaining, and try to lowball the Sixers on any potential deal. Which makes one less likely to get done. Meaning Noel stays longer in a situation where he’s not happy, which seems to exacerbate the body language and other issues. And now we have a cycle.
At some point, the Sixers are going to move Noel and/or Jahlil Okafor (Noel is a restricted free agent next summer and the Sixers aren’t going to spend much to match in that setting, so they want to make a deal). But Noel isn’t helping the situation any by venting like this. It also doesn’t make Brown want to play him more.