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A Philadelphia 76ers blog, hosted by Christopher A. Vito

Friday, March 7, 2014

Sixers rookie Nerlens Noel graduates in rehab, begins playing 'against another body'


Nerlens Noel has graduated in his rehabilitation. The 76ers rookie has “cautiously” begun working against another body, going through 1-on-1 work, according to coach Brett Brown.

Noel has been seen in the gym at PCOM wearing the Sixers’ full practice gear, as opposed to the form-fitting undershirts he had been sporting. The 19-year-old also has been present on the court when the Sixers’ practices are opened to media members. Previously, he had joined his teammates only after they’d concluded their day’s work.

“He is (doing more). He’s slowly doing a little more physical stuff,” Brown said after Friday’s practice. “He’s slowly doing a little more and you can play him against another body. I highlight the word ‘slowly’ and I highlight the word ‘cautiously,’ but he’s doing it.

“A little bit more. I don’t want to paint the wrong picture. A little bit more, but he’s moving in that direction.”

In the portions of practice that are visible to reporters, Noel had only been seen gingerly working with Sixers assistant Greg Foster in 1-on-1 drills. It sounds as though Noel, the 6-11 center, is now able to go against a teammate with slightly more resistance.

The one constant, however, is that there’s no rush to have Noel play this season.

The sixth overall pick in last summer’s draft, Noel has yet to make his NBA debut. It’s been nearly 13 months since the Kentucky product tore the ACL in his left knee, and nearly a year since undergoing surgery to repair it. There’s no urgency on the Sixers’ part to get Noel on the floor, as they continue their rebuild effort and take a 15-game losing streak into Saturday’s game against visiting Utah.

“Whether we ever get to see him in a game this year, it really is, ‘Who knows?’” Brown said. “I’ve gone on (the) record to say I wish I could coach him and get some games under our belt with him. But the boxes he has to tick, the ones we’ve always talked about, those have yet to be ticked.”

Giving a sneak-peek into the kind of player into which the Sixers are hoping to mold Noel, Brown said he thinks Noel will be a drastically improved free-throw shooter. Noel converted only 55 of his 104 attempts at the foul line during his one injury-shortened year at Kentucky. Brown suspects that Noel will be hitting in the low 60-percent range next season and eventually shoot in the mid-70-percent territory for his NBA career.

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