Nerlens Noel is unhappy in Philadelphia. The night before media day, the Philadelphia 76ers center did not exactly ask to be traded, but he said that the team’s frontcourt logjam is “silly” and “doesn’t make any sense,” directly criticizing the front office for keeping three young centers — Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid — rather than balancing out the roster this summer, via the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s Keith Pompey.
“I think it’s just silly . . . this situation that we are in now with three starting centers,” Noel said on the eve of the Sixers’ media day. “With the departure of [former general manager and president] Sam Hinkie, I would have figured that management would be able to get something done this summer.”
“I feel like it definitely needs to be figured out,” he said. “I think at the end of the day, again, you have three starting-caliber centers. And it’s just not going to work to anybody’s advantage having that on the same team. That’s how I’m looking at it. I’m not opposed to anything, but things need to be situated.”
Noel said he wasn’t speaking negatively about the team’s other starting-caliber centers, Embiid and Jahlil Okafor. Nor was he speaking for them.
“Don’t get me wrong. We all get along great on the court and off the court,” Noel said. “But at the end of the day, it’s like having three starting quarterbacks. It doesn’t make any sense.”
It’s no coincidence that Noel said this right before the team’s big show for the media. There’s no time for damage control here, and Philadelphia’s front office cannot be happy. Noel also took the chance to directly contradict Sixers president Bryan Colangelo’s recent assertion on The Vertical podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski that he did not shop any of the big men: “I know I was shopped,” Noel said.
A few thoughts:
- This is exactly why Colangelo needed to get something done, even if the whole league knew his plan and that dramatically affected Noel and Okafor’s trade value. Everybody knows this situation is untenable in the long run, and doing nothing about a logjam like this risks creating serious short-term problems, too. It’s sort of shocking that Philadelphia was actually prepared to start training camp without resolving its most obvious issue.
- You can’t talk about this without talking about Noel’s contract. He is eligible for a contract extension right now, and he’s set to become a restricted free agent next summer. After watching him try to share the floor with Okafor last season, it became abundantly clear that Noel is best suited to play center, not power forward. Despite showing improvement, his minutes decreased in his second season, and if the Sixers intend to find playing time for everybody, that will likely happen again. That’s not something anybody wants to deal with in a contract year, especially on a team that is bound to finish in the lottery again.
- If Noel’s goal is to force a trade, this might not help. Just like with Rudy Gay and the Sacramento Kings, going public with these problems will only hurt his trade value. Noel’s frustration, though, is understandable, and perhaps Philadelphia knew that this would happen if it failed to sort things out before media day.
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