Speaking with reporters early Monday evening, Sixers head coach Brett Brown stated it is possible for Nerlens Noel to miss the entire 2013-14 season recovering from the ACL injury he suffered back in February against the University of Florida.
While some may see this as a sign of bad things to come, this should not come as much of a surprise to anyone. To put it bluntly, the Sixers are transparently tanking this season, and Noel, being one of the highest rated prospects of the 2013 Draft, is surely going to help them win games. Of course, this is not to say that if the Sixers were competing this year Noel would definitively be back before Christmas. According to Brown, Noel's rehab is not going along as quickly as hoped at this stage and with the Sixers needing Noel in the long-term and with the short-term being all about losing games and developing (healthy) players, one can see why it is perfectly reasonable for the Sixers to take a conservative approach regarding Noel. Despite this, sources tell Liberty Ballers this is not a situation of Noel suffering a setback.
It should not come as a surprise given the PR disaster that was the Andrew Bynum situation last season that the Sixers immediately lower the bar of expectations. With Bynum, everything this time last year was "hope, hope, hope, a laughably oversized t-shirt gun, and more hope." Now with new general manager Sam Hinkie, Brown, and Noel, the Sixers are instantly setting the bar low. Brown did not rule out Noel entirely this season, using some ambiguous language leaving hope the faint possibility Noel will see some playing time this season, but by setting the bar low right off the bat, the Sixers can temper fans' expectations and eliminate the year-long distraction of fans and reporters asking "will he play? will he play? will he play?" to the team and each other.
Ultimately, the Sixers best approach is to be cautious with Noel. When Noel returns to the court, he should be 100% and at absolutely no point should the Sixers even contemplate rushing him before he is absolutely 100% ready. At this stage, Noel's long-term fitness is the most important thing and if a byproduct of that is him not playing in this upcoming tank-tastic season, it is unfortunate as seeing him play would have been fun, but it is not the end of the world and this certainly should not come as a surprise to anyone following the Sixers this season.