Earlier this week, the Portland Trailblazers announced that their 2013 first round draft pick C.J. McCollum, who has missed the entire season thus far recovering from a broken foot, will play back-to-back games for the Blazers’ D-League affiliate, the Iowa Stampede, this weekend.
The Blazers are clicking on all cylinders this season, owning the NBA’s best record following last night’s games. Clearly, under the leadership of General Manager Neil Oshley and head coach Terry Stotts, Portland has made the necessary adjustments in order to make the difficult leap from being a good team to a legitimate contender—save your argument that the Blazers weren’t a good team last season, they were 25-23 before the wheels came off in February, March and April. Right now, though, they don't need CJ rushing back -- the team is giving him time to get his legs back under him.
Sixers fans are fortunate to have similarly forward-thinking leadership in majority owner Joshua Harris, GM Sam Hinkie and coach Brett Brown. With that in mind, should the Sixers also look into using the same rehabilitation move with their own banged-up lottery pick from this past June’s draft?
Nerlens Noel crashed to the floor in Gainsville after chasing down a fast-breaking opponent and saving a basket for his Kentucky Wildcats on February 12th. A torn ACL is supposed to take 9 months to fully recover and we’re now almost a year removed from that tear. If the Sixers were competing for a playoff spot, let alone to top-seed in a conference like the Blazers, you’d think Hinkie would have already looked to send Noel down to the D-League.
I’m not necessarily arguing Hinkie and Brown should opt to send Noel to Delaware and join coach Rod Baker,
Kendall Marshall, Aquille Carr and the rest of the 87ers, but it is certainly a move the brass should mull over. Especially once he's ready to dip his feet into playing waters. And it'd be nice to see him, since at this point, our only eye-witness that Noel is still alive has been his pre-game one-handed shooting with Brett Brown. Having him rehab with the 87ers would be fun and sell some tickets.
Then again, Noel getting hurt in Delaware would be crushing. And having Noel with the team allows him to work with Brown and his miracle-working staff of player developers.
It’s very exciting that the league is starting to truly embrace the D-League for all of the advantages it can present individual NBA teams. Look for the Sixers to capitalize on that in some way -- Nerlens or otherwise -- moving forward.