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Jahlil Okafor Likely To Play Opening Night, Nerlens Noel May Not

Brett Brown says Okafor is on track to be ready for opening night, but Noel’s status is up in the air.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers-Media Day Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

The Philadelphia 76ers are finally providing some clarity on injured big men Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel.

Brett Brown spoke to the media prior to Saturday night’s contest against the Detroit Pistons, and stated Okafor is expected to be ready for the start of the regular season, while Noel’s status is up in the air.

Okafor had surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his knee at the end of March, and was expected to resume basketball activities six weeks later. Almost seven months later, and the Sixers first-round pick in 2015 is still rehabbing his knee.

There’s certainly a lot of questions surrounding why it’s taking so long for Okafor to recover, especially because Brett Brown graded one of his recent individualized workouts as a “C-plus, B-minus.” If he’s a full-go on Oct. 26 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, then we can act like this saga never happened. But when a player is well off course from a timeline that the team itself provided, it should certainly bring you some pause.

Noel allegedly strained his groin at a team shootaround on Oct. 6, and hasn’t played in any preseason games since the opener against the Boston Celtics. His situation is as equally bizarre as Okafor’s, if not more so. Noel has clearly stated he believes the team needs to resolve their front court issues promptly, and his comments make it seem like he wouldn’t be too upset if trading him was the solution.

The Sixers have not commented at all on the severity of his injury, but perhaps keeping him out is their best option while general manager Bryan Colangelo tries to find him a new landing spot.

In the positive news department, Brown stated that the team will consider allowing Joel Embiid to play back-to-back games, a notion that seemed virtually impossible during the summertime.

The 22-year-old has certainly looked as good as advertised, and the fact that Philadelphia is willing to have a conversation about an increased workload is a great sign. But for a team that’s been ultra conservative in the past, it may behoove them to make sure that Embiid doesn’t overdo it this year.