A bad situation continues to get worse. Following comments from Nerlens Noel after Friday night’s game against the Lakers, the Sixers appear to be taking drastic steps to let Noel know who’s in charge.
As of tonight’s game against Brooklyn, it appears Noel is out of the big man rotation:
Nerlens Noel won't be in the rotation tonight unless there is foul trouble, per Brett Brown.— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) December 18, 2016
Brown says the decision to sit Noel has nothing to do with his comments the other night. Has to do with a desire to balance rest of roster.— Rich Hofmann (@rich_hofmann) December 18, 2016
This doesn’t appear to be a temporary measure, either:
#Sixers Brown: 'I assume we're going to stick with this rotation for a while.'— Tom Moore (@tmoore76ers) December 18, 2016
#Sixers Brown: 'I don't feel the balance of the team with 3 big men (playing). The ripple effects are real.'— Tom Moore (@tmoore76ers) December 18, 2016
Going the stern route with a malcontent is sure to please a decent portion of the fanbase. The majority have operated under the expectation Noel would be the odd man out because of his contract situation, even prior to his public dissatisfaction.
The possibility exists this is a more fluid situation than it seems. I suggested the possibility of resting the bigs in order to cut down the rotation on a nightly basis, a possibility Brown seemed open to at Saturday’s practice. There are obvious problems with that strategy, but it remains a possibility for now.
One curious note in this saga: Brown made sure to mention the plight of Bryan Colangelo while discussing the decision with the media:
#Sixers Brown on Noel minutes being limited: 'Bryan Colangelo inherited 3 consecutive big men in the draft.'— Tom Moore (@tmoore76ers) December 18, 2016
I have repeatedly expressed sympathy for Colangelo having to deal with this situation, because this specific sort of logjam is a headache. If the Sixers had too many wings or guards, it’d be a little easier to create leverage or a tenable situation out of the problem. Stacking centers on top of one another doesn’t come with the same luxury.
But it doesn’t excuse the team for not striking while the iron was hot. In the same way a lie of omission is still a lie, inaction is an action in itself. The Sixers have been connected to a boatload of trade rumors for most of 2016, and the Man of Action™ chose to hunker down and look to recoup trade value. Standing pat was a conscious decision.
Colangelo was well aware of numbers game when he took the job, and a lack of foresight and action caused it to blow up in his face. Brought in to help heal the team’s image and repair relationships, under his watch the most volatile situation has grown considerably worse. It’s a bad look for trade talks, it takes a talented player out of a rotation that can’t turn talent away, and it displays the total opposite effect his hiring was intended to have.
At the rate this is going, I would be shocked to see Noel on the team by next week, let alone the trade deadline. This is a case of when, not if.
*Editor’s Note: Flying under the radar here is another round of Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor starting together tonight. There is simply no excuse for this if Noel isn’t a factor in the rotation, other than to coddle Okafor. Embiid has been considerably better without him on the floor, and his versatility has a greater impact when playing alongside more suitable power forwards. This is not the way forward long-term, and if minutes aren’t a problem in the short, nuke this monstrosity of an experiment to oblivion.