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Nerlens Noel enters his rookie season without restrictions

After a season on the sidelines, Nerlens Noel will finally make his NBA debut on opening night for the Sixers. The moment will be a long time coming. As fans know too well, Noel hasn't been able to play in an actual game since February 12, 2013, when he tore his ACL while still at Kentucky.

The injury and the resulting recovery work caused the once-projected top pick to slide down the draft board in 2013 to No. 6, where the Sixers were able to make moves to acquire him.

Noel has spent the past 15 months rehabbing, adding some strength, and working on various aspects of his game in preparation for his return. Although he admittedly could have played toward the end of last season, the Sixers kept him shelved, seeing no real reason to bring him back. Noel played solidly in summer league, which represented his first taste of NBA action, but also sparingly. He sat out of several games, not wanting to push his recently repaired knee.

Now it appears that the restrictions have been removed. At a lunch with media members on Thursday, 76ers coach Brett Brown aid "there are no restrictions" on Noel's minutes or play this season.

"We're going into it very open," Brown said, "and then just being smart with him as the season unfolds in regards to playing time."

The absence of a minute restriction is excellent news for the franchise and its fan base, as some expected Noel's time to be limited as he eased back into action. The fact that the franchise doesn't feel the need to set pre-determined limits on his play is a clear sign that he is good to go.

Although Brown doesn't intend to limit Noel's minutes, NBA referees might. Brown expects Noel to get into foul trouble "a lot," as happens often to rookie big men.

"He's in the air all the time, he plays above the rim, and he's active with his hands," Brown said. "He is so instinctive athletically that he can get himself into trouble. There are going to be times we have to be smart with him."

It sounds like the NBA will be exposed to a good dose of Nerlens Noel this season. If his summer league play was any indication, that should be a cause of excitement for the Sixers.