NEW ORLEANS – Nerlens Noel flew to New Orleans on Wednesday and walked through a shootaround with the team Thursday morning. Noel has not played in a game this season because he is recovering from a knee procedure in October. Coach Brett Brown hinted that Noel could be available to play as early as Sunday, when the Sixers will be in Detroit. Noel will not play against the Pelicans on Thursday.
"We want to integrate him with the team, watch a lot of tape," Brown said, "with the understanding that we have a chance to see him soon. So all of that where we can ramp it up where he can go to an NBA court more comfortable."
The logjam that was forecast in the front court during the offseason, with Noel, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor, has gotten even more crowded with the addition of power forward Ersan Ilyasova. Next to Embiid, Ilyasova has been the team's best player of late. Once Okafor recovers from a stomach virus, how Brown will juggle all those bodies as early as Sunday is the biggest question surrounding the team right now.
Brown said if Okafor or Noel were ready to play against New Orleans, he would have started one of them alongside Embiid.
"I think it does all over the place," Brown said of how the team will change when Noel returns. "We were lucky when Robert (Covington) was hurt that we got to move Dario (Saric) down to the three a little bit. Because Dario, if you're not careful, is the one who could take a hit if you've got Jahlil and Nerlens and Joel and we saw again what Richaun (Holmes) can do when he gets a chance to play. And we've seen what Ersan can do.
"So there's ripple effects that influence the design, the structure of the team. It's a challenge when you're 20-some games deep, but it's good. We're getting our players back."
In the meantime, the 76ers will attempt to snap their eight-game losing streak when they face the Pelicans (7-15) at Smoothie King Center. Here are some things to look for: