LAS VEGAS - Nerlens Noel is learning that life in the NBA will involve bumps and bruises in the early going.
That's why the 76ers center's goal is to get stronger before his inaugural season.
The next step "is being right in the weight room and eating a lot of food," said Noel, who sat out Friday night's 91-87 overtime loss to the NBA Development League Squad at Cox Pavilion. "I'm getting ready for the league."
The Sixers finished with a 2-4 record after losing the NBA Summer League consolation game. Noel played in only two games partly because of prearranged precautionary measures. Then the franchise became extra cautious after he tweaked his left ankle Monday in a loss to the Cavaliers.
The 6-foot-11, 223-pounder still had a presence as the team's second-leading scorer (13 points per game). He also averaged 5.5 rebounds, two blocked shots, and one steal.
As in last week's Orlando Pro Summer League, Noel displayed a quickness and athleticism that could turn him into an NBA all-star. However, he was outmuscled in the low post, especially Thursday in a second-round setback to the Bulls.
The 20-year-old was knocked to the floor on several occasions by Bulls post players. At one point, he collided with teammate Brandon Davies after being intentionally shoved in the back by Lance Thomas.
"I'm sure the league out there is going to try to prove his toughness and go at him because of his slender build," said Sixers coach Chad Iske, who coached the team in Las Vegas. "He will put on some more weight and muscle. He's got to get used to those rigors and answer it with his speed.
"That's why we want him running the floor."
Noel has actually lost five pounds while being more active over the last three weeks.
The five total games he played in Orlando and Las Vegas were his first organized matchups in 17 months after suffering a knee injury in his lone season at Kentucky.
"I definitely have to work hard the rest of this summer to get this size back on," Noel said. "And to be able to maintain the weight."
He doesn't expect to take the beating he took against the Bulls once the regular season begins.
"You know, I think it will be a little different with a little bit more grittier guys next to me on the block," Noel said. "I think it will be all right."
Adonis Thomas had 22 points against the NBA D-Leaguers. Sean Kilpatrick added 15 points, while Jamelle Hagins had 10 points and 13 rebounds for the Sixers.
Point guard Michael Carter-Williams was invited to participate in USA Basketball's Team USA camp as a member of the U.S. Select Team later this month in Las Vegas, ESPN reported. The reigning rookie of the year is rehabbing a shoulder surgery and was reportedly unable to accept the invitation.
The team will practice against Team USA in preparation for next month's FIBA World Cup in Spain.