BOSTON - Nerlens Noel has had lackluster homecomings.
The 76ers rookie center hopes to change that Monday against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. Noel's hometown of Everett, Mass., is less than four miles from the arena.
Yet, his family and friends have witnessed some of the emerging rookie-of-the-year candidate's worst outings. Perhaps overly anxious to play in Boston, Noel rushed shots and was too revved up for his own good.
He made 2 of 9 shots to finish with four points, six rebounds, four turnovers and a technical foul before fouling out in 27 minutes in a preseason opener won by Boston on Oct. 6.
He later scored eight points on 1-for-5 shooting to go with seven rebounds and four turnovers in 27 minutes of a 107-96 regular-season loss on Feb. 6. Ineffective, the 6-foot-11, 221-pounder was taken out with 5 minutes, 50 seconds remaining and the Sixers (15-51) down eight points.
"You know I'm definitely anticipating a better outcome being back home and playing in front of friends and family," said Noel, who averaged 14.5 points on a combined 14-of-22 shooting in two losses to the Celtics (29-36) at the Wells Fargo Center.
"I feel very confident at this point of the season," he added. "I think I'm progressing well and want to continue to. And I'm looking forward to playing back home."
Noel has shown drastic improvement since his last trip to Boston.
He's averaged 12.1 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 3.0 steals and 1.9 blocks over the last eight games. Noel has had at least 10 rebounds and at least four steals in four straight games from March 4 to March 11. That's the NBA's longest streak since Houston Rockets Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon did it in four straight games in November 1988.
For the season, Noel is averaging 9.1 points, 7.8 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, 1.8 steals and 1.7 assists.
Looking back at his previous trips to Boston, Noel realizes that he must slow things down in his mind and forget about the last play.
"I have to know that my team needs me," he said. "And I have to stay with an aggressive mind-set and not worry about making mistakes like I was early in the season."