Skip to content
Link copied to clipboard

Brown responds to Noel's frustration over playing time

It was an obvious question - one that a lot of folks in the 76ers organization and the team's fans wanted the answer to.

It was an obvious question - one that a lot of folks in the 76ers organization and the team's fans wanted the answer to.

Is Brett Brown confident that things will work out if his three healthy centers - Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, and Jahlil Okafor - all remained on the roster for the season?

"I think it would be an extreme challenge," the Sixers coach said after practice Saturday.

Brown's response is in line with what Noel believes. The player is adamant that this is a tough situation for the three big men to be in.

"If you went to our owners, if you went to [president] Bryan [Colangelo], if you went to our team, me, we appreciate it's a challenging situation," Brown said. "To tick off an untenable, to tick off on it's impossible, I'm not going there."

But this situation could end up being much more than an "extreme challenge." The team culture could go awry quickly if the Sixers don't hurry and trade Noel and Okafor.

Noel did his best to put on his we-are-a-united-front happy face after practice. His true feelings were on display after Friday night's 100-89 loss to the Los Angeles Lakers at the Wells Fargo Center.

It was just his second game of the season after missing time with inflamed tissue above his left knee and a sprained left ankle.

Noel finished with two points, five rebounds, and one block in 8 minutes, 2 seconds in his home debut He sat out the second half.

Brown said that not having enough minutes for all three of his top centers was the reason. The 6-foot-11, 232-pounder was paired with Ersan Ilyasova while on the court. He was asked if he wanted to play with Embiid or Okafor.

Noel answered that he just wants to play.

"I'm not an eight-minute player. So I don't know what that's about," he said. "I don't really care [who he's paired with]. I need to be on the court playing basketball. I'm too good to be playing eight minutes right now, that's crazy, that's crazy, that's crazy. Need to figure this [stuff] out."

Like Noel, Brown tried to say all the right things Saturday.

He described the 22-year-old as highly competitive. The coach added that he understands frustration can surface.

While he wouldn't disclose what was said, Brown did commend Noel for showing "tremendous maturity" during their meeting over his comments.

But . . .

Noel's postgame comments "did catch me a little off guard as you stood back and somebody read them to me," Brown said. "As I said, they are highly competitive. He's in a very unusual situation.

"The fact that it came out so soon as it did [since he's been back] caught me off guard."

Brown realizes that his job is to manage this situation before it has a ripple effect on the team.

Embiid said for the first time that he didn't trust the process after the lackluster pairing of him and Okafor in the starting lineup on Wednesday against the Toronto Raptors. He appeared equally frustrated Friday.

"You hear me talk about the ecosystem of our team and it's real," Brown said. "The things that go on can affect others, as we are seeing. So how I manage this I think is going to be fluid."

On Saturday, Noel said that he would continue to control the things that he can control. He's going to keep working hard at practice.

Noel responded "probably not" when asked if his coming back from injuries had anything to do with his playing only eight minutes.

"But everything has to be dealt [with] in the right way," he said. "That's where we are looking moving forward and staying close-knit and making sure things go at ease."

Brown expects to start Okafor and Embiid together for the third consecutive game Sunday against the Brooklyn Nets at the Wells Fargo Center. Even though it's been challenging, he said the Sixers need to figure out if playing two big men together will work.

They're trying to find out if the twin-towers set is successful in transition defense. They want to see if they can find a place for Okafor when they integrate Embiid into the post during that set. They eventually plan on seeing how Noel looks with Embiid.

"I feel that his arrival into the team, his trying to get in shape . . . it has been so erratic," Brown said of Noel. "It has been so completely infrequent that you naturally go to Jahlil sooner than Nerlens as it relates to pairing with Joel.

"So over time, I am interested in that. I think it has some defensive attraction, for sure."