The future of the 76ers apparently will not include Nerlens Noel. That appears to be the decision that has been made by the brass without seeing Noel paired with Joel Embiid at all this season; with him sharing the court only briefly with Jahlil Okafor a year ago; and rarely, during his two full seasons of playing, having a true point guard to help him grow his offensive capabilities.
Is it that general manager Bryan Colangelo and coach Brett Brown don't see the 6-11, 232-pounder fitting in with whatever style they are going to play?
Oddly, it appears yes. Though no style of play has truly been identified during the growth of this Process - whether it be run-and-gun, a deliberate halfcourt one or a combination of the two - Noel apparently doesn't seem to be a fit for any of it in their eyes.
Two days after expressing his dissatisfaction about playing just eight minutes in a loss to the Lakers, Noel was relegated to the bench for the foreseeable future, though Brown insisted it had nothing to do with Noel's comments to the media, which also include a media-day rant in September in which he said it was "silly" that the organization still had him, Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor - three centers - on the roster.
Yeah. And Sam Hinkie is shortsighted.
"We've got two young men that were college five men that are trying to coexist and play with each other," Brown said of Embiid and Okafor. "Each of them would probably quietly tell their own story of how it's a challenge. Forget what Ersan (Ilyasova) and Dario (Saric) might say. So we feel it. I feel that trying to force-feed three bigs in a game is unfair. I think that the ripple effects from those other people are painful. I intend on going with two of those three bigs. Nerlens will not be one of those people in the rotation unless something happens with foul trouble or some type of other circumstance. And we'll try to get Dario and Ersan back at their comfortable positions and get back into some level of a flow."
So now, all the talk during the offseason of how the meshing of three centers was going to work will never come to fruition because the team never tried to figure it out. They just quit on it. And that certainly doesn't send a good message to the other players. All the times that they've heard the brass speak of finding a positionally balanced roster through playing experimentation never came about.
Perhaps the decision was reached due to Noel continually expressing his displeasure. Maybe the play of Ilyasova, acquired in an early-season trade with Oklahoma City, has swayed them to the idea of signing him after the season and plugging him in as a key member of the future. But to make a decision like this with Noel playing a total of 18 minutes and 25 seconds this season is borderline absurd, and this is coming from someone who would prefer the team keep Okafor over Noel, if it had to pick between the two.
The point is, during this rebuild the Sixers have won fewer than 20 percent of their games. The only slight bit of certainty that has come in these three-plus seasons is that Embiid could very well be on his way to stardom. After that, there is certainty about nothing. Yet, you can make a decision on Noel playing with Embiid, sight unseen?
Seems there almost has to be something more to it.
"I think this has been decided a long time ago," Noel said. "I've been staying very content and just focused on bettering myself and worrying about the things I can control. You've just got to prepare yourself for things like these and take it one step at a time. At the same time, be a pro and work on the things that you have to work on.
"I think a lot of people knew it was going to get to a point like this. Now I'm the one that's in it. I'm going to deal with it the best way possible."
At least the Eagles tried to win their game with a two-point conversion on Sunday. Given the same situation, you wonder if the Sixers brass would have just walked off after the touchdown and taken the loss without even attempting a final play.
For an organization that preaches daily to its players the benefit of effort, and gets it despite continuous losing, they showed none in trying to figure out the big-man dilemma. Again, maybe there is more to it.
"Because of the ripple effects to Ersan and Dario and our pursuit to try to find ways to win some games," Brown said of sitting Noel. "I don't feel the balance and flow of the team when you have to force-feed three 'five' men and then you're looking at Dario being shoved down to a three when he's really a four, and you see Ersan sitting there.
"In this particular situation it does hurt Nerlens. But in other situations it hurts Joel, it hurts Ersan, it hurts Dario. So the ripple effects are real. In this situation it's our decision. We talk freely with Bryan and my staff, owners, that we feel that two out of the three you can find ways to responsibly play without hurting the team. I assume that we're going to stick with this rotation for a while."
There's an old bar joke that says if someone doesn't meet your standards, lower them. That line can be applied to Colangelo now when it involves trading Noel - if an offer doesn't meet your standards, lower them. That is what it appears to have come to.