Despite all the obstacles brought on by COVID-19, 76ers center Norvel Pelle is relishing his chance to continue what has been a memorable first NBA season.
Pelle, 27, began the year on a two-way contract that was converted into a standard NBA contact on Feb. 7.
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Now, as the Sixers depart for Florida on Thursday to begin their preseason in anticipation of restarting their season Aug. 1, Pelle is excited to be back on the court.
Through parts of four seasons with the 76ers’ G League team in Delaware and several years playing overseas, Pelle doesn’t take a single day of being an NBA player for granted.
“Regardless, of everything that’s going on, I was able to fulfill a dream and sign a contract with an NBA team, and playing for the Sixers is a blessing,” he said on Wednesday morning during a Zoom interview with the media. “It’s a big roller coaster, my whole career has been a roller coaster up and down and whatnot, so being in the organization and in the NBA, playing for the Philadelphia 76ers [is great].”
Pelle has had his moments with the Sixers, especially his debut when he had four blocked shots along with three points and two rebounds in 12 minutes and 33 seconds of a 101-95 win at Madison Square Garden over the New York Knicks on Nov. 30.
This season he has appeared in 20 games for the Sixers, and eight for the Delaware Blue Coats.
While some such as teammate Joel Embiid have voiced misgivings about resuming the season, Pelle is looking forward to it.
“Regardless of what was going on with the whole COVID, and the injustice system ... everything right now is a high, and I am so excited about what is going on,” he said.
Pelle and veteran Kyle O’Quinn offer insurance in case the Sixers have injuries at center. Right now Embiid and Al Horford are healthy and if that remains the case, barring foul trouble, there probably won’t be much playing time.
Pelle gives the Sixers a shot-blocking presence. He is averaging 1.3 blocked shots, which ties Embiid for the team lead, in just 8.9 minutes per game. Only 18 players who have qualified among the NBA leaders have at least 1.3 blocks per game. A player has to have played 70% of his team’s games to qualify.
Pelle always offers energy on the bench or off the bench. He knows it will be needed in Orlando when the games are played without fans.
“Knowing that there’s not going to be anybody in there but us, it will be like a practice environment, but a high practice environment,” he said. “I will be the No. 1 cheerleader for everybody, just trying to bring smiles and bring energy.”