By Jason Lloyd
Beacon Journal sports writer
COLUMBUS: Philadelphia Sixers rookie Nerlens Noel, whom the Cavs briefly considered drafting first overall in June, could miss the entire season while recovering from ACL surgery.
The Sixers have sounded pessimistic about Noel’s outlook for the last week, but coach Brett Brown said before the preseason game against the Cavs he expects Noel to miss the season.
“I doubt, everybody doubts that he’s going to play this year,” Brown said. “Nobody ever said to me this is a definite. I think everybody’s expecting it to be a definite decision. But even now as we speak, nobody has said this is 100 percent certainty.”
The Cavs passed on Noel because of concerns over his knee, and more importantly his lack of an offensive game. A league source told the Beacon Journal shortly after the draft that when Noel’s name came up within the Cavs, it was under the assumption he would miss his entire rookie season. Apparently, the Sixers feel the same way. They acquired him on a draft-night trade after Noel slipped to sixth.
Compounding matters was the fact Dr. James Andrews, who performed Noel’s procedure, had insisted Noel was ahead of schedule. But Derrick Rose missed an entire season following a torn ligament in his knee and seems to have his explosiveness back — at least during the preseason. Now other teams might follow a similar plan, although the Sixers have already been accused of tanking this season for a shot at Andrew Wiggins and this latest decision (if it holds true) won’t quiet those suspicions.
The Sixers intend to keep Noel with them all season, including road trips, even though he won’t be playing anytime soon. He traveled to Columbus for Monday’s game, but did not speak to reporters.
“I like that fact that he is with us every single day and every single way,” Brown said. “He’s in video sessions, practice, shootarounds. It’s a classroom. It’s an opportunity for him to learn me and the NBA. We don’t want to waste this year. I think from a skill perspective, it’s an opportunity for us to break down his shot, really work on his free throws and start a little bit from ground zero. He’s bought in. He’s been great.”
Zydrunas Ilgauskas will have his jersey retired by the Cavs on March 8 when the Cavs host the New York Knicks. Ilgauskas, now a special assistant to General Manager Chris Grant, played 12 seasons in Cleveland. He remains the franchise leader in games played (771), offensive rebounds (2,336), total rebounds (5,904) and blocks (1,269). He is second in scoring with 10,616 points.
“Zydrunas represents the very best of how any sports franchise would hope to be represented,” Grant said in a release. “He was a hard working competitor who persevered, was dedicated, inspiring, and was a great teammate. As good as he was on the court, he was just as good off the court and in our community.”
Ilgauskas was drafted 20th overall in 1996 and persevered through numerous foot surgeries throughout his career.
“You couldn’t ask for a better person for that to happen to,” Brown said. “He was a cornerstone of the organization for many years. I’m thrilled to death.”
Jason Lloyd can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.