While Nerlen Noel's ACL tear came from a hard, awkward landing, it was the timing of it that will have ultimately set up an uncomfortable situation.
Noel's injury occurred in mid-February, 2013. An ACL tear traditionally sidelines athletes roughly 8-to-12 months, but that's just to get back on the floor. Usually a player needs a few more months just to regain that confidence and explosion back in his knee.
Noel recently addressed his timetable at a recent news conference, saying he hopes to be back playing basketball by "around Christmas time or later." (via Dei Lynam of CSN Philly).
When Philadelphia traded its All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to acquire Noel, along with a 2014 first-rounder, management was making a bold and telling statement.
This is a blatant attempt to start from scratch and rebuild through the 2013 and 2014 drafts. In the process, the team and fans must sacrifice one lousy season.
And this upcoming one is it.
If there was a blueprint for tanking without jeopardizing integrity, general manager Sam Hinkie has found it.
The goal here is to enter the 2014-15 season with point guard Michael Carter-Williams having a year under his belt, center Nerlens Noel with a 110-percent bill of health and an incoming potential franchise player like Andrew Wiggins, who they'll hope to get in the draft.
Philadelphia should think of this 82-game season as the final five minutes of a blowout. You don't take any chances when there's no benefit to gain.
What's the point of rushing Noel back on the court when the team is 13-38? The Sixers are playing for ping-pong balls here, not a playoff push.
And it's not like Noel's going to jump right back into the action. The guy has never played an NBA game. He weighs less than 220 pounds and is expected to anchor the interior.
Noel is fragile. He fractured a growth plate in his knee in high school and tore his ACL in college before stepping foot on an NBA floor. Some packages just need to be treated with a little more care, and given the Sixers' current situation, they can afford to take their time.
Maybe some minutes in February and March would allow him to gain comfort, but the reward isn't worth the risk. Let him get some reps against NBA players at practice, where the environment is a little more controlled. One missed regular season this early in his career won't affect his future development.
Blake Griffin recently sat out his supposed-to-be rookie season, and he turned out alright.
With Noel, you have to think big picture, and the big picture encompasses a potential 15-year career that rests in the strength and health of his knees.
General manager Hinkie stressed during the press conference the importance of preserving his players' long-term health. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Sixers shut Noel down for good unless he shows significant progress.
If January turns into February, forget about it.
This year is going to be a disaster for the Sixers on the court. They should highly consider keeping Noel away from it.
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