Nerlens' first lesson

INDIANAPOLIS - While the game resulted in a 12-point loss in the season opener for the 76ers against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night, there was a win within the game that will keep coach Brett Brown happy.

That is where this organization is, after all, trying to find small, individual wins inside of games during a season that will produce a tremendous amount of losses.

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ASSOCIATED PRESS Nerlens Noel played smart after drawing two early fouls in season opener.

With 7 minutes, 24 seconds remaining in the first quarter against the Pacers, Nerlens Noel picked up his second foul, a silly one assessed when he tried to wrestle away a rebound already grabbed by Luis Scola. Noel, of course, was making his pro debut and the adrenaline could practically be seen oozing out of his body. He glanced toward the bench, fully anticipating a substitution to be coming. But Brown just clapped his hands in an encouraging way and left the 6-11 project in the game for another few minutes before taking him out for the quarter.

Noel then went on to play almost 10 of the 12 minutes in the second quarter, not picking up another foul while still being an effective presence on the defensive end and setting good, strong picks offensively. He played smart, he played hard and he kept himself in the game by not committing another foul.

A minor win inside a loss.

Noel wasn't happy with himself following the 103-91 loss in which he scored six points, grabbed 10 rebounds and blocked three shots in just under 35 minutes of play, but his coach was able to gain a little confidence in Noel's ability to play with foul trouble.

"I didn't just want take him out, I wanted him to play," Brown said. "That third foul, then you would think about [taking him out] because that team [Indiana] is so big. We don't have that many bigs and I have to try and spin them around and just use them wisely. With him it's always with fatigue. If you look at the minutes, I don't intend on playing him that volume of minutes. He's an energy-based player and that's a big number for him in the early days, but given our situation you're hard-pressed to rotate properly and especially hard-pressed when your bigs get into foul trouble so early. I just opted to keep him on the floor and roll with him."

"I just played more disciplined," Noel said. "I didn't reach. I just stayed in front of guys. I'm a rookie in this league and those calls are going to happen. I have to move my feet, stay in front of my defender, especially early in the game."

While Noel went on to say that he failed to bring his "A" game in his debut, Brown was generally pleased while having to move Noel back and forth from center to power forward.

"He's a five man that can roll and that's probably what he could be or should be," the coach said. "Then there are times he could play against a slower four-man and he could just drive against people. He can co-exist with Henry [Sims]. It's a work in progress. I feel the responsibility to take this environment that we are in and experiment with how Joel Embiid and Nerlens can play together. Let's look at him at a five, let's look at him as a four. But I saw good things in both of those positions."

 

Looking at the models

The NBA opened the season Tuesday night with three games and Sixers coach Brett Brown was just like a normal basketball fan, making sure he had a seat in front of a TV while he and his coaches went to dinner. The object of his interest was his former team, the San Antonio Spurs taking on the Dallas Mavericks. In typical Spurs fashion they won, spreading the ball all over the floor, collecting 23 assists on 37 makes. They made the big plays when it counted during the 101-100 victory and were led by the staples of the team, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and Tim Duncan.

Also that night, the New Orleans Pelicans picked up a 101-84 win over the Orlando Magic in a game that featured Anthony Davis going for 26 points, 17 rebounds and nine blocks.

Brown often refers to the Spurs when talking to his current young group and Davis is the role model that he wants Nerlens Noel to follow.

"I always throw them different things to remind them of either players that they remind me of or players that they should follow or teams that we respect," said Brown. "There's always something that comes up, some calculated and some just because. Those bits from time to time come up, but in regards to our master plan, our bigger picture thing that we're trying to cultivate, we've stuck to that. But from time to time those things will come up."

 

Luc back tomorrow?

If there was anything Luc Mbah a Moute was complaining about after his 17-hour trek back from Africa earlier this week, it was that he had slept too much. Mbah a Moute was in Cameroon to attend the funeral of Arthur Embiid, younger brother of Joel Embiid, who was killed in an accident earlier this month. Mbah a Moute rejoined the team Tuesday but was held out of the season opener in Indiana and probably won't play tonight when the team plays in Milwaukee.

"I've got to be smart because I've only got 10 healthy players and we have three games in 4 days," said Brown. "Luc will be used quite soon because of the 10 able bodies [they have]. How unwise would it be to welcome him back from dealing with Joel and that situation in Africa and long flights and knowing that he had a back problem and not be smart with how we play him. I do expect him to get into that [home] opening night game."

The Sixers host the Miami Heat tomorrow and most likely Mbah a Moute will play.

UPCOMING GAMES
Who: Sixers at Milwaukee Bucks
When: Tonight, 8:30 p.m.
Where: BMO Harris Bradley Center, <QA0>
Milwaukee
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: The Fanatic (97.5 FM)
Game stuff: The Sixers get a look at the lowly Bucks, who hope to turn things around with second overall pick, Jabari Parker. The Duke product scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds in his 36-minute debut against the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday. They are bringing Ersan Ilyasova off the bench, and he always seems to torch the Sixers.
Who: Sixers vs. Miami Heat
When: Tomorrow, 7 o’clock
Where: Wells Fargo Center
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: The Fanatic (97.5 FM)
Game stuff: The Heat has a new look with <QA0>
Luol Deng as one of the focal points to go along with Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Norris Cole, who beat out Mario Chalmers for the starting point-guard spot, scored a career-high 23 points in the team’s season-opening win against Washington.
Who: Sixers vs. Houston Rockets
When: Monday, 7 o’clock
Where: Wells Fargo Center
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: The Fanatic (97.5 FM)
Game stuff: The Rockets opened the season with road wins against the Lakers and the Utah Jazz. In those two games, the bombers from Houston combined to go 26-for-56 from three-point range (46.4 percent). Kostas Papanikolaou, playing in his first NBA game, drained his first four threes against Utah.
Who: Sixers vs. Orlando Magic
When: Wednesday, 7 o’clock
Where: Wells Fargo Center
TV: Comcast SportsNet
Radio: The Fanatic (97.5 FM)
Game stuff: Remember Nik Vucevic? Well if you haven’t noticed, the former Sixer has become one of, if not the, best rebounders in the league. He opened the season by grabbing 23 boards (to go along with 15 points) in the team’s loss to New Orleans. They start Elfrid Payton at the point, whom the Sixers drafted at No. 10 in June before obtaining the rights for Dario Saric in a trade.
BY THE NUMBERS:
28.3: That is the shooting percentage put up by the Sixers in the second half of Wednesday’s opener against the Indiana Pacers as they made just 13 of 46 shots.
14: That’s how many times Spurs big man Tim Duncan has collected a double-double on opening nights. That is the most ever posted by a player.
11: That’s how many wins, on average, Larry Brown’s eight NBA teams improved the next full season after he took over. Just saying. The guy knows a little something about rebuilding.

 


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