The Philadelphia 76ers officially introduced Nerlens Noel, acquired in the draft-day trade that sent All-Star Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans, Tuesday afternoon at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Noel was joined on-stage by Sixers GM Sam Hinkie. A head coach was noticeably absent.
Before addressing the addition of the 6-foot-11 center from the University of Kentucky, Hinkie discussed the departure of all-star point guard Jrue Holiday.
"To lose [Jrue] is not easy,” he began. “We wish him nothing but the best in New Orleans, and for the rest of his career.”
"With that being said, we're very excited,” Hinkie continued. “To acquire Nerlens and the [2014 lottery] pick that came with him, we think is a very big step for us."
Noel, who will miss substantial time this season recovering from an ACL injury sustained last season, said his weight is down to about 219 pounds, but assured fans that he has been rehabbing hard.
"I'm doing six hours of rehab a day. I'm making a lot of progress," he stated.
However, Hinkie would not commit to whether or not the rookie center would play this season, adding that a timetable hasn't even been considered.
“Nerlens is motivated and hungry to return," he added, "but his long-term health is of most importance.”
But the first-year GM believes patience will pay off when Noel is ready for action.
"I see him as a guy that every coach will see as a weapon defensively," Hinkie said, "as a guy who changes the game."
So what were Noel's original thoughts upon finding out that he was actually selected by the Sixers?
"Sam [Hinkie] is a genius," Noel gushed in reference to being paired with his former AAU teammate, and close friend, Michael Carter-Williams.
“He has a lot of tools to be a great guard in this league,” Noel continued, referring to Carter-Williams. The two together form the nucleus of the new-look Sixers.
“There’s a lot of history in this city, and we’re going to work hard to make sure Philly is back in that Championship conversation in the next few years,” Noel assured a gaggle of reporters gathered around him.
While such a statement seems like it would add additional pressure to a player who already has expectations after being selected so high in the draft, Noel said he actually prefers it that way.
“I think I perform better with pressure,” he said in response to a question about how the big stage of Kentucky prepared him for the NBA. “If you want to be a great player you have to be able to perform under pressure.”
When asked if the injury and resulting draft day slide has been overly disappointing or overwhelming, Noel denied that notion.
“I stay focused on the task at hand," he said. "The main thing for me is to get back on the court and nothing can overwhelm me or stop me from that.”