Noel impresses Sixers but isn't expected to play this season

Rookie center Nerlens Noel continues to impress observers in the closed-door sessions during 76ers practices.

Though a source with knowledge of the situation doesn't expect Noel to play this season as he recovers from last year's knee surgery, all who see him are encouraged about what he will bring to the future.

On the one-year anniversary of knee surgery, Noel remains a mystery, at least to the public.

The team sees him every day and considers him and rookie point guard Michael Carter-Williams the foundation of what is hoped will be a promising youth movement.

Noel injured his knee Feb. 12, 2013, while playing for the University of Kentucky in a game at Florida. He underwent surgery on his torn left anterior cruciate ligament a month later.

The Sixers say that Noel isn't obligated to talk to the media until he goes through five-on-five full-court workouts.

Others are more than willing to act as a mouthpiece.

"He is one of the quickest guys I have seen off his feet," forward Thaddeus Young said after Tuesday's practice.

Though Sixers practices are closed to the media, coach Brett Brown disclosed that Noel went through some three-on-three and four-on-four half-court games Tuesday.

"Today, it was clear that his wind got the better of him," Brown said. "It was fantastic to see him move around, for sure, and even in such an unscripted setting, you see quite special qualities athletically."

The Sixers will offer no timetable, and it's likely Noel won't appear in an NBA game this season. But Brown said that getting him to the five-on-five scrimmage level is realistic.

As for Noel's recent tweet of "4-4-14" that supposedly means he would like to play on April 4 at Boston, Brown said he hasn't brought it up to his rookie and he won't.

"I have purposely ignored it," Brown said.

Listed as 6-foot-11 and 228 pounds, Noel will be a center, according to Brown. While skeptics say he will be pushed around, opposing centers will find difficulty dealing with Noel's speed and quickness.

The Sixers fully expect him to be a defensive force whose offense eventually will come around.

"He is definitely a very athletic guy, a shot blocker and person who changes the game defensively," Young said.

Notes. The Sixers look to break their 17-game losing streak when they host the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday. On Jan. 2, the Sixers won, 113-104, in Sacramento. . . . According to a source familiar with the situation, center Jarvis Varnado will be signed for the rest of the season. His 10-day contract expired Monday.