The Nerlens Noel countdown continues: The 76ers center will board a plane Friday with his teammates and head to Florida, where he will have his first opportunity to prove himself as a Sixer in the Orlando Summer League.
The Sixers will play the Orlando Magic at 1 p.m. Saturday in Noel's first organized game since he suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee while playing for Kentucky on Feb. 12, 2013.
Though summer-league games won't have the intensity of the NBA regular-season games that Noel will experience in the fall, after a season of rehabilitation and refinement he is excited to face competition.
"Regardless, there's going to be a lot of adrenaline," Noel said Thursday after the Sixers' final practice at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. "I know I'm going to have a lot of nerves, and be a little nervous, but more excitement."
Noel won't have to wait long to get on the floor. Lloyd Pierce, the Sixers assistant coach who will coach the team in Orlando, said the 6-foot-11 center will start the game, along with point guard Casper Ware and small forward Hollis Thompson. The coaching staff hadn't determined the two other starters.
Even though Noel is starting, the coaches want to ease the pressure on the 20-year-old while he plays in his first organized game in almost 18 months.
"There's no expectations on him," Pierce said. "We want to see Nerlens be Nerlens. He'll be fine. He'll probably have some jitters in the first game, but we'll try to make it simple and easy for him as well."
Noel offered some advice for Sixers rookie Joel Embiid as he begins his own absence from the court.
"You know, just stay positive - that's the number-one thing," Noel said. "Last year, there were times where I really wanted to get on the court. Like I felt great, I'd be in the weight room squatting 300 pounds, and I wanted to just get out there and be with my guys. You know it's tough, just staying positive, staying patient [that] everything will be good in the end."
Noel said he didn't know that Embiid reached out to LeBron James on Twitter on Tuesday, imploring the superstar to join the Sixers. Noel liked the idea.
"That ain't bad at all," Noel said. "We've got to make some moves now for that."
After a long period without making any moves on the court, Noel's first will come Saturday.
76ers in Orlando League
Here are the players and schedule for the 76ers in the Orlando Pro Summer League, which begins Saturday at the Amway Center.
No. Player Pos. Ht. College or Country Yr
4 Nerlens Noel C 6-11 Kentucky R
12 Casper Ware G 5-10 Long Beach State 2
16 Ronald Roberts Jr. F 6-8 St. Joseph's R
18 Aaron Craft G 6-2 Ohio State R
30 Isaiah Sykes G 6-6 Central Florida R
31 Hollis Thompson F 6-8 Georgetown 1
33 Travis Bader G 6-5 Oakland R
39 Jerami Grant F 6-8 Syracuse R
41 JaKarr Sampson G 6-9 St. John's R
42 Talib Zanna F 6-9 Pittsburgh/Nigeria R
43 Ed Daniel F 6-7 Murray State R
44 Jamelle Hagins F 6-9 Delaware R
45 Melvin Ejim F 6-6 Iowa State R
55 Pierre Jackson G 5-10 Baylor R
Date Opponent Time
Saturday Orlando 1 p.m.
Sunday Oklahoma City 5 p.m.
Tuesday Houston 7 p.m.
Wednesday Brooklyn 5 p.m.
July 11* TBD TBD
* all teams will play a final fifth game regardless of record