Nerlens Noel: Sixers situation 'doesn't make any sense'

Nerlens Noel feels disrespected.

The 76ers center wants clarity about his future. He loves Philadelphia and his Sixers teammates. But after three years of watching his team tank, after years of wondering how he fits in, Noel said Sunday he needs for his current situation to change.

"I think it's just silly . . . this situation that we are in now with three starting centers," Noel said on the eve of the Sixers' media day. "With the departure of [former general manager and president] Sam Hinkie, I would have figured that management would be able to get something done this summer."

The Sixers declined to comment on the matter.

"I think something needs to happen," Noel said.

So is he demanding to be traded?

Noel will most likely become a reserve center to Joel Embiid, who the Sixers think will be a force in this league if he stays healthy. Noel said that he's not asking to be traded or demanding that the Sixers trade someone else. He just wants them to hurry up and do the inevitable.

"I feel like it definitely needs to be figured out," he said. "I think at the end of the day, again, you have three starting-caliber centers. And it's just not going to work to anybody's advantage having that on the same team. That's how I'm looking at it. I'm not opposed to anything, but things need to be situated."

Noel said he wasn't speaking negatively about the team's other starting-caliber centers, Embiid and Jahlil Okafor. Nor was he speaking for them.

"Don't get me wrong. We all get along great on the court and off the court," Noel said. "But at the end of the day, it's like having three starting quarterbacks. It doesn't make any sense."

However, he was adamant that his feeling would not affect his performance.

"I'm here to do my job and play as hard as I can play for the city of Philadelphia," Noel said. "I've always loved the fans from the jump. It's probably one of the realest cities in the country with just genuine passion and love for the sport."

The 6-foot-11, 228-pounder could see financial gain by being traded.

He's in the final year of his four-year rookie deal. The Sixers have until Oct. 31 to extend his contract. If not, the 22-year-old will become a restricted free agent come July 1. The Sixers will have the right to match any offer he receives from another team. However, his value could slip if he doesn't see valuable minutes this season.

The Sixers have had a trade decision involving Noel and Okafor for some time. New Sixers president Bryan Colangelo inherited an unbalanced roster with the three centers. The team publicly stated that it would try to move at least one of them during the NBA draft.

However, the Sixers would only do that for the right price. The team received trade offers for Noel during and after the draft.

Noel's name came up in trade talks with the Boston Celtics, Phoenix Suns, Atlanta Hawks, and Houston Rockets, according to sources. Another source said the Sixers were also in discussions with the Toronto Raptors and San Antonio Spurs.

Colangelo later denied that the team has been shopping the big men. He said that teams reached out to the Sixers about them.

"I know I was shopped," Noel said.

However, a source said that the Sixers turned down several offers for Noel.

Noel has experienced a lot of heartache during his tenure with the Sixers. He and Hollis Thompson are the only holdovers from the 2013-14 season. They compiled a 47-199 record over three seasons of tanking to acquire draft picks.

At this point in his career, Noel wants to be in a position to show what he can do. He wants to be on an established team.

"We've gone from zero and we are not at 100," Noel said. "We went from zero and things are still building here. . . . I think I sacrificed a lot. And at this point, there's really not too much that I'm capable of sacrificing."

Noel was projected to be the first overall pick of the 2013 draft. However, he dropped to the New Orleans Pelicans in the sixth spot after he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during his lone season at Kentucky.

The Sixers acquired him, along with a 2014 first-round pick, on draft night in exchange for then-all-star point guard Jrue Holiday.

Noel sat out what would have been his rookie season during the 2013-14 campaign and struggled at the start of the following season. However, he turned things around, finishing third in the rookie-of-the-year voting behind Minnesota Timberwolves swingman Andrew Wiggins and Chicago Bulls forward Nikola Mirotic.

Noel finished the season averaging of 9.9 points and 1.7 assists, leading all rookies in rebounding (8.1), steals (1.77), and blocks (1.89) in 75 games.

However, Noel was more successful while playing center than at power forward. The problem - or so the Sixers thought - was that Embiid was going to take over the center position this past season.

As a result, Noel was moved to power forward for his last six games and wasn't as consistent.

He started last season at power forward even though Embiid missed his second consecutive season after surgery on his right foot earlier last summer. Okafor, the third overall pick in 2015 draft out of Duke, assumed the center spot.

The struggles of Okafor and Noel to coexist as Twin Towers were well documented. Both players are better suited to playing center. In fact, the team was more successful with Noel at center. There was even a stretch when Okafor was often on the bench late in games. And that's why the team had moved Okafor to power forward before he missed the final 23 games with a torn meniscus in his right knee.

kpompey@phillynews.com

@PompeyOnSixers

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