Nerlens Noel impresses in Sixers debut

ORLANDO – On-court positive vibes have been few for the 76ers lately. Saturday at the Orlando Pro Summer League, however, they got a huge one, in the form of 6-11 Nerlens Noel.

Seeing his first professional action after sitting out last season after ACL surgery, Noel flashed the crazy athleticism that he has, showed a nice touch around the basket and used his re-worked shooting technique to drain all seven of his foul shots in the Sixers 83-77 lost to the host Magic.

Noel played just over 26 minutes and made six of his 11 shots from the floor for a team-high 19 points. He also had four steals, four turnovers, a blocked shot and just two rebounds.

“I was nervous at the beginning but I think it went well,” said Noel of his first organized game since February of 2013. He was later asked what his playing schedule would be for the rest of the week as the team has games Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. “We’re going to be diligent about that. But I feel great and there was nothing holding me back out there.”

He went strong to the basket during the game, throwing down a couple of monster dunks. When needed, he went finesse, with an 8-foot runner in the lane and a nifty left-handed shovel shot. He contested shots all over the floor and three a great pass from the top of the key through the lane for an easy dunk by K.J. McDaniels.

“I’m happy, but I just have to keep working and try to get better and better.”

He wasn’t the only one pleased with his outing.

“Great. It was good to see him out there,” said assistant coach Lloyd Pierce, who is coaching the team this week. “He had a nice, little nervous smile before the game, which was to be expected. Nerlens has always had a competitive edge and a competitive way about him. He had a couple of steals in the pick and roll coverage, and that was one of the things that we talked about. He’s got great hands. We want him to be disciplined, we want him to be quick, we want him to be athletic. He’s got great quickness with his hands and his feet and he’s got great timing as a defender. You saw some of that today with his feet.”

There was some bad news that came out of the game as 5-10 guard Pierre Jackson, whom the Sixers originally drafted last year, sent to New Orleans but reacquired in a trade this past draft night, ruptured his Achilles’ on a non-contact play. The diminutive guard, who had scored seven points in seven minutes and averaged 29 a game last season in the NBA Development League, had a decent chance of making the Sixers roster this season.

Game stuff: Guard Casper Ware, who spent some time with the team last season, scored 16 points, while Saint Joseph’s product Ronald Roberts, Jr. scored 12 and grabbed nine rebounds. Hollis Thompson scored just five points, but collected 14 rebounds and five assists. Victor Oladipo scored 18 to lead the Magic.