Philadelphia 76ers rookie Nerlens Noel, who hasn't played all season after tearing his ACL last February while at Kentucky, has been cleared for "basketball-related activities" and could make his NBA debut shortly after the All-Star break in a month, according to a report Wednesday afternoon from Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com.
The 19-year-old, selected No. 6 overall by the New Orleans Pelicans last June and traded to the 76ers, met with sports surgeon Dr. James Andrews last week. Andrews told ESPN on Wednesday that Noel is "doing excellent and the team is taking good care of him." Citing league sources, Goodman reported that Noel could be on the court for his first NBA game in four to six weeks time. On Tuesday, Noel reportedly participated in one-on-one drills.
In October, shortly before the start of the NBA season, Sixers head coach Brett Brown said Noel's progress has been "slow" and that the rookie could miss the entire NBA season. Despite getting off to a hot start behind surprising play from rookie Michael Carter-Williams, a standout at Syracuse, the Sixers currently stand at 12-25 but only 3½ games out for the No. 8 and final playoff spot in the East. MAHONEY: Trade grades: Jordan Crawford and Toney Douglas move in three-team deal