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Back from injury, Noel already unhappy with playing time

Scott Howard-Cooper

The Philadelphia 76ers’ difficult task of trying, and hoping, to sort through the obvious front-court logjam once and for all became even more difficult Friday night as Nerlens Noel added an additional layer of friction as part of the 100-89 loss to the visiting Los Angeles Lakers.

Sixers management has realized since before June’s NBA Draft that a trade was necessary and, knowing they would likely take another big man — power forward Ben Simmons — with the No. 1 pick overall, held several conversations to find a solution. Not finding a deal to its liking, Philly’s new front office held off in the offseason, then got an unwanted reprieve from having to make a decision when Simmons and Noel opened 2016-17 sidelined by injury.

Now, though, Joel Embiid is the obvious cornerstone of the future in the big-man rotation, Jahlil Okafor and Embiid are starting as coach Brett Brown sifts through lineup options, Dario Saric is playing a lot of power forward while recently getting a longer look at small forward, and Noel is back – and doing nothing to hide his displeasure at the lack of playing time. He got 10 minutes in his season debut Sunday at Detroit and eight Friday against the Lakers, including zero in the second half, apparently more than enough time to become frustrated.

“I need to be on the court playing basketball,” he told reporters afterward, as quoted by Derek Bodner of Philadelphia Magazine. “I think I’m too good to be playing eight minutes. That’s crazy. That’s crazy.”

He repeated “that’s crazy” a few more times, then said, “(They) need to figure this (stuff) out.”

“They” being the members of the front office. They know this without Noel’s blunt suggestion, of course, as has been the case for six months, and will consider to search out trade options. Even the plan to play Simmons at point guard when he returns, perhaps in January, doesn’t change that. Noel is merely stating the obvious.

“I just want to be on the court playing basketball. I don’t really care who I’m playing with,” Noel said. “Ideally, I’d just like to be playing basketball. Just doing my thing, care free.”

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