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NBA Rumors: Nerlens Noel is 100% Healthy

Nerlens Noel is 100% healthy and hoping to play … Joel Embiid will declare for the draft … Mike D’Antoni responds to rumors

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Nerlens Noel Says Knee is “100 Percent”

Calling his rookie season “a great learning experience,” Philadelphia 76ers center Nerlens Noel said Tuesday he still hopes to make his NBA debut in one of the team’s final five regular-season games but realizes the team’s cautious approach with him has been for the best.

“Obviously I do want to play,” Noel told reporters in Philadelphia. “I’m a 19-year-old who’s been sitting down on the sideline really wanting to get out there and show my abilities and to be able to play ball.

“It’s been tough, but it’s something we had to do.”

On Tuesday, Noel deemed his knee “100 percent,” saying he’s gained over 3 inches on his vertical leap since before the surgery and overall is “stronger and moving around well.”

via ESPN.com

Even though Nerlens Noel says his knee is 100 percent healthy, it remains to be seen if he’ll make his NBA debut this season.

The 76ers have five games remaining on their schedule and, at this point, it may make more sense for Philadelphia to keep Noel out and delay his rookie season until 2014-15. The 76ers aren’t playing for anything since they have a 17-60 record; in fact, losses help them more at this point since they’re trying to accumulate ping pong balls.

Noel was targeting an April 4 return, which is why he sent out a cryptic tweet saying “4-4-14.” However, the 76ers didn’t let him play then, and they may not let him play now.

Despite missing the whole season, Noel has made huge strides this season, according to 76ers head coach Brett Brown.

“Whether he is going to play or not is still up in the air,” Brown told Philly.com. “But I think just to watch him, how can you not get excited about what we’re all seeing? … I’m proud of the time that we’ve spent with him. I see a far more mature type of player having gone through all the film sessions and the weight room sessions and on a team bus. He’s been with the team, he just hasn’t played. This year has been invaluable to him.”

The team has been working with the 19-year-old to fix his shot and he has looked great in practice. As Noel said, he has also gained three inches on his vertical leap.

Prior to tearing his ACL at Kentucky, Noel was the nation’s top recruit out of high school and very good when he was on the court in college, averaging 10.5 points on 59 percent shooting as well as 9.5 rebounds and 4.4 blocks.

Joel Embiid Declaring for the Draft

Joel Embiid will announce his plans to enter the NBA Draft during a press conference with Kansas coach Bill Self on Wednesday at 2 p.m central time, multiple sources told SNY.tv.

“He’s coming out,” one NBA source said. “Shouldn’t be a surprise. He’s a lock for the Top 5.”

via Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com

Two weeks ago, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reported that Embiid would enter the draft, but the big man refuted the report on Twitter, saying that he was still undecided. Now, it appears he has made up his mind and will enter the 2014 NBA Draft after all.

This is a smart move for Embiid, as he’s projected to be a top pick in the draft and he really helped his stock after an incredible freshman season at Kansas. He entered the year as a raw, inexperienced center and emerged as one of the best players in the nation because he developed quicker than anyone anticipated.

Executives fell in love with Embiid during the season, praising his graceful movements, soft touch, exceptional footwork, incredible instincts, high basketball IQ, 7’5 wingspan, extraordinary athleticism and, of course, limitless potential. It’s possible that Embiid could be the No. 1 overall pick in the draft.

Embiid missed several games late in the season, including Kansas’ tournament games, due to a back injury. If doctors find an issue with his back during the pre-draft process, that could obviously hurt Embiid’s stock. However, it doesn’t seem like teams are overly concerned about his back at this point.

A month ago, Basketball Insiders caught up with an Eastern Conference scout, who gave the following breakdown of Embiid: “He has had the biggest impact on this draft so far. Entering the season, the conversation was about Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Julius Randle, and then scouts starting falling for Embiid. Scouts were falling in love with him and then looking over their shoulder hoping that no other teams were noticing how great he looked. Obviously, he kept improving and the secret got out. He’s able to do so many things at his size that nobody else can. He has amazing footwork, great athleticism, nice touch and a beautiful stroke on his shot. He may have the highest upside in the draft because he still has so much room to grow. His footwork reminds me of Hakeem Olajuwon and his power, outside shot and skills remind me a little of Patrick Ewing. He could be really, really good.”

Embiid will make his official announcement this afternoon at 3 p.m. ET.

Mike D’Antoni Responds to John Calipari Rumor

“You try not to hear the noise,” D’Antoni said. “But that was deafening so you can’t not hear it. I live in a cocoon, but I still live in the same country. So you did hear it.”

The Lakers refuted the report almost immediately and Chapman later softened the report, saying Calipari would listen if the Lakers called.

D’Antoni said he blocks out external rumblings, and said, “if you can’t take it, don’t be in this business.”

“That’s kind of the world we live in,” he said. “Before, three years ago it would have just been a little rumor that one person heard, now a million hear. That’s social media, people run with it. Whether it means anything or not it’s not really up to me.”

He added: “I hate it for John more than anybody, because that puts an undue pressure on something before a big game that he doesn’t need to be distracted with.”

via Bill Oram of the Orange County Register

Mike D’Antoni can try to block out all of the rumors surrounding him, but they won’t go away. Reports continue to suggest that the Lakers will part ways with the head coach this offseason, even though he has one more guaranteed year and then a team option remaining on his contract.

This isn’t a huge surprise considering how poorly the Lakers have performed under D’Antoni and since he has butted heads with veterans such as Pau Gasol and Chris Kaman and reportedly failed to earn the support of Kobe Bryant.

The Lakers are 65-85 in two seasons with D’Antoni at the helm, and this season they are 25-53, which is the second-worst record in the Western Conference.

L.A. hasn’t lived up to expectations in either season and while injuries limited the team, much of the blame for the team’s struggles has fallen on D’Antoni. Fans in Los Angeles have been calling for D’Antoni to be fired for months.

Whether John Calipari is a serious option for the Lakers remains to be seen, but he’s just the first of many names that will likely be mentioned as a possible replacement for D’Antoni in the coming weeks. It’s a good thing D’Antoni lives in a “cocoon” because his name will be surfacing in rumors quite a bit as soon as the season ends.

Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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