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Vertical Podcast: Nerlens Noel Expands On Desire For Bigger Role

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Noel checks in with Woj to address the bubbling trade possibility in Philadelphia.

NBA: Philadelphia 76ers at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia 76ers forward-center Nerlens Noel joined Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical on Monday’s edition of The Vertical Podcast. For some time now, it has been speculated that Noel will be traded before the February deadline (especially among Blazer fans), since he is not happy in his current situation. He and Wojnarowski discussed his mindset, his background, and his relationship with 76ers management, in their 37-minute conversation.

Although there was talk of a Philadelphia future with Noel and Joel Embiid sharing the frontcourt, this is probably not an interview the 76ers let take place unless they intend to move Noel. You can listen to the full podcast, here, to get a better sense of Noel as a person. We’ve isolated some trade-relevant segments that you can read below.

(05:20)

Wojnarowski

Nerlens, going back to the preseason, the eve of training camp you publicly said, essentially “We have three centers. This can’t go on. I hope they move me to a place where I can have a bigger role and maybe that’s a place I can sign.” At that time, what was your mindset about going public with that? Did you expect a reaction from the organization or from people, or did you do it kind of knowing “Hey, this is what’s going to come with speaking out,” because people don’t all want to hear that from a young player?

Noel

Yeah, you know, I never really had any pun intended behind it. I really wanted to just come out and just give my opinion on it and just really speak how I was feeling. It wasn’t necessarily wanting too much of a reaction, although it might have been inevitable, but I tried to do it in the best way I could possible. It was just an emotional thing at the time. I think as a young player that really wants to just go out there and play the game he loves, it’s really frustrating at this point in my career to not be able to just really show what I’m capable of and show the steps I’ve taken year-by-year. So it was a lot of emotions early in the year and something I’ve really grown from and really learned how to handle situations a lot more directly and in the right manner.

(10:40)

Wojnarowski

When you’re thinking about “I’d like to find a way for them to trade me to go to a bigger place where I can have a bigger role,” at 22 years old, in your mind, what were your thoughts about “What can I do to sort of push them to move me?” I mean, when you talked at the beginning of training camp, I don’t know if that was part of your thinking or sort of anything you would do day in and day out behind the scenes or with the team. Has your thought process changed at all about what a player needs to do to get himself moved? Is your head different about that than it was maybe even when you came to training camp?

Noel

Yeah, I think it most definitely is. I think there’s always better ways to handle things in more professional manners. I think I’ve taken steady steps as the season’s gone along. From even when I was in Alabama rehabbing, I’ve taken steps back and really analyzed the situation on how has it been handled. Coming from where I’m from, I’m a very prideful person from a prideful family and I like to be able to assert myself, but I think I’ve definitely taken some big steps in the right direction of just being able to handle things in a whole new manner.

Wojnarowski

If teams around the league—and I think I talked about this on a podcast a few weeks ago when we were talking about trade stuff—if you hear that there’s teams around the league when they do the research on you or their intel would have questions about “How did Nerlens handle that? How was he behaving there?” would you say, “Okay, there’s things that they probably could have heard about me that they were right to go ‘Hey, do we want to trade for that guy or is he…?’” Can you imagine that there are things that they heard, in your mind, that you had to improve on that those guys had a right to go “Yeah, they better dig into that a little deeper,” whether it was being late, whether it was attitude—any of that? Was it a legitimate concern as they were doing their research on you?

Noel

No, I don’t think so. I think since I’ve been in the league I’ve grown leaps and bounds; especially with my professionalism of being on time. I think this year I’ve been great. I haven’t been late at all and I think I’ve taken a step forward; especially since my rookie year when I wasn’t playing. I think that was probably my roughest year of really trying to adjust why you’re not playing. I definitely see where that might stem from, but I think I’ve taken whole leaps and bounds. I think I’m a different person than I was as a 19-year-old rookie sitting on the bench. I think it’s just in a new place now.

(33:02)

Wojnarowski

Have you had conversations recently with Bryan Colangelo, or how regularly do you even talk to Bryan about trade possibilities or status? How do you and he kind of communicate on that?

Noel

Honestly, we don’t communicate at all on it. I just know he’s going to handle his business how he needs to and how he wants to, so it’s just very, you know, we say what’s up every time we see each other and I never really worry about really asking him what’s going on.

Wojnarowski

Do you think that maybe sometimes the average fan doesn’t understand—or it’s harder to understand where the player’s coming from on this, because when people talk about it being a business, I think they always look at it from the team end. A team will cut a guy or trade a veteran and they’ll go “Hey, it’s a business,” right? So the loyalty to that player, we have to make a decision for the organization. But then maybe sometimes—especially with a young player—that your window is now to prove yourself and to be in position this summer to get a contract extension. Do you think it’s hard for people to maybe understand where you’re coming from on wanting—in a contract year, this is essential for you to be able to prove your value and to give yourself some negotiating leverage come the summer.

Noel

Yeah, most definitely. I feel like I think people have seen certain scenarios like this and when people do reach a contract year and they are trying to be able to have minutes and showcase themselves, because, obviously, there’s a human side to it as well of just making sure you want to be in the greatest position possible of being able to approach free agency summer with the best odds on your side. I think people generally can understand where I come from at times. After growing from speaking out, I think at that time it’s just obviously through emotions, but I think as time goes on, you grow and you see things differently.


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