The NBA never sleeps, and there are always games being played. The Summer League might not be the playoffs, but it’s an excellent chance to showcase talent for rookies and other players trying to make their way into the league, as Nerlens Noel finally played for the first time since being drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers, while things were a bit more difficult for Shabazz Napier of the Miami Heat.
Noel, the number 6 overall draft pick in the 2013 NBA draft, didn’t play a single game in Summer League or the NBA itself. They shut him down for his knee ligament tear, pretty much postponing his rookie season by 12 months. It worked wonders for the Los Angeles Clippers with Blake Griffin, who hasn’t seemed to be held back by his injury – he simply started everything a year later. But there’s also the case of Greg Oden, the number one pick in the 2007 NBA drat, and arguably the biggest bust in NBA history.
Noel played 26 minutes for the 76ers in the Orlando Summer league, losing to the Magic 83-77. He dunked the ball on his first touch. He finished with 19 points, two rebounds and one block during his time on the floor, which is a big part of his summer league experience. Each team is scheduled to play five games in seven days, but the Sixers might keep Noel out of a game or two, slowing his way back into action.
Noel himself seems to feel quite comfortable and confident on the court, despite not playing a game since midway through his Freshman season with Kentucky.
It’s been 18 months out. I haven’t been thinking about the knee for many months now. So I’m definitely going to continue to get it strong, as strong as possible and continue working. It’s very validating. It’s been 18 months since I played an organized game, and I felt great today. I’m real happy, but I can’t get too happy because it’s a long road ahead of me. I was nervous at the beginning, but I seemed to play a little better when I’m anxious. That definitely helped the jitters and set the tone for the game. I was really feeling it and will have to continue to improve.
Someone who had a rougher time making an impression was Shabazz Napier, who was never a sure thing going into the league despite his excellent performances through his senior season in college, leading UConn to the national title and winning the MOP of the Final Four, leading the Miami Heat to use their first round pick on him, maybe as an incentive to keep LeBron James on the team, maybe Napier’s biggest fan in the league.
The point guard finished his debut in Heat uniform with a loss to the Boston Celtics, missing his first 10 field goal attempts and added eight turnovers to make it a less than memorable first time It doesn’t mean anything about the future. Michael Carter-Williams, last year’s rookie of the year, He shot 27% through his summer league experience and had games with eight and nine turnovers. Things looked better for him later on.
The Heat had two more players that they were closely watching, hoping they become contributors next season and turn into a layer of youth to the again team: Justin Hamilton, who finished with 13 points and nine rebounds, and James Ennis, who led the team with 18 points and eight rebouns with an impressive combination of inside-the-paint athleticism and three-point shooting.
Napier didn’t need anyone telling him he had a bad game.
I definitely needed this one to understand the game much better. It’s a big adjustment. I’m unable to do a lot of things I was on the college level. I’ve got to find the adjustments on how to do those things. I’ve still got the college game coming in. We’re learning on the fly, and we’re going to make big mistakes. This is a different game.