Nerlens Noel is stress free.
The 76ers center is back to being his jovial self. He displayed that carefree attitude 75 minutes before Thursday’s game against the Orlando Magic.
The reserve center was asked how he’s dealing with the uncertainty leading up the Feb. 23 trade deadline. It’s no secret that the Sixers have been shopping Noel and Jahlil Okafor since this summer. And there’s a great chance that one of them will be on another team by 3:01 p.m. on deadline day.
“I don’t even approach it,” Noel said inside the visitors’ locker room at Amway Center. “I just play my game. If that’s what they decide, that’s what they decide.”
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Noel, the sixth overall pick of the 2013 draft, says he is not worried about being traded and doesn’t even keep up with trade rumors. But it was different back when things weren’t going in his favor earlier in the season.
He missed the first 23 games after knee surgery. Then Noel had to deal with a sprained left ankle, limited minutes and being taken out of the rotation. But he had been getting quality minutes in the last 19 games heading into Thursday’s matchup.
“I haven’t heard anything,” Noel said. “So I don’t really look for anything.”
It appears that Okafor is more of a priority to trade than Noel. But Noel’s positive attitude and the way he interacts with teammates — specifically Okafor — have not gone unnoticed.
“Lately Jahlil has gotten more of a nod and more opportunities than Nerlens to the point where we’re starting Jahlil,” Coach Brett Brown said. “Nerlens’ minutes have been less and less.
“He’s handled it like a pro. ... He’s handled it like a friend and he’s handled it maturely.”