Fans of the Philadelphia pro sports teams are well known for holding their teams and its players to tough standards.
Those fans once booed a man dressed as Santa Claus. They booed Shawn Bradley when he played for the Philadelphia 76ers — and when he played against the Sixers. They booed Donovan McNabb when he was drafted by the Eagles. Philadelphia Flyers fans booed then vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin when she dropped the ceremonial first puck at a 2008 game.
Dallas center Nerlens Noel, however, believes he’ll escape the wrath of the Philly fans when the Mavericks (29-38) face the Sixers (24-43) at Wells Fargo Center at 6 p.m. Friday.
Noel was selected by the Sixers with the sixth overall pick of the 2013 NBA Draft, and remained with their organization until they traded him to the Mavericks last month. Friday will be the 22-year old’s first visit to Philadelphia since the trade.
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“It’s definitely going to be a lot of love, so I think it’s going to be a good reception. I’m just playing ball after that,” Noel said. “I think it was nothing but love in that city and I think I played off of them.
“Things turned out how they did [with the trade to the Mavericks]. But the love is still there, so I think it’ll be a good reception.”
Noel said he had a lovefest with the Philly fans.
“The fans were special,” he said. “All my teammates, I really love those guys.
Things turned out how they did. But the love is still there, so I think it’ll be a good reception.
Mavericks center Nerlens Noel on his return to Philadelphia
“We were real close-knit, we were all so young, barely any veterans, so we all jelled real well. It’s all good memories I have there.”
Mavericks guard J.J. Barea chuckled when asked what type of reception he thought Noel would receive Friday.
“He’ll be ready, but I think it’ll be good for him,” Barea said. “He’ll feed off of that. He’ll get some energy and I think it’ll help us out.”
The Mavericks were energized when they traded Andrew Bogut, Justin Anderson and a protected 2017 first-round pick to the Sixers for the 6-foot-11 Noel.
“We’re a team that needs as much athleticism as possible out there,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “[Noel is] a big threat as a roller to the rim, and even when he doesn’t get the ball, his rolls engage defenses and open other things up.
“He’s a weapon for us on the offensive end and he’s becoming a better and better screener. And I do believe in time he can develop a mid-range game.”
Noel missed three games with soreness in his left knee before returning and having a huge impact in Wednesday’s 112-107 upset road victory over the Washington Wizards.
Gosh, his activity, his athleticism is something obviously we miss.
Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki on having Nerlens Noel in the lineup
“It just seems so easy to him on the rolls and the finishes above the rim,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “Gosh, his activity, his athleticism is something obviously we miss.
“Hopefully, he’ll stay healthy. Hopefully, his knees react OK with 20 minutes, because we’re going to need him down the stretch.”
The Sixers needed Noel — until their frontline got crowded with the addition of Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor.
“We were all good people,” Noel said of the trio. “We were all cool, so it never affected anything with the locker room.
“We just let it play out.”
Still, not long after the Sixers traded Noel to the Mavericks, they lost Embiid for the remainder of the season because of left knee surgery.
The Sixers obtained No. 6 overall pick Nerlens Noel in a draft-night trade in 2013; drafted Joel Embiid No. 3 overall in 2014; drafted Jahlil Okafor No. 3 overall in 2015; and Ben Simmons No. 1 overall in 2016.
“I still think it’s a delicate situation,” Noel said. “You never really know where their head’s at, how they’re looking at the short-term future or the long-term future.
“I think they made the best decision they could for whatever short-term or long-term situation.”
Noel said the two organizations are a lot different.
“It’s a whole different type of culture,” Noel said. “I’m just adjusting to the whole system, the way things are done here.
“It’s been a good transition so far. The coaches are definitely helping me a lot, and my teammates as well. The veteran leadership is big as well. You know these guys are always holding young guys accountable, so that’s definitely big.”
That accountability from the Mavericks’ veterans, Noel believes, will help his game flourish.
“It’s going to be a different type of feeling, of course,” Noel said of the game against the Sixers. “But I’m going to go in there and try to give them an ‘L’.
“With my competitive mentality and just seeing the fans, it’ll be something good just to see everybody again. And I’ll just take in that moment.”
Mavericks at 76ers
6 p.m. Friday, FSSW