Dallas Mavericks

Mavericks say they have a role for injured Nerlens Noel

Thursday’s trade deadline came and went, and the Dallas Mavericks still have center Nerlens Noel on their roster.

Noel had been among those rumored to be on the trading block, and it seems like his time with the Mavericks is coming to an end sooner than later.

But team president Donnie Nelson defended Noel, saying the organization wants players with his talents and skill set. Noel has been a major disappointment this season.

He didn’t make much of an impact when healthy, and is still recovering from thumb surgery. The hope is he’ll be available shortly after the All-Star break.

“Nerlens is a young player who has had a very difficult year with his injury,” Nelson said. “Look, we want athletic young bigs that can block shots. We traded for him for a reason.”

Nelson went on to mention injuries to other young players on the roster, such as Seth Curry and Dorian Finney-Smith, that have hindered the team’s development. But he made it clear – at least publicly – that the team remains committed to them, including Noel.

“We like all of them,” Nelson said. “We think at some level, depending on what unfolds this summer, those are great guys that are quality NBA rotational players, some of which are starters. So, absolutely, we’ll be looking to prolong their Mavericks careers.”

The Mavericks traded with the Philadelphia 76ers for Noel in the middle of last season, and envisioned him becoming their center of the future. Noel has rare abilities to protect the rim.

The Mavericks tried to lock him up long-term in the off-season, offering a four-year, $70 million extension. But Noel turned that down, banking on a breakout season.

That hasn’t happened.

Noel struggled to get significant playing time when he was healthy, averaging just 4.0 points and 4.1 rebounds in 12.5 minutes per game over 18 appearances. He underwent thumb surgery in early December.

But he’s on the mend and on the Mavs.

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