Nerlens Noel for all intents and purposes is done with the Mavericks. After getting benched a few weeks ago, Noel had thumb surgery last week (A LIKELY STORY) that will most likely keep him away from the team until the Mavericks find a spot for him in a trade.
The reasons for Noel not playing haven’t been well documented, other than Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle saying minutes have to be earned. It hasn’t be hard to see Noel hasn’t been the same in his limited minutes compared to last season, where he was genuinely the best player for the Mavs after that trade.
Obviously, the biggest change from last season to this one is the contract negotiations over the summer. Whether that’s been the real reason things haven’t worked out well remains to be seen, but it’s obvious that whatever worked last season isn’t working now.
ESPN.com’s Tim MacMahon, who has been covering the Mavericks for years, offered some insight into why Noel never stuck this season on a recent The Hoop Collective podcast.
“He shows up and he does his work but he does nothing extra,” MacMahon said. “Which by NBA standards that’s not really doing your work.
“It’s a bare-minimum type thing.”
MacMahon later said that while Noel has some “knucklehead tendencies” he hasn’t been trouble in Dalllas compared to some stories out of him in Philadelphia. He said aside from the incident where Noel was late to the team plane for the Mavs first road trip after the trade last season, Noel has always been on time to every other team function.
However ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan, who is from the Northeast and wrote for the Boston Globe when Rick Carlisle was playing for the Celtics, offered this on the situation.
“The minute he was traded to Dallas, I said to myself ‘Well, that’s a lost year’ because what we know about Nerlens Noel and again the reasons he didn't succeed have as much to do with what we’ve heard about him off the court as it is on the court,” she said.
“I’ve known Rick Carlisle since he was playing at the University of Maine and that is not a good fit and I say that with respect to Rick Carlisle. He and Noel — it’s just like he and (Rajon) Rondo, the day that trade happened.”
This is another column for another day, but it begs the question about why the Mavericks have continually provided Carlisle with players he wants nothing to do with and what to do if Carlisle’s standards for what an NBA player should be gets in the way of them drafting an ultra-talented player.
It’s also a little discouraging that dirty laundry about Noel is shaping how fans view him. It was bound to happen as the situation unfolded like this, but it’s a little sad to see a 23-year-old who might be a little immature get branded as some toxic type of human by the fans.
If Noel had Powell's first in/last out work ethic, who knows what Mavs would have. But he doesn't. And Powell, at least, tries to carry out the game plan and doesn't freelance on defense leaving teammates vulnerable. https://t.co/53n1xWe0C7— Chuck Cooperstein (@coopmavs) November 30, 2017
I'm not in practice during the season, but from what I've seen they have been willing to coach him. Carlisle did a bunch of it last season on shooting in particular. But on defense, despite being told what the approach is he can't stop his desire to freelance. https://t.co/QX6niawkvh— Chuck Cooperstein (@coopmavs) November 30, 2017
This isn’t to say the observations from people close to the team are wrong — far from it. It’s more that these types of labels create an unhealthy discussion around the player in the community and fan base. Check the comments on this site or any others about Noel or on Twitter and you’ll see people absolutely ripping Noel for being stupid to turn down what the Mavericks offered him this summer and some other not pleasant things about him. Noel hasn’t committed any crimes or done anything truly wrong — he’s just a 23-year-old who might not totally have his head on completely tight and really, that just about describes every 23-year-old on this entire planet.
I’m getting off track, but basically I don’t begrudge the people around the Mavs doing their jobs and reporting what they see and have been told. I just hope the fan base can put it into perspective about what Noel is, even though that’s never going to happen with how hot-take-y internet discourse has become.
“I’m having great practices, even individual wise, working on my game all the way around,” Noel said. “It never stops. Staying in the weight room, doing all the little things, staying up on conditioning even.
“Got some extra work after practice yesterday with some conditioning. I’m going to keep it moving and ready to stay focused on having a great season and supporting my guys.”