DALLAS — After joining the Dallas Mavericks via a mid-season trade from Philadelphia during the 2016-17 campaign, 23-year-old center Nerlens Noel admits that he’s excited to face his former team yet again.
Sent to Dallas in a trade-deadline deal on Feb. 23, Noel averaged 8.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.1 blocks while clocking 21.9 minutes per outing during his 22 appearances last season. He’s now picked up where he left off at this season, posting averages of 8.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.0 blocks and 1.2 steals in 19.0 minutes per outing during the Mavericks’ first six games. But after seeing the Mavericks (1-5) fall to a 116-74 rout against the 76ers (1-4) in his return to Philadelphia on March 17 last season, the 6-foot-11 big man couldn’t contain his excitement to face his former team for a second time Saturday night at American Airlines Center.
“My mindset is to come out here and be aggressive, try to set the tone early for my team, anchor the defense, start off to a good start and make sure the team is meshing,” Noel said following the Mavericks’ Saturday morning walkthrough.
“This is a lot more at ease,” he added. “It’s not fresh off a trade and just fresh with a new team, so I think I’ve came into this season very steadily with this team. Everything has felt great. I’m more comfortable with this system, so it feels more at ease.”
Matching up against Sixers big man Joel Embiid, Noel will admittedly face a daunting task inside. Meanwhile, the Mavericks will attempt to contain 6-foot-10 rookie point guard Ben Simmons, hoping to keep the first-year standout from controlling the pace during Saturday’s game. And with the 76ers possessing both size, improved shooting and athleticism, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle admits that his team will have its hands full for 48 minutes.
“Well, they’re extremely athletic,” Carlisle said with a great amount of respect for the Sixers’ lineup. “We haven’t seen Embiid yet in person, so tonight will be the first time. He’s a hard guy to describe to people. You know, he’s so athletic and so skilled. Their shooting is way better, so their drive game is a lot more emphatic. Simmons is one of the top-three guys in the league in getting the ball in the paint, and then they have (J.J.) Redick and (Jerryd) Bayless and (Robert) Covington making shots. And they’ve got the big guy inside, so it’s a really tough guard. They’re an aggressive team. They’re going to try to be into you on defense, try to turn you over and get you into their kind of chaotic game, and we’ve got to work to play our game.”
Note: The Mavericks will now return to American Airlines Center on Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers. The game will tip off at 7:30 p.m. CT, airing locally on Fox Sports Southwest and 103.3 FM ESPN. The game will also air in Spanish on KFLC AM 1270. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by visiting Mavs.com, or by calling (214) 747-MAVS.
Devin Harris (personal reasons) — expected to play
Seth Curry (stress reaction, left tibia) — out
Josh McRoberts (lower extremity injury) — out