Nerlens Noel stars in his first game in a year and a half


On Saturday, almost a year and a half since he suffered a severe knee injury as a college freshman, Nerlens Noel played in a competitive basketball game.

And he looked good doing it.

Running fluidly, Noel scored a game-high 19 points as his Philadelphia 76ers lost to the Orlando Magic 83-77 in the Orlando Pro Summer League.

"I was nervous at the beginning, but I seem to play a little better when I'm a little anxious," Noel said.

"No mental blocks," Noel said. "It's been 18 months out. I haven't been thinking about the knee for a long time now, many months. So I'm definitely going to continue to get it stronger, as strong as possible and just continue working.

"It's very validating. It's been 18 months since I played an organized game, and it felt great today."

It's unclear how many more games Noel will play in the summer league.

Gortat ecstatic
Former Orlando Magic center Marcin Gortat, who still makes his offseason U.S. home in Central Florida, visited the summer league Saturday.

He remained ecstatic that he and the Washington Wizards recently agreed to a five-year, $60 million contract.

Gortat helped lead the up-and-coming Wizards to a 44-38 regular-season record and to the postseason's second round.

"That's going to be a great team for the next four or five years," the Polish center told the Orlando Sentinel. "I'm definitely excited about being back with a crew that I was successful with. I feel comfortable on the team. I feel comfortable in the system. I don't like changes in my life, so I'm definitely excited about being back. And it's on the East Coast, where it's closer to Orlando, where it's my home. It's closer to Europe."

In recent weeks, Gortat said the Wizards sent coach Randy Wittman and senior vice president of basketball operations Tommy Sheppard to Krakow, Poland, to meet with him. One of the team's assistant coaches, Pat Sullivan, spent four to six days with Gortat to help Gortat run his youth basketball camps.

"They showed me plenty of love," Gortat said. "They didn't have to even do it, but they did, and it means a lot to me. So it's always great to be wanted. I just want to pay it back and play the best basketball that I can."

Van Gundy returns
Former Magic coach Stan Van Gundy, who is now the Detroit Pistons' coach and president of basketball operations, watched the Pistons beat the Rockets 95-89 on Saturday.

It's believed that it was the first time Van Gundy has stepped foot inside Amway Center since the Magic fired him in May 2012.

"[It was] good to see people, good to be back in the game," Van Gundy said.

Former Magic assistant coaches Bob Beyer and Brendan Malone, who are now on Detroit's coaching staff, also are in Orlando—with Beyer serving as the head coach of Detroit's summer-league team. Charles Klask, the Magic's former scouting information manager, is now a Pistons assistant coach and is in Orlando, as is former Magic video coordinator Adam Glessner, who is now a Pistons scout.

Heartbreaking moment
Free-agent point guard Pierre Jackson injured his right Achilles' tendon playing for the Sixers against the Magic and had to be carried off the court.

A Sixers official said the initial diagnosis was a ruptured Achilles', but Jackson will be reevaluated.

Jackson was a standout when he completed his college career at Baylor during the 2012-13 season, and Jackson spent last season in the NBA Development League and playing overseas.

Via Twitter, Jackson sent out a message shortly after he suffered his injury.

Jackson wrote: "Thank you to everyone reaching out its highly appreciated..... Pray for me."

Helping out
On Sunday morning, former Magic players Nick Anderson, Tony Battie, Keyon Dooling and Quentin Richardson are scheduled to meet with rookies participating in the summer league.

Anderson, Battie, Dooling and Richardson plan to offer tips to the rookies on how to adjust to off-the-court life and on-the-court life in the NBA.

The meeting was arranged by the National Basketball Players Association.

Making contributions
Swingman Devyn Marble, a second-round draft pick, scored 13 points for the Magic in their win over the Sixers, while free agent guard Seth Curry added nine points for Orlando. Read his blog at and follow him on Twitter at @JoshuaBRobbins.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad