Nerlens Noel might not be starting in Dallas at the moment, but finishing games is more important for the big fella.
There wasn’t a more interesting free agent situation over the summer than Nerlens Noel and his market.
Sitting as a restricted free agent, Noel hit free agency where he turned down an initial offer from the Dallas Mavericks that had some scratching their heads. After the process drug out over the summer and included a change of agents, Noel found himself betting on himself by taking the qualifying offer from Dallas to hit unrestricted free agency next summer.
This set up the ultimate ‘prove it’ season for Nerlens Noel.
Then Media Day came in Dallas and Rick Carlisle announced that Dirk Nowitzki is best at the five at this point in his career and that Nerlens Noel will be coming off the bench.
Two days before that, Carlisle was on a conference call with Noel and his agent, Rich Paul, discussing the situation and making sure everyone was clear about the plan moving forward.
Noel had all the right answers on Media Day as “I’ll do whatever they want me to do” became his anthem.
Now, a few games into the preseason, Seth Curry goes down with a stress reaction in his tibia with an indefinite timeframe. Is it time for Nerlens Noel to jump back into the starting lineup against Orlando on Monday night?
Not so fast.
Dallas elected to start Yogi Ferrell in place of Seth Curry, thus leaving Nerlens Noel in the second unit.
When I asked Noel after the game about if he thought he would be starting when Curry went down, Noel downplayed the whole situation.
"“Nah. I had no idea. I wasn’t the slightest bit worried about it,” Noel said."
Noel is now in a second unit where he is surrounded by three guards (Ferrell, Barea, and Harris) that are constantly running pick and rolls with Noel and Powell. For Noel, he likes the diversity and ability of the guards to get him the ball.
“I’m not going to sit here and say I am so used to it” -Noel on not starting
"“I think it is really diverse. I think those guys are able to put me in a lot of different positions. Pick and roll heavy guards. The weak side crashing over. Just like tonight, Wesley got one, I think Doe-Doe got one. I think they just really creative with the ball and put it in guys hands,” Noel said when talking about the second unit."
For some players across the league, starting means everything. They need time to get going in a game and coming off the bench throws them off. I asked Nerlens straight up if starting means that much to him and how it compares to finishing games.
"“I definitely feel like finishing the game is the most important, but you know I have started my whole life. I’m not going to sit here and say I am so used to it. But I definitely know how to handle things and go from there,” Noel said."
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Coming out of high school as one of the top prospects going to Kentucky and projected early on as a top pick in the draft, Noel has gotten accustomed to hearing his name called in the starting lineup. Noel displays his honesty when saying he isn’t used to not starting, but he also displays a true, winning attitude when he says that finishing games is the most important.
Because if Noel is averaging over 30 minutes a night and finishing the game, the case could be made that that is more impactful than starting.
Even though he isn’t used to it yet, he’s using it as a learning experience.
“I have learned from it. I’ve learned how to analyze games before I get in them,” Noel said. “Seeing how the rhythm of the game is going. Seeing how guys start off. Really just have to see everything as a learning process and figuring some things out and using it to your benefit.”
Some would say the clock is already ticking with Noel in Dallas, but the big man is saying all the right things as he continues to adjust to his new role off the bench.