Things didn’t quite go the way Nerlens Noel had hoped this past Summer. Not only did he not come to terms on the max contract he wanted from the Mavericks, but he failed to entice any other team to make such an investment in him. Had he found somebody -anybody- to grant him a max contract, he could at least rest assured Dallas would either match, or let him walk. Either way, he would have his money. Instead, after turning down an offer for 4 years and $70 million, Noel fired his agent and accepted a qualifying offer for roughly $4 million this season. For those wondering, that’s less money than he played for even last year, and it’s made all the worse when you consider that he didn’t start enough games to qualify for even a starting QO dollars. Put simply, Noel decided to bet on himself.
Flash forward to Media Day and Noel’s perceived slight would only worsen. To the surprise of many, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle determined Noel would come off the bench for the upcoming season. Understanding his situation, Noel wisely kept quite, deciding to let his play speak for him. That was made all the more evident Wednesday night in the Mavs season opener when Noel came off the bench and roared for 16 points, 11 boards, a steal, and 3 blocks in just 19 minutes of action. In fact, Dallas probably only lost the game because Carlisle made the strange choice to leave Noel on the bench for much of the 4th quarter, leaving the Dallas defense unable to rebound or protect the rim.
So where does this leave the young center? Well, should this prove to be more than an unfortunate blip, it could leave Noel even more spurned by the team that acquired him at the deadline last season. Such a result would all but guarantee the big man moves on to a new team next season. For Dallas, this would be a costly mistake.
It’s no secret Noel is viewed as a Tyson Chandler starter kit by many members of the local media, but like Tyson Chandler before him (twice), Noel appears oddly unappreciated by the Mavs organization which should have well learned its lesson by now.
Hopefully Carlisle and the Mavs don’t repeat this latest misstep and allow Noel’s abundant energy and athleticism to help lift them throughout the season. For the moment the Kentucky product is saying and doing all the right things, but should he incur many more slaps to the face like this Summer, Media Day, and Opening Night, it seems only a matter of time before he becomes despondent and begins searching for an out.
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