Aug 15, 2014, 2:35 PM EDT
Early prediction time: I’m picking Nerlens Noel to win Rookie of the Year. After seeing him play at Summer League, after he got that “Blake Griffin year” to be around the league without playing, with the touches he’ll get in Philadelphia, he’s my preseason call.
Noel would not be bouncing back like this without more than a year of hard work in the gym and on the court at rehab.
That can be a long, solitary process. In a fascinating Q&A with James Herbert of CBSSports.com’s Eye on Basketball (go read the entire thing) Noel said it was fellow Kentucky Wildcat Rajon Rondo who was reaching out and being supportive.
Noel: With all the support and love, certain guys, especially Rajon Rondo — he was definitely the biggest helper through this whole process, he actually gave me his phone number and told me I could hit him up whenever about it. Being from Boston, watching him growing up, and he went through it and he came back as strong as possible, actually before me, so it gave me a lot of confidence, having his good faith.
Q: Is that kind of crazy, being a Celtics fan growing up, to get to know him on a personal level?
Noel: Yeah, definitely. That’s definitely what made it even more of a thrill. Being able to interact with Rondo and get good advice from him, ’cause he’s more of a veteran point guard now in this league, gone through so much with the Big 3, he’s a world champion, he’s a player who’s very mature in this league now. So definitely, it was crazy. I took a lot from him.
Good on Rondo. It would have been easy to do the perfunctory “hey, get better kid” text and put Noel out of his mind, but Rondo was genuine.
And somewhere, three more recruits just committed to John Calipari.
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