Rookie Nerlens Noel has been cleared to return to basketball-related activities by knee specialist Dr. James Andrews, and the Philadelphia 76ers forward is four to six weeks away from game action, according to sources of ESPN's Jeff Goodman.
"He tested really well and his knee looks great," one source said. "Dr. Andrews suggested he be cleared to do on-court drills, but the team still has to clear him."
Noel, who suffered a torn ACL while playing for the Kentucky Wildcats in February, has not played this season. If the 6'11 forward is cleared, it means he could potentially be available for game action after the All-Star break.
Whether Philadelphia will allow the sixth overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft to return this season remains to be seen.
Pushing Noel to return would include the obvious risk of re-injury, and the Sixers are also eyeing a high lottery pick in the 2014 draft, which is dependent on their record. However, Philadelphia is currently only three games back of the No. 8 seed Charlotte Bobcats in the Eastern Conference playoff race, and how much a rusty Noel helps their chances to win is debatable considering he's been out since February.
Noel was widely regarded as the No. 1 overall pick through most of the 2012-13 college basketball season, but his stock slid after the knee injury. He was drafted by the New Orleans Hornets and traded to the Sixers on draft night in a package that required Philadelphia to trade All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday.