Nerlens Noel returns to Philadelphia on Friday night, when he and the Dallas Mavericks continue their road trip against the 76ers.
Noel, who spent two and a half seasons swinging between center and forward for the Sixers, was traded to Dallas on Feb. 23 for forward Justin Anderson, center Andrew Bogut and a conditional 2017 first-round draft pick.
“You know, I’ve been thinking about this game for some time now,” Noel told Philly.com. “So, I’m definitely looking forward to seeing my guys again, playing against all my guys. It’s going to be a very weird feeling. But I’m definitely ecstatic to step in that arena to play a basketball game.”
The 6-foot-11 Noel returned Wednesday night after missing three games with a sore right knee, and contributed 12 points in 22 minutes off the bench as the Mavs beat the Washington Wizards 112-107. He is averaging 10.3 points and 7.7 rebounds in seven games for Dallas, all but one of them as a reserve.
“It’s going to be so weird seeing him in a different uniform,” Philadelphia guard Nik Stauskas told Philly.com. “I think the crowd is going to show him love. I’d give him a standing ovation if I was the crowd. He is a good kid.”
Harrison Barnes scored 22 points, Dirk Nowitzki added 20 and Seth Curry had 19 Wednesday for the Mavs (29-38). Nowitzki and Curry both notched 10 in the fourth quarter, when Dallas outscored Washington 39-27.
The Mavs, three games out of the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot, halted a two-game losing streak but won for the fifth time in seven games. They will be making the third stop on a four-game road trip Friday.
Philadelphia (24-43) lost 106-104 Tuesday night at Golden State, its third loss on a four-game trip and its fifth loss in six games altogether. The Sixers lost center Joel Embiid for the season to a knee injury in late January, and forward Ben Simmons, the top pick in the 2016 draft, will be held out all season after breaking his right foot in training camp.
Embiid was regarded as the favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award before his injury. In his absence, forward Dario Saric has emerged as a candidate for that award. He scored a season-high 29 points in Sunday’s victory over the Lakers in Los Angeles, then added 25 Tuesday against the Warriors.
The Sixers built a 16-point third-quarter lead in the latter game, only to see the defending Western Conference champions rally to win.
“If we cut out just one bad play in the fourth quarter or maybe two bad plays in the quarter, that would have meant a lot,” Saric told Philly.com. “We would have won this game.”
Center Tiago Splitter, who the Sixers acquired in a Feb. 22 trade with Atlanta, has yet to play this season. He underwent hip surgery last February and has also been bothered by calf issues, but the team hopes to have him back by the end of the month.
Dallas guard Wesley Matthews did not play Wednesday at Washington because of a strained right calf. His status for Friday’s game is not yet known.