Philadelphia 76ers rookie center Nerlens Noel has been given the go-ahead by Dr. James Andrews to resume basketball-related activities and could be ready to take the court shortly after the All-Star break, sources told ESPN.com.
Noel, who suffered a torn ACL in February while playing for Kentucky, visited Andrews in Florida last week.
"He is doing excellent, and the team is taking good care of him," Andrews told ESPN.com on Wednesday.
Andrews said he was unable to provide more information because of privacy laws, but sources told ESPN.com that Noel, the No. 6 pick in this past June's NBA draft, could return to game action within the next four to six weeks barring a setback.
"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."
CSNPhilly.com reported that Noel was seen playing one-on-one against assistant coach and former NBA big man Greg Foster on Tuesday.
Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie did not immediately respond to a call from ESPN.com seeking comment on Noel's progress.
How quickly the Sixers are prepared to get Noel back on the floor remains to be seen. First-year Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said in October that Noel's progress is "slow" and "everybody doubts he is going to play this year," but later softened those comments to leave open the possibility of Noel's return.
Widely assumed to be prioritizing its lottery position above anything else this season, Philadelphia started a surprising 3-0 without Noel. But the Sixers, apart from a recent four-game winning streak, have struggled mightily since and are in last place in the Atlantic Division (12-25).
Even so, they are just 3½ games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the weak Eastern Conference.