It was the same before almost every game. Nerlens Noel would be at the free throw line. Brett Brown would be somewhere in the same vicinity – usually a step or two behind the player. It was part of the process.

Noel would stand on his left foot and lift his right leg. He’d hold the ball with his right hand, and only his right hand, and slowly raise it toward his head, taking care all the while to keep his elbow tucked in. Then Noel would extend his arm and flick his wrist and release the ball toward the basket, making sure to concentrate on his follow through while keeping that leg raised.

It was a strange-looking drill, like Noel was playing the part of Daniel LaRusso learning the crane kick on a court instead of a beach. The only thing missing was some '80s training montage music. That would make Brown Mr. Miyagi in this analogy, which is a comparison the head coach might not mind. As in the movie, Brown needed his student to unlearn all his previous mechanics and retrain his muscles with the proper technique.

So Noel did that drill. Again and again. Day after day. If getting Noel healthy after he tore his ACL was the top priority for the Sixers, then fixing his shot while he was on the shelf was a close second. Brown was open about the heavy lifting required. More than once, he called Noel’s shot a “total rebuild.” So where is Noel’s shot now?

“It’s rebuilt,” Noel said after the season ended. “I’m still in the process of definitely keeping it consistent. I’m working at it. Every time I step in the gym, making sure I keep that elbow in and stay with the fundamentals.”

Noel just turned 20. He played less than a full season in college, and he’s yet to appear in a competitive professional game. It’s fine if he thinks his shot is rebuilt, but you are forgiven if you are less certain.

At different points during the season, Brown said Noel was “making progress” with his shot and “ticking boxes,” but the head coach never pretended that he knows how the rehabbed mechanics will function once the shot is pressed into game action. Brown said having Noel sit out this year wasn’t what the player wanted, but it might have been a “blessing” in a way because it allowed the staff to break down Noel’s shot.