Nerlens Noel will miss four to six weeks following surgery to repair torn ligaments in his left thumb, the Dallas Mavericks announced Wednesday evening.

The injury occurred, Noel claims, in either the fourth or the fifth game of the season.

He will travel to Cleveland later this week for the surgery.

Noel first appeared on the injury report on Nov. 26, a day after logging a DNP in a blowout home win over the Oklahoma City Thunder. The last game he appeared in was on Nov. 22 when the team was on the road in Memphis. He played just under four minutes.

This is just the latest chapter of Noel’s saga in Dallas. Over the weekend, he came into the media dining room at the American Airlines Center at halftime to get a hot dog, something that I have never seen a player do. Tweets and headlines ensued, prompting a statement about the incident to the media the following day.

Speculation about the cause of his halftime hunger centered on the fact that Noel’s playing time was in steep decline. It was clear that there was a rift between him and head coach Rick Carlisle. Aiding to this belief were Carlisle’s repeated statements regarding playing guys who show effort, energy, and character. Though he never directly mentioned Noel, it’s clear that the coach was subtweeting him, to use the modern vernacular.

At the root of the tension between Noel and the Mavericks is Noel’s attempt to seek a max contract over the summer. Dallas reportedly offered him a four-year deal worth $70 million. If he had accepted it, there’s no doubt that he would be playing. However, he rejected it, took the qualifying offer, and is now riding the bench.

With this backstory, it’s fair to wonder about the validity of Noel’s injury. If he had a larger role with the team, something like this wouldn’t have gone seemingly unmentioned until he elected to have surgery. If this situation seems familiar, that’s because it is. This is part of the Mavericks’ playbook.

Last season, Andrew Bogut dealt with a number of injuries. Bogut has a history of injuries but, at one point, a member of the Mavericks staff mentioned having to get Bogut out of the background of a promotional video because he was dunking and didn’t appear injured even though he was missing games. Remind you of anyone?

Prior to that, it was more than apparent that the team and Bogut were ready to part ways. Dallas eventually traded Bogut to the Philadelphia 76ers as part of the deal to acquire Noel.

Looking back further, Rajon Rondo left the Mavs’ first-round playoff series against the Houston Rockets because he was dealing with a back injury. That’s what the team said at least.
Noel’s injury is more of the same. It’s no coincidence that his timetable for recovery from surgery parallels nicely with the approaching December 15 deadline. That’s when free agents who signed contracts over the summer can officially be traded. The team will keep up appearances and put on a good face about Noel’s time in Dallas, but they’re not fooling anyone. The two parties are heading in different directions. Noel won’t be a Maverick much longer.