I have jokingly called Markelle Fultz “trash” maybe a zillion times. As a newcomer to basketball Twitter, it’s just been a practice in making up for lost time.
[You see, basketball Twitter is an absolutely magical place. You just say a bunch of nonsense but everyone understands that you’re either exaggerating for effect or just being absurd altogether. Basketball Twitter doesn’t take itself seriously in the slightest. Basketball Twitter just loves its sport and has fun. Take a damn note or 50, hockey Twitter.]
But the sad thing is that calling Fultz trash, a bust, or whatever else hits too close to the truth right now. And calling a kid a failure only months after he was selected first overall is just mean. Until Fultz gets a little wind under his sails, I’m pulling for him and so should you.
Mainly, I love the Jayson Tatum-vs.-Fultz argument. The Celtics traded out of the first pick to No. 3 in a draft believed to have a clear-cut best player and quite a bit of separation between the top two guys and everyone else. All indications are that if they stayed at No. 1, they would have drafted the guy they took at No. 3 (Tatum), which would have been criticized heavily. Hell, even trading to No. 3 to get Tatum was criticized.
Naturally, Celtics fans should want Danny Ainge to eventually be proven right. Fultz' promise made that an unlikely result, but that struggle would make up the Tatum-vs.-Fultz rivalry. Right now, however, Ainge has already been proven so right that there really isn’t even a debate. In freaking November. And it’s as much about Fultz’ stock absolutely plummeting as it is about Tatum proving to be one of the Celtics’ best players right out of the gate.
The hits seemingly don’t stop coming for Fultz, who is still in the midst of an indefinite sabbasketball™ due to a shoulder issue. Questions about Fultz began leading up to the season, when re-worked free throw mechanics made him look like Keith Foulke trying to shoot a basketball on half a bottle of NyQuil. It was ugly and it was bad.
After four games, all of which saw him come off the bench, and bland numbers (six points a game, 6 of 12 on free throws), Fultz’ agent said the player couldn’t even raise his arms to shoot and shouldn’t be playing. The 76ers then shut him down, saying they’d re-evaluate him in three weeks. Then that date was pushed back again. He hasn't played a game since Oct. 23.
Two weeks after he was initially shut down, we got this:
This is from legit three-point range with Fultz’s left hand pic.twitter.com/lhCXTKqd7I— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) November 6, 2017
That’s Fultz shooting left-handed, which people typically don’t do when they aren’t lefties. There was initial panic that this marked yet another departure from Fultz’ mechanics, but the team clarified that Fultz was only shooting left-handed because he’s not yet been cleared to shoot with his dominant hand.
Fultz is likely chalking the whole start to his career up to not being 100 percent. He’d be foolish not to. Yet while Tatum is putting up 20-point games and putting away wins, Fultz and the 76ers are still just trying to get on the same page. Tatum has sprinted far ahead of where anyone could have expected and Fultz has fallen far behind.
That stinks. If Fultz turns out to be a complete bust, Ainge will deserve all the credit in the world in dodging that bullet. Hell, he already deserves credit for seemingly making the right pick. Yet we’ve got to wait for Fultz to actually look decent before we laugh too hard. Cracking jokes about an OK player is commonplace. Making fun of a bad player is super mean.