76ers

Bryan Colangelo explains why Markelle Fultz played hurt

Bryan Colangelo explains why Markelle Fultz played hurt

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers are calling a timeout for Markelle Fultz to address his right shoulder soreness.

Fultz will miss the next three games and will be reevaluated next Tuesday, a decision Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said was mutual between Fultz and the team. 

"I think that it's appropriate to take a step back, let him take a breath and get him healthy and ready to resume play hopefully next week," Colangelo said Wednesday morning, the day after Fultz's agent Raymond Brothers spoke to ESPN about Fultz's health. 

Fultz has had "a couple" of scans and ultrasounds, Colangelo said, and he does not have structural damage. Fultz most recently met with a shoulder expert Tuesday who has worked with baseball players. Fultz has received a cortisone shot, is doing physiotherapy treatment and is being monitored daily by the Sixers.

"Nothing's wrong with Markelle Fultz," Colangelo said.  

The exact cause of the shoulder soreness is unknown. There is a not a specific moment of injury and the Sixers are looking back to determine how it occurred. 

Fultz changed his shot form during the offseason in October. The Sixers became aware of the shoulder soreness in late September. The team is trying to pinpoint if Fultz's shoulder became irritated because of the change in form, or if he changed his form because of the soreness. 

What is known is Fultz has been hesitant to shoot away from the basket. The 41-percent three-point shooter in college has not attempted a trey in his first four NBA games. The soreness is most visible when Fultz is at the free throw line. His uncomfortable form became the subject of social media fodder on opening night. 

"There was no medical reason not to play him," Colangelo said. "He was cleared to play and he wanted to play. That's why he was playing. His reluctance to shoot, obviously his shot mechanics have been affected by whatever's going on, or vice versa."

On Tuesday, Brothers initially told ESPN Fultz had his shoulder drained. Later in the evening, the agent said there was no draining but rather Fultz had a cortisone shot. 

There was an hours-long gap in between the two reports and the Sixers' communication with Brothers as he traveled on a plane. In the meantime, Fultz retweeted the ESPN article and liked another tweet related to it. Colangelo was not fazed by Fultz's reaction on social media. 

"I would love to know the statistics of retweets, whether players actually do that or if people do that for them or friends do that for them," Colangelo said. "It's something that I don't really pay attention to. There is noise out there but it certainly doesn't affect our decision-making. I know I'm aligned with the agent, which probably manifested itself in the correction last night. … The bottom line, I think we're all aligned." 

Of course, Sixers fans want to be aligned with news about the players' health, too. After the team's long history with injuries, information is key, especially as the expectations for success are heightened this season. Prior to the ESPN report, the Sixers had not said Fultz received a shot. 

"I don't think a cortisone shot treating a shoulder that we reported as sore is necessarily cause for a (press) release or cause for an announcement," Colangelo said, adding, "I think we've been pretty transparent." 

Fultz will join the Sixers when they travel this weekend to Dallas and Houston, where he will continue to receive treatment. The Sixers' next game after Fultz's reevaluation is the following day against the Hawks. 

"No one's panicking inside. The sky's not falling," Colangelo said. "Markelle Fultz is going to be a great basketball player for this organization and we're confident that we're going to get this thing resolved."

Dwyane Wade praises Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Sixers

Dwyane Wade praises Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid, Sixers

This wasn’t Dwyane Wade’s first rodeo. 

The three-time NBA champ and former Finals MVP has played with and against the best players of the last 15 years. After his Heat team suffered a Game 5 and 4-1 series loss Tuesday night, the future Hall of Famer heaped praise upon the Sixers’ young stars, Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid.

“They’re the future of the NBA,” Wade said. “The NBA is in great hands with Ben and Joel and those kind of individuals.”

The young Sixers delivered at home, closing out their series in five games with a 104-91 win. Simmons (14 points, 10 rebounds, six assists) and Embiid (19 points, 12 boards) shined once again. 

As the Sixers look forward to an Eastern Conference Semifinal matchup with either Boston or Milwaukee, the question is simple: how far can these kids go?

“When you’ve got great individual players — no matter how old they are — they can do some special things,” Wade said. “These guys believe it. You can see it in their eyes. Embiid is not just talk. He’s not just a Twitter rat kind of person. He’s a player. He’s very good. 

“I believe in those guys. I believe they’re going to be special for awhile, but also, if they believe they can do it now, they can.”

Wade won two NBA titles with the greatest player on the planet, LeBron James. While the Sixers focus on now, there’s been a lot of talk from fans and media of King James' jumping ship and coming to Philly.

According to Wade, the Fresh Prince may be the only royalty the Sixers need.

“I don’t think he had a bad game,” Wade said of Simmons. “A young player like that, in his first playoffs — he didn’t have a bad game. You knew from the first time you saw him in summer league that he was special. If you know basketball, if you know talent, you know someone is special. 

“I think the thing that was impressive about him all year, is he just continued to get better and better and better. To the point where it’s like that guy in Cleveland — doesn’t have bad games. The imprint that [Simmons and James] put on the game is more than just scoring. [Simmons] does so much. The sky is the limit obviously for him and this organization. “

The Sixers have become a trendy pick to win the East and advance to the finals. Sure, they have youth, but Wade believes the organization has done an excellent job adding veteran players like JJ Redick, Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova to complement Simmons and Embiid.

Wade experienced success at a young age and sees no reason this Sixers team can’t do the same.

“It’s definitely possible,” Wade said of the Sixers going on a deep playoff run. “Sometimes an organization, they get lucky and draft someone special. And these guys got to draft more than one person special and you were able to build around that. 

“That’s what these guys have the ability to do. I was lucky enough in my first year to go to the second round. And then the next year go to the Eastern Conference Finals and the next year win it all. It definitely can happen right away.”

Sixers' 2nd-half dominance emblematic of team's growth

Sixers' 2nd-half dominance emblematic of team's growth

Remember when the Sixers regularly stuttered out of the gates in second halves, coughing up leads?

That feels like a long, long time ago.

The ridiculously rapid growth of this team is hard to fathom. It's turning previous weaknesses into strengths, and its second-half performances are a perfect example.

The third quarter was pivotal in the Sixers’ 104-91 win Tuesday night (see observations), as they outscored the Heat 34-20 to take control of the game. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons provided the bulk of the Sixers’ offense in the first half, but that changed in the third quarter. Dario Saric scored eight points in the period, while Robert Covington made a pair of momentum-swinging three-pointers.

In total, out of 10 second-half quarters in the series, the Sixers lost just one — the fourth quarter Tuesday. 

That second-half dominance is turning into a big part of this team’s identity.

“It’s just the way we play — we play hard and we never let up,” Simmons said. “At the start of the season, we had a few letups where we just weren’t used to it, a few guys playing their first season, a new team. I think we’ve grown a lot.”

Erik Spoelstra experienced an unpleasant feeling of déjà vu during the second half of Game 5.

“In the second half, it felt like the majority of our fourth quarters vs. Philadelphia,” Spoelstra said. “Each of the games — except for Game 2 — they’ve stepped up their defense in the fourth quarter and it was tough to generate good, clean offense or at least getting the ball where we wanted it to go and executing with some level of coherency. You have to credit them.”

While the Sixers are developing at warp speed, this particular trend didn’t just start in the playoffs. As JJ Redick pointed out, the Sixers started taking over in the second half late in the regular season.

“I don’t think this is something we just started doing this series,” Redick said. “If you look at our winning streak, there were a lot of games that were close at halftime and the third and fourth quarters, especially defensively, were just terrific, and that’s what allowed us to have that winning streak.

“So this is something we’ve been doing now for a while. I know earlier in the year we certainly had blown a few double-digits leads in the second half. It’s something we were coached on and worked through as a group, so a lot of credit goes to Brett (Brown) and his staff for that.”

During the Sixers’ current stretch of 20 wins in 21 games, they’ve outscored their opponents in the third quarter by nine or more points 10 times. It’s a staggering reversal of their early-season issues coming out of halftime.

While we’re talking about the Sixers’ growth, we could delve into their newfound ability to take care of the ball (with the glaring exception of Game 4), or the massive improvements in their bench play, or Simmons hitting free throws under pressure.

However, the second-half dominance speaks volumes about the ways this precocious team has grown, and how it continues to develop.

“I think we’ve stayed on to something and we haven’t pivoted out of it,” Brown said. “This is how we want to play offense, this how we want to play defense, this is how we substitute, these are our crunch-time plays. This is just what we do. 

“We’ve been able to just incrementally get better as the season has unfolded. That’s always the thing that makes coaches most proud: the fact that your teams get better. And this team really is getting better. The pieces within the team are getting better and so it all adds up.”