LOS ANGELES -- Markelle Fultz isn’t cleared to play basketball. As long as he’s around the Sixers, though, they are going to make him feel as involved as possible.
Fultz is traveling with the Sixers on their West Coast trip while he continues to rehab his right shoulder, which has sidelined him indefinitely because of soreness and scapular muscle imbalance. He’s not slated to be reevaluated for another week. In the meantime, coaches and teammates are keeping the 19-year-old No. 1 pick incorporated into the mix.
“Take whatever negative downtime they have that they’re not playing," Brett Brown said, "and also negative downtime that they surely have spiritually and emotionally because they’re just not playing, and try to make it the best we can.”
Fultz has been attending practices and shootarounds. He went through drills Saturday before the Sixers’ matchup against the Warriors, breaking a sweat while working on driving and finishing at the basket.
The Sixers have given Fultz assignments during the games. He is tasked with watching numerous elements on the floor from a distance. They hold him accountable outside the arena, too. As a guard in the Sixers’ system, Fultz could be asked to run the floor, which creates an even bigger need to keep up with the schemes.
“We challenge him a little bit,” Robert Covington said. “Even though he’s not playing, he still has to see what’s happening. He’s doing a good job. We ask at various times, on the bench, we catch him off guard. He handles them very well. He’s engaged even though he’s not on the court. One thing I can say is even though he’s not playing, he’s still learning a lot.”
The Sixers are no stranger to incorporating young, sidelined players into the team. They are faced with an injured rookie for the fifth straight year. Those who have been in his position know how it feels to be watching the action from afar. Joel Embiid, who missed his first two seasons because of foot injuries, stays closely connected with Fultz when they travel.
“We talk about basketball all the time,” Embiid said. “We’re always hanging out together. Everywhere we go, once we get to the hotel he’s probably going to come to my room and we’re going to play board games or video games.”
The Sixers will have a better sense of when Fultz can play once he is reevaluated, slated for approximately three weeks from his Oct. 29 injury announcement. Until then, they will ensure he is very much a part of the team.
“Just trying to make somebody feel good,” Brown said. “Make them feel prepared. Make them still feel loved.”