76ers

Markelle Fultz begins final stage of rehab

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Markelle Fultz begins final stage of rehab

CAMDEN, N.J. — There’s still no timetable.

For Sixers fans skeptical Markelle Fultz will return anytime soon, that’s the bottom line. But there’s no question Fultz is making progress.

According to the team, Fultz is cleared to begin “the final stage of his return-to-play program.” This final stage for Fultz will consist of “gradual re-integration into team practices and training, complemented with additional conditioning work to support fitness readiness for gameplay.”

What exactly does that mean? Tuesday, Fultz played half-court 4-on-4 with his teammates at practice. He also played some 1-on-1 with Jacob Pullen and James Michael McAdoo and did individual skill work after practice, including pull-up jumpers from about 15 to 18 feet (see more here).

“I think he looked OK,” Brett Brown said. “I think everybody shouldn’t get too far ahead of ourselves in relation to what does that mean, but it is the most he’s done with me in a while. What I saw today was just encouraging to see him playing with his teammates, and playing live basketball.”

It’s not as if Fultz is on the brink of game action, but it’s the closest he’s been since he was shut down in late October.   

Brown is confident Fultz can make a major difference once he finally does return.

“The reality of the whole thing is, the more you feel a team and coach a team, his skill set ties everything together,” Brown said. “He can make plays. And when you are missing some of those qualities in a group, things get exposed. And he can do that, he can create a shot for himself and he can create a shot for others. So when you ask, do I project out and anticipate what he can do when he gets in there? Every day.”

It’s clear that the Sixers could use another player with dynamic offensive skills. Whether or not Fultz can be that player remains an open question. The Sixers thought he fit that description well when they drafted him No. 1.

In the short term, Fultz would almost definitely be an upgrade on the Sixers’ current guard play off the bench.

Justin Anderson has been sidelined with shin splints since Nov. 15. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot is averaging 6.0 points and 1.7 rebounds in 16.3 minutes per game. His 6.49 PER is 10th-worst among qualified players. Furkan Korkmaz is out indefinitely with a Lisfranc injury.

Everything is still hypothetical until Fultz actually returns, but it’s easy to see him immediately helping the Sixers once he’s back.

Like Brown, Dario Saric thinks the Sixers will be a better team once Fultz’s saga ends and he gets back onto the court.

“I think Markelle will find his spot there, and for sure he will help us a lot with his drives, with his shots, with his moves, because he is a pretty good player,” Saric said.

“And we are here to help him. He was the first pick, a lot of pressure on him, and all the guys are here to help him. It will be hard for him the first couple games to find a way to play with a new team, new roster, NBA basketball, but I think he’ll find a way and be a very, very good, excellent player.”

All-Star sidelined for Sixers' game vs. Bucks

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All-Star sidelined for Sixers' game vs. Bucks

CAMDEN, N.J. — The first matchup between the oversized point guards will have to wait.

Ben Simmons will not face off against Giannis Antetokounmpo, who is sidelined because of soreness in his right knee, in the Sixers' Saturday evening game against the Bucks. Antetokounmpo is averaging 28.2 points, 10.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.3 blocks this season. 

That’s not the only absence.

Jerryd Bayless, who had started in place of JJ Redick (leg), is out with a sore left wrist. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot gets the nod at shooting guard.

“It’s another opportunity to show up and make some shots and prove that I can do that,” Luwawu-Cabarrot said at shootaround, also noting he has to play tough defense on Eric Bledsoe (17.7 points per game).

Reigning Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon will also miss the game because of a personal matter, per the Journal Sentinel. Brogdon beat out Joel Embiid and Dario Saric for the award last season. 

Markelle Fultz (right shoulder) remains out. He worked on free throws, driving drills, and knocked down a jumper in the portion of shootaround available to the media.

Raptors continue to take care of business at home

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Raptors continue to take care of business at home

TORONTO -- Kyle Lowry scored nine of his 24 points in the fourth quarter, DeMar DeRozan added 21 and the Toronto Raptors beat San Antonio 86-83 on Friday night to snap a four-game losing streak against the Spurs.

Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points and 11 rebounds as the Raptors improved to 17-3 at home, the second-best home record in the NBA behind San Antonio's mark of 19-2.

LaMarcus Aldridge had 17 points and 14 rebounds, Pau Gasol scored 15 points and Patty Mills had 13 as San Antonio lost for the fourth time in six road games. The Spurs are 11-15 away from home.

It had been more than two years since Toronto last beat San Antonio. The Raptors won 97-94 at home on Dec. 9, 2015.

San Antonio guard Manu Ginobili missed his second straight game because of a sore right thigh. Ginobili returned to Texas after the Spurs won at Brooklyn on Wednesday (see full recap).

Beal, Oubre spark Wizards’ win over Pistons
DETROIT -- Bradley Beal and Kelly Oubre Jr. had 26 points each, and the Washington Wizards scored 45 points in the third quarter before holding on for a 122-112 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

The Pistons cut a 20-point second-half deficit to four in the fourth quarter, but John Wall made a big 3-pointer to put the Wizards up 107-100. Oubre added a four-point play a few possessions later to push Washington's lead to nine.

Andre Drummond had 14 points, 21 rebounds and eight assists for the Pistons, who have lost four straight.

Both teams were struggling coming into the game. The Wizards lost by 24 at Charlotte on Wednesday, and they fell behind by 15 in the first quarter at Detroit. It was tied at 46 at halftime, though (see full recap).

Nets edge Heat to snap 5-game home skid
NEW YORK -- DeMarre Carroll scored 26 points, Spencer Dinwiddie had 15 and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Miami Heat 101-95 on Friday night.

Brooklyn snapped a five-game losing skid at Barclays Center and a seven-game home losing streak to the Heat.

Caris LeVert and Joe Harris each added 12 points for the Nets. D'Angelo Russell played 14 minutes and went 0-for-5 from the field for Brooklyn in his first action after missing 32 games following left knee surgery.

Hassan Whiteside had 21 points and 13 rebounds, and Goran Dragic scored 17 points for the Heat.

LeVert made an acrobatic layup to give the Nets a 95-91 lead with 57.8 seconds remaining and then made a step-back jumper to ice the game at 97-91 (see full recap).