76ers

More questions than answers with Markelle Fultz shoulder saga

More questions than answers with Markelle Fultz shoulder saga

The Sixers are unfortunately in familiar territory.

No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz will be shut down for at least the next three games with a shoulder injury. That's not the only thing that's familiar. The circumstances surrounding Fultz's injury are flat out weird.

First, his agent said Tuesday that Fultz had his shoulder drained. He then came back out and said Fultz actually had a cortisone shot.

It may be optimistic to say Fultz will be ready to go after his three-game absence, but head coach Brett Brown said he sees this situation as a good thing.

"I'm glad for him," Brown said before Wednesday's game against the Rockets. "I think we all understand that there were some things going on and I feel like this is a time where he can take a deep breath. We can help move forward I think in a cleaner way. I'm looking at this as a positive."

Fultz's shot has been an interesting topic of conversation. His struggles with it have been evident as the rookie has shot just 33.0 percent from the field in four games. The 19-year-old guard shot 41.3 percent from three at Washington, but did struggle somewhat at the line, shooting 64.9 percent.

So was it Fultz who decided to change his shot mechanics, hoping to improve, or was it the shoulder injury that caused the change?

"There's no doubt that Markelle, in the goodness of his heart and trying to do the right thing, tried to readjust his shot," Brown said. "He historically has been a left hip guy and [not shoot with his feet square to the basket]. On his own he decided, with some help, to be able to try and improve it." 

If there's someone who can feel Fultz's pain, it's Joel Embiid. The Sixers' star big man missed his first two seasons with a broken navicular bone. He was then subject to a minutes restriction during a 31-game rookie season that ended prematurely with a torn meniscus. 

Embiid has talked to Fultz about his situation and has told the rookie to keep his head up.

"He's been trying to stay positive," Embiid said. "Obviously he's been dealing with that since the summer. I think I'm the best one that can help him just because I've gone through that. Then the media perception and also the fans, I've gone through all that and I've been around him a lot."

One thing is for sure, Embiid can't wait to see his new teammate back on the court.

"I can't wait to play with him because I think me and him in the pick-and-roll is going to be unstoppable because I think that's going to be where it's going to help us a lot," Embiid said.

We're left with so many questions, even after speaking to president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo and Brown. 

Why did Fultz want to fix his shot, part of the reason he became the first overall pick? When did he start to experience pain in his shoulder? When they saw Fultz struggling so much with his shot, why did the team continue to play him? How much time will he miss?

"The kid is a baller. He can really play," Brown said. "I think as time unfolds we're going to feel this out a little more. We have a very aggressive plan for him in place as he comes with us and continues to be a part of our team."

LeBron James hits milestone but Cavs' woes continue

usa-lebron-james.jpg
USA Today Images

LeBron James hits milestone but Cavs' woes continue

SAN ANTONIO -- LeBron James became the youngest player ever with 30,000 career points, then got upstaged by the youngest player on the court.

Spurs point guard Dejounte Murray -- a friend and mentee of James -- had 19 points, 10 rebounds and seven steals to lift San Antonio over the slumping Cleveland Cavaliers 114-102 on Tuesday night.

"He's fearless, he's not impressed," Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of the 21-year-old. "He really sets the pace for us. He's a fine defender. He's learning how to play the game and doing a fine job."

Murray, making his second start since replacing a healthy Tony Parker, needed that fortitude while battling James in the fourth quarter. He soared for a tip follow, then rose to disrupt James' driving layup, which led to a 3-pointer by Danny Green that gave the Spurs a 105-94 lead with 4:20 remaining (see full recap).

Warriors use big 2nd half to beat Knicks
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Stephen Curry scored 17 of his 32 points in the third quarter to go with seven assists and six rebounds, and the Golden State Warriors used a big second half to beat the New York Knicks 123-112 on Tuesday night.

Kevin Durant added 14 points, a career-high 14 assists and two blocks before his ejection with 2:50 left for a second technical. Zaza Pachulia added 13 points in Golden State's seventh straight victory in the series.

Curry made 8 of 15 from deep while sporting sneakers featuring the faces of his daughters Riley and Ryan and the message "I can do all things."

The Warriors bounced back from Saturday's eight-point defeat at Houston to improve to 10-0 following a loss this season (see full recap).

Westbrook's late basket lifts Thunder past Nets
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Russell Westbrook had one goal on the Thunder's final possession: make it to the rim.

The Brooklyn Nets left him just enough space, and the reigning MVP put Oklahoma City over the top once again.

Westbrook made a go-ahead layup with 3.3 seconds left to help the Thunder rally from a 15-point second-half deficit and beat the Nets 109-108 on Tuesday night.

"They sat in the paint all game long," Westbrook said. "I was just trying a way to get to the basket,” (see full recap).

Temple scores 34 to push Kings past Magic
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Garrett Temple took over in the fourth quarter and led the struggling Sacramento Kings to a big win.

Temple scored 19 of his career-high 34 points in the final quarter to lift the Kings to a 105-99 win over the Orlando Magic on Tuesday night.

Willie Cauley-Stein had 21 points and nine rebounds and Buddy Hield added 13 points for the Kings, who stopped an eight-game losing streak. Temple accounted for all of Sacramento's points during a 17-6 run that put the Kings ahead 103-97 with 23.5 seconds to go.

"Garrett was in a rhythm," teammate Vince Carter said. "He was out there with veteran guys who just know how to make the right play. It was us being cognizant of `Hey, the hot guy's open, get it to him immediately.' And it worked out that way,” (see full recap).

Joel Embiid will fly solo for All-Star Game

usa-joel-embiid-ben-simmons.jpg
USA Today Images

Joel Embiid will fly solo for All-Star Game

NEW YORK — Stephen Curry will be able to stock his All-Star roster with plenty of Golden State teammates.

Klay Thompson and Draymond Green were chosen as reserves Tuesday, giving the defending NBA champions a record-tying four All-Stars for the second straight year.

The Minnesota Timberwolves and Washington Wizards also had two reserves selected, and they will go into the pool of players that Curry and fellow captain LeBron James can draft to comprise the teams for the Feb. 18 game in Los Angeles. Their rosters will be unveiled Thursday, though the selection process won't be televised.

Minnesota's Jimmy Butler and Karl-Anthony Towns were chosen from the Western Conference, along with Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook, San Antonio's LaMarcus Aldridge and Portland's Damian Lillard.

Besides Washington's John Wall and Bradley Beal, the rest of the Eastern Conference reserves were Boston's Al Horford, Cleveland's Kevin Love, New York's Kristaps Porzingis, Toronto's Kyle Lowry and Indiana's Victor Oladipo.

The starters were announced last week. Curry and the Warriors' Kevin Durant joined Houston's James Harden and New Orleans' Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins from the West, while the East players besides James were Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo, Boston's Kyrie Irving, Toronto's DeMar DeRozan and the Sixers’ Joel Embiid.

James and Curry earned the captain spots by being the leading vote-getters in fan balloting in each conference. They will not have to stick to conference affiliation when drafting their teams.

James will have the first pick after receiving the most total votes. After the starters are chosen, Curry will have the first pick among the reserves.

Beal, Oladipo, Porzingis and Towns were all first-time selections. Every other reserve will be making at least his third All-Star appearance.

The reserves were voted upon by the head coaches in each conference, who had to select two guards, three frontcourt players and two other players regardless of position. They were prohibited for voting for their own players.

Players having strong seasons who didn't make the cut included Detroit's Andre Drummond, the NBA's leading rebounder, Clippers guard Lou Williams, Houston's Chris Paul and Oklahoma City's Paul George.