76ers

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."