76ers

Report: Markelle Fultz 'literally cannot raise up his arms to shoot'

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Report: Markelle Fultz 'literally cannot raise up his arms to shoot'

Updated: 10:14 p.m.

CAMDEN, N.J. — Markelle Fultz's shoulder saga has taken another turn.

After initially telling ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski that Fultz had his right shoulder drained of fluid during the preseason, Fultz's agent, Raymond Brothers, shared different medical details.

"He had a cortisone shot on Oct. 5, which means fluid was put into his shoulder — not taken out," Brothers told ESPN.

According to a team source, Fultz has been undergoing physiotherapy and has met with multiple specialists who have confirmed the Sixers' treatment plan. They are treating and monitoring Fultz on a daily basis for irritation and discomfort, per the team source.

Also, there is no structural damage to Fultz's shoulder, a source confirmed to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s John Clark.

"My intention earlier was to let people know that he's been experiencing discomfort," Brothers said. "We will continue to work with (Sixers president of basketball operations) Bryan Colangelo and the medical staff."

In the report published Tuesday, Brothers painted a grim picture of Fultz's current health.

"He literally cannot raise up his arms to shoot the basketball,” Brothers said. “He decided to try and fight through the pain to help the team. He has a great attitude. We are committed to finding a solution to get Markelle back to 100 percent."

The problem became apparent during preseason play when Fultz altered his free throw form. The 2017 No. 1 pick acknowledged the impact his shoulder was having on his shot but emphasized he was not going to use it as an excuse. Fultz did not pinpoint a specific cause of injury, rather that it was an ongoing situation. 

His struggles carried over into the regular season. It’s not just that Fultz hasn’t been scoring the ball, it’s that he’s been hesitant to shoot it, especially outside the paint. He is 9 for 27 from the field and has not taken a single three-pointer in his first four games (6.0 points in 19.0 minutes). Fultz averaged 5.0 three-point attempts per game and shot 41.3 percent from long range in his only year at Washington. 

Fultz is shooting 6 for 12 from the line, including some ugly misses. He wasn’t stellar from the line in college (64.9 percent) but he has visibly been out of sync in the pros. 

Fultz hasn't looked like the same player who led the Pac-12 and all freshmen in the nation in scoring last season (23.2 points).

"From a basketball perspective, it's been encouraging to see that Markelle can get any shot he wants during the games, but he has been unable to shoot the ball," Brothers said.

The Sixers have not shut down Fultz during these struggles. Wojnarowski reported there has not been a decision if Fultz will miss any games “in the immediate future.” Head coach Brett Brown was asked about that possibility at practice on Tuesday before the ESPN report was published. 

“That’s a fair question,” Brown said. “They’re going through that on their side of the office right now, just trying to come up with a thoughtful plan to deliver Markelle further into the season. I don’t know what that’s going to be. I will, like I always am, [be] directed by the medical staff.”

The Sixers have encouraged Fultz to attack the basket, where he has showcased his spin moves and physicality at 6-foot-4, 200 pounds. Fultz didn’t pay any attention to his injury when he dove after a loose ball in Monday’s win over the Pistons.

“We can’t dismiss the fact that there is some concern that he obviously has with his shoulder,” Brown said. “We continue to look at it. We continue to try to stay on top of that. But the other parts of his game, I think are stuff you step back and you can understand why he was the first player chosen.”

Any injury, big or small, is a hot topic on the Sixers given their lengthy medical history. Fultz’s health is particularly significant, however, because of what the Sixers gave up to land him in June. The Sixers traded their 2017 first-round pick (third overall) and the coveted 2018 Lakers first-round pick to move up to No. 1. 

The Sixers made such a drastic move in part because of Fultz’s ability to complement Ben Simmons off the ball. The initial thought was to have Simmons at point guard and Fultz at shooting guard in the backcourt together. Fultz barely got any preseason playing time because of injuries and, as a result, started the season coming off the bench. The Sixers have gone with veteran Jerryd Bayless at the two instead. 

The Sixers are dealing with an injured rookie for a fifth consecutive season. Unlike Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid and Simmons, Fultz has been able to play. 

Rockets extend streak as Butler exits with injury

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Rockets extend streak as Butler exits with injury

HOUSTON -- James Harden scored 31 points and the Houston Rockets won their 11th straight game with a 120-102 victory Friday night over the Minnesota Timberwolves, who lost All-Star Jimmy Butler to an apparent right knee injury.

Butler left the game late in the third quarter. After grabbing a rebound late in the third quarter, he pivoted and planted hard on his right foot before collapsing and grabbing his right knee. He was on the floor for at least three minutes before he was carried off the court by two teammates. He appeared to avoid putting weight on his right leg when heading to the locker room.

A Timberwolves official said during the fourth quarter that Minnesota coach Tom Thibodeau would provide an update on Butler's injury following the game.

Clint Capela had 25 points and 11 rebounds for Houston, getting his 10th double-double over the past 13 games. Chris Paul added 14 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

The Rockets trailed for much of the first half before going ahead to maintain the NBA's best record.

Andrew Wiggins led Minnesota with 21 points, and Jeff Teague and Karl-Anthony Towns both had 18 points. Towns added 13 rebounds (see full recap).

Davis sensational in Pelicans’ OT victory over Heat
NEW ORLEANS -- Anthony Davis had 45 points, 17 rebounds, five blocked shots and five steals, and the New Orleans Pelicans beat the Miami Heat 124-123 in overtime Friday night for their fourth consecutive victory.

Goran Dragic scored 30 points and Dwyane Wade hit two runners to give the Heat the lead twice in the last 36 seconds of overtime, but Davis responded to the first with a layup as he was fouled, and Jrue Holiday answered the second with a runner in the lane with 7 seconds left.

Wade had one last shot for the win with Holiday defending him closely. It bounced off the rim to Josh Richardson, whose rushed put-back missed the basket as time expired in Miami's third straight loss.

Davis, who has scored no fewer than 38 points in a game during New Orleans' winning streak -- and 42 or more three times -- raised both arms in triumph as he looked up at the jubilant crowd, and then exchanged high fives with fans along the court.

Holiday finished with 29 points and nine assists, connecting with Davis on a couple of alley-oop dunks. Ian Clark scored a season-high 21 points and Nikola Mirotic capped his 10-point, nine-rebound performance with a crucial 3 in overtime.

Hassan Whiteside had 19 points and 16 rebounds before fouling out in overtime when he hacked Davis on a put-back attempt. Davis hit both free throws to tie it at 117, and then gave New Orleans a brief lead with his fifth alley-oop dunk of the game on a fast-break lob from Holiday with 1:10 to go. Wade had 16 points, while Richardson and Tyler Johnson each scored 15 points (see full recap).

Balanced Celtics rout Pistons
DETROIT -- Kyrie Irving scored 18 points and rookie Daniel Theis added a career-high 19 to lift the Boston Celtics to a 110-98 victory over the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

Jayson Tatum scored 11 of his 15 points in the first half for the Celtics, who went into the All-Star break on a three-game losing streak but returned with a solid win on the road. Boston took control by outscoring the Pistons 38-21 in the second quarter.

Blake Griffin scored 17 points for Detroit but shot just 5 of 19 from the field.

Theis eclipsed his previous career high of 12 points. He played an important role after Aron Baynes, the starting center for the Celtics, went to the locker room in the first half with left elbow soreness. Baynes ended up playing only 2:39, but Theis shot 8 of 10 from the field and had seven rebounds.

Ish Smith made his first eight shots and finished with 20 points for the Pistons. Detroit led 39-37 in the second quarter before a 21-5 run by Boston. The Celtics were ahead 61-49 at halftime.

The lead was only four late in the third before Boston scored seven straight points -- five by Irving. The Celtics broke the game open at the start of the fourth (see full recap).

NBA stars taking notice of Sixers' rise

NBA stars taking notice of Sixers' rise

The Sixers have been rising steadily in the standings and players around the league are taking notice. 

The young squad improved to 31-25 with a victory over the Bulls Thursday. They have won six straight and have not lost at the Wells Fargo Center in 2018. That totals up to the seventh seed in the Eastern Conference, only two games behind the Wizards for the fourth spot and two games ahead of the Heat for the eighth. 

"I like them," Timberwolves guard Jimmy Butler said at the All-Star break. "They've got a lot of great young talent. We do as well. But I think the way that they're going and how they play so hard and play so together, that's how you win basketball games. They're going to be really, really good for a long time."

The Sixers turned heads with a statement win over the Rockets in only their seventh game of the season. From there, they have defeated playoff teams, including a rare sweep of the Spurs, while struggling against sub.-500 opponents. 

They have 26 games remaining to make a postseason push. Of their upcoming opponents, only 10 games are against current top-eight teams in their conferences. Brett Brown has emphasized they can't take any team lightly. This is the time for the Sixers to maximize their schedule and show they learned from previous letdowns.

"They look good," Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard said. "Obviously as a young team, it takes time to learn how to win. ... The mature, really high-level teams, they find a way to get it done. I think for them, that's what their record shows. You play against them and it's hard to play against them. 

"They're really talented, they play hard, they play for a great coach. It's just those nights where you might not have it, having that understanding and that experience that'll lead you to more wins. I think once they get to that point, that's when maybe nine or 10 games that they've let slip, maybe they win those games."

The Sixers wrapped up the majority of their Western Conference schedule prior to the All-Star break. They have only the Timberwolves, Nuggets and Mavericks left to play. Those in the conference still are keeping an eye on the Sixers' progress, even if they may not face off again for months. 

"Everyone definitely sees the talent there," Warriors guard Klay Thompson said. "Any time you've got Ben Simmons, Joel Embiid to build around, they've got a very bright future. I think everyone had very high expectations, but it's hard to have high expectations with a team that's got a lot of first-, second-year guys that have never been in the playoffs. 

"But you can tell that they're going to be in the playoffs for, shoot, the next decade or so, probably be upper echelon pretty soon."