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. 

Give and Go: What should Sixers be thankful for the most?

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Give and Go: What should Sixers be thankful for the most?

Each week, our resident basketball analysts will discuss some of the hottest topics involving the Sixers.

Running the Give and Go are NBC Sports Philadelphia anchor/reporter Marshall Harris, NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producer/reporter Paul Hudrick and NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producer/reporter Matt Haughton.

In this edition, we examine what the Sixers should be thankful for the most on this Thanksgiving.

Harris
At first glance, you take a look at Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and remember that they combined for 31 games last season and the impulse is to say health. However, we can’t ignore the injuries that have befallen the team outside of those two engines. The Sixers have been hurting without the likes of Markelle Fultz, Jerryd Bayless, Nik Stauskas and Justin Anderson at their full disposal of late. So health hasn’t been their thing, really.
 
What the Sixers should be thankful for is that despite being shorthanded, they made it through 17 games of the season with a winning record. That’s in spite of 10 of those games being on the road and two games each against Golden State and Houston already in the books. 

Since a 1-4 start, the Sixers have lost just three times in their last 12 games, and two of those losses were to arguably one of the greatest teams in history in the Warriors. Suddenly everyone is reaching for their abacus or calculator, and they should be. Who had the Sixers with a winning record at Thanksgiving?
 
Here’s the thing, two weeks ago Jim Lynam told me the Sixers would be a top four seed in the East. I wasn’t ready to embrace that idea. I’m ready to admit my 39-win prediction may not be up to the task. Perhaps we all need to recognize that the Sixers, youth and all, are up to the challenge of not just squeaking into the playoffs. At their current rate of growth, they look like a team that could get the 45 wins they’re already on pace to achieve and maybe even more.

Hudrick
Health is the obvious thing to be most thankful for, but I'll take it a step further. The Sixers should be thankful that the best is yet to come.

Any other season during The Process, Markelle Fultz's situation — being the No. 1 overall pick that the team traded up to acquire that suffered a weird injury that the team appeared to mishandle — would be considered a catastrophe. To say Fultz has become an afterthought would be a stretch, but his situation has certainly taken a backseat to Embiid, Simmons and the Sixers' success.

We won't know the full extent of Fultz's impact and role for quite some time. But the thought of Embiid, Simmons and Fultz on the court together should still tantalize Sixers fans. I'm still dying to see what Fultz can do in pick-and-roll situations with Embiid and even Simmons.

Am I worried about the jumper? Yeah, a little. But this is a guy who took five threes a night in college and shot 41 percent from distance. He then went on to shot 38 percent on five treys a contest during three summer league games. I still believe the shot is there. He just needs to get his confidence back and his shoulder healthy.

And don't listen to the doubters. Markelle Fultz is an excellent basketball player and was the top pick in the draft for a reason. He's not Anthony Bennett or Andrea Bargnani. This kid can play.

And the Sixers should be thankful when looking at his future.

Haughton
While Embiid already shared what he’s thankful for on this holiday, the Sixers can only look back on how they landed the budding big man and smile.

Let’s rewind a bit. Embiid was well on his way to being the No. 1 overall pick in 2014 as he averaged 11.2 points on an insane 62.6 percent shooting, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game during his lone season at Kansas. That was until he suffered a stress fracture in his back late in the season that sidelined him for the Big 12 and NCAA Tournaments.

Even after the back injury, Embiid appeared on his way to locking up the top spot in the draft … until the next setback. This time it was a broken foot suffered just before the draft that cast serious doubt about his long-term health.

As Sixers fans know all too well, that troublesome foot caused Embiid to miss his first two NBA seasons. However, what they’ve witnessed since has been nothing short of spectacular. In just 46 career games, Embiid has averaged 21.0 points (48.2 percent shooting), 8.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 2.3 blocks. His superstar ability has captured the hearts of the team’s faithful, and his huge social media presence has only made them love him even more.

As for the two players taken before Embiid, their careers don’t exactly appear to be trending in the same direction. No. 1 overall selection and Embiid’s Kansas teammate, Andrew Wiggins, has shown flashes of brilliance. However, his production with the revamped Minnesota Timberwolves is down this season after signing a massive extension of his own and questions remain about whether he can go from being a very good player to great. As for No. 2 pick Jabari Parker, he’s been a stud on the court for the Milwaukee Bucks but is recovering from a second left ACL tear since 2014.

All in all, Embiid is the prize of the crop and fell into the Sixers’ laps. So this Thanksgiving the Sixers should take a moment to reminisce about the process that brought them “The Process.”

Joel Embiid has plenty of reasons to be thankful

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Joel Embiid has plenty of reasons to be thankful

Joel Embiid is very appreciative. He is healthy, signed a mega-contract and has become the face of a franchise on the rise. 

The night before Thanksgiving, following a 20-point win over the Trail Blazers, Embiid reflected on why he is thankful.

“I’m thankful for my family,” Embiid, who grew up in Cameroon, said. “I live by myself, they don’t live here. But my mom is actually here.”

Embiid’s mother took in Wednesday’s action from courtside at the Wells Fargo Center and was all smiles as her son put up 28 points (11 for 19 shooting), 12 rebounds and two blocks in the 101-81 victory (see game recap).

Embiid also recognized the Sixers’ faithful, who have pulled for him during injury after injury and never wavered from their trust in the process.

“I’m thankful for the city of Philadelphia,” Embiid said. “This has become my home and I hope to be here for the rest of my career. I’m just thankful for the fans and just everybody around me, people that have been supporting me.” 

Embiid even gave a shoutout to the media, which doesn’t always happen, especially after a team struggled for so long.

“You guys hype me up so much,” he said. “So thank you.”

And last but not least, the player with 1.02 million followers on Twitter and another 1.4 million on Instagram, Embiid is grateful for every like and retweet. 

“I’m thankful for social media,” he said. 

#Fitting. #Thankful. #HappyThanksgiving