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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.