76ers

Sixers' handling of Markelle Fultz's injury reeks of confusion

usa-ap-bryan-colangelo-markelle-fultz.jpg
USA Today Images/AP Images

Sixers' handling of Markelle Fultz's injury reeks of confusion

Updated: 9:25 p.m.

Anybody else confused? 

For a team that has been ultra cautious and conservative in its handling of injuries, the latest news from Markelle Fultz's agent, Raymond Brothers, seems bewildering at best.

Here’s what he originally told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski:

Markelle had a shoulder injury and fluid drained out of the back of his shoulder. He literally cannot raise up his arms to shoot the basketball. 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.

Then Brothers corrected and clarified some information:

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

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

Still ... literally can’t raise his arm to shoot? If this is the case, why in the world would he be playing? He’s looked awful in his first four games as a pro. If you look at his shooting form from this free throw attempt in the Raptors game, it’s clear something’s up.

But if you watch this block or drive in the Wizards game, he appears to be able to raise his arms to perform the required basketball acts.

So what is really going on here? Fultz's agent broke the news of the shoulder update, not the club. Again, I’ll ask why a team that is so rooted in sports science and not rushing young players back from injuries would put Fultz out there and possibly make things worse? Did the Sixers not believe this was something serious? Do they think it’s a psychological thing? Even by Sixers standards, this one is strange.

According to Brothers, Fultz had the cortisone shot, which caused him to miss some preseason action. Brett Brown has admitted the shoulder has been nagging Fultz, but clearly the doctors and the organization didn’t think it warranted shutting him down.

He is shooting 33.3 percent from the floor, 50 percent from the free throw line, and has not attempted a three-point shot. In his lone college season, he shot 47.6 from the floor and 41.3 from three-point range. Wouldn’t the prudent organizational approach be to sit the kid and let the shoulder settle down? Or do the Sixers feel this is the kind of nagging injury the rookie should play through? Out of character for them but possible? Something stinks here. There is a definite disconnect.

After his botched public relations handling of Joel Embiid’s knee injury last season, Colangelo promised to be more forthcoming on the injury front.

This doesn’t feel like transparency.

Sixers have already embraced key aspects of NBA postseason

Sixers have already embraced key aspects of NBA postseason

Perhaps the Sixers have been underestimated a bit.

Outside of Joel Embiid’s health, all of the chatter going into the playoffs was about how the relatively inexperienced roster would handle the big stage. 

Sure, the team has a crop of veterans that have been there and done that. However, young impact players such as Embiid, Ben Simmons and Dario Saric were all getting their first taste of the postseason.

So how are they feeling about it to this point?

“I love it,” Embiid said at Friday’s practice. “I live for these moments. I thrive in this type of atmosphere. I think I was built for this, especially playoff basketball.”

Embiid appears particularly fond of the postseason in environments where the Sixers are short on support.

After missing the first two games of the series in Philadelphia while still recovering from orbital fracture surgery, Embiid stepped back into the starting lineup on the road in Miami.

Was getting barked at by rowdy fans in hostile territory going to be a problem? Not for the villain now known as “The Phantom of the Process.”

“I actually think I play better on the road because I just love the atmosphere,” Embiid said. “I just love looking around the arena, people booing, people going against us. That just takes my game to another level.”

The Sixers’ performance isn’t the only thing that has been taken up a notch. Their intensity level and physicality have jumped in this first-round matchup with the bruising Heat.

“I said it before, I wish it was like this all season,” said Simmons, who is averaging 20.0 points, 10.0 rebounds and 9.7 assists per game in the series. “I’m enjoying it. It’s very competitive and that’s the type of basketball I want to play.”

“It’s basketball. It’s fun,” Justin Anderson said. “Playing like that is fun. Every possession matters. You can tell there’s not a lot of empty possessions. Guys are getting shots up on every possession.

“… It’s intensified. It’s just basketball. It’s the best basketball in the world, and we’re putting ourselves in a position to hopefully go and get another one in Game 4.”

Heat's Justise Winslow fined $15K for stepping on Joel Embiid's mask

Heat's Justise Winslow fined $15K for stepping on Joel Embiid's mask

The NBA dished out some swift justice on Friday night.

Heat swingman Justise Winslow was fined $15,000 by the league for unsportsmanlike conduct after intentionally stepping on and attempting to damage Joel Embiid’s mask during the Sixers’ Game 3 win in Miami (see story).

With 7:51 remaining in the second quarter, the goggles portion of Embiid’s mask fell onto the court. Winslow stepped on the goggles with his left foot before picking them up and trying to break them with his hands.

“He kept throwing it on the ground, so I don’t know if he didn’t like it or what,” Winslow said. “But I was talking to JoJo, we were smack talking, trash talking, going back and forth. No love lost.”

The incident definitely didn’t stop Embiid in his postseason debut. The big man returned from orbital surgery to put up 23 points, seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks in the Sixers’ 128-108 victory.

“Justise stepped on it and tried to break it with his hands,” Embiid said. “But little do they know is that I have about 50 of them. So it’s going to take much more than that to get me out of the series. 

“I’m going to be a nightmare for them, too.”