76ers

Sixers notes, quotes and tidbits: Markelle Fultz returns from Kentucky

Sixers notes, quotes and tidbits: Markelle Fultz returns from Kentucky

CAMDEN, N.J. — Markelle Fultz is back … from Kentucky. The No. 1 pick has returned from rehabbing his right shoulder and remains listed as out. 

Fultz traveled last week to receive physical therapy for soreness and scapular muscle imbalance with Dr. Ben Kibler, Medical Director of the Shoulder Center of Kentucky at the Lexington Clinic. 

Brett Brown described Fultz’s basketball activity at the Sixers’ training complex on Wednesday as “minimal.” The team announced on Nov. 19 he would be reevaluated in “approximately two to three weeks.” 

“We are just happy to have him back,” Brown said after practice. “I felt like I haven't seen him in a long time.”

Fultz has been sidelined for the last 19 games. He has appeared in only four games, averaging 6.0 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists in 19.0 minutes off the bench. 

His teammates checked in on him while he made the trip. 

“I've been talking to him, even though he was away,” Joel Embiid said. “His spirits are in a good place and it was great to have him back." 

Could McConnell return?
In the meantime, the Sixers’ backcourt has taken another hit. 

Backup point guard T.J. McConnell (left shoulder, sprained AC joint) is questionable for Thursday’s game against the Lakers. He went through limited work at practice on Wednesday. McConnell has missed the last three games. 

McConnell said Monday he would like to return against the Lakers but isn't going to force it if he would be limited in how he could contribute.

Another 46?
Embiid had a career night against the Lakers in Los Angeles the first time he faced them this season. So can he repeat his 46-point performance?

“As long as they feed me,” Embiid said of his teammates. “I’ve got a pretty good chance.”

It won't be that simple. Expect the Lakers to make adjustments after giving up that astronomical scoring total. Embiid and the Sixers are anticipating an enhanced defensive strategy. 

“You’d be really shocked if they do what they did again,” Brown said. “We’re not game planning for that at all. I expect you’re going to see maybe some larger defenders on him in single coverage opportunities. I certainly expect them to double-team him when that’s not happening.” 

The Lakers (8-15) have lost five straight. 

Is Joel Embiid's trash talking starting to get old?

Is Joel Embiid's trash talking starting to get old?

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

Running the Give and Go are NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producer/reporter Paul Hudrick and NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com producer/reporter Matt Haughton.

In this edition, we examine whether Joel Embiid’s trash talking is starting to get old.

Hudrick
Let’s just let Joel be Joel.

The guy came over from Cameroon, knowing very little about the game and getting teased by his teammates in high school. After overcoming that and landing at Kansas, injuries took away the end of his only season there and then his first two NBA seasons. He was the brunt of jokes as the Sixers continued to lose and he had to watch from afar. He’s earned the right to feel himself a little bit.

What I see is a kid having fun. I have to give Philly fans credit. Flamboyant characters don’t usually do well here. In a city that (still) obsesses over the play of a quiet, hard-nosed guy like Chase Utley and has fallen head over heels for the humbleness of Carson Wentz, Embiid doesn't fit the mold. But he's been embraced and beloved.

Here’s the other thing: he’s backing it up. If he was out there talking trash but shooting 30 percent from the field and not running down the reigning MVP for a blocked shot in a triple-OT game, that would be a different story. He’s put this team on his back and has them poised for a playoff berth.

Let the man live.

Haughton
Absolutely not.

First, look at it from a team perspective. The Sixers thrive off of Embiid’s emotion. Look no further than Friday night’s triple-overtime thriller against the Oklahoma City Thunder. The Sixers were sleepwalking through that game for much of the night until Embiid mixed it up with Carmelo Anthony following an and-one with a few minutes left in the fourth quarter. Embiid got the crowd juiced up and his teammates fed off that energy during the critical 11-0 run to close out regulation.

When Embiid’s trash talk spills over to social media, he does try to keep things light and playful. That’s his personality and that’s his realm, so none of what he’s doing really comes from a position of genuine malice.

On the bigger scale, this is what the NBA has been about long before Embiid came along. From Larry Bird’s bravado to Michael Jordan’s ruthlessness to Shaquille O’Neal’s blatant disrespect of opponents, the league has a long list of trash talkers.

As LeBron James said when the Cavaliers came through the Wells Fargo Center right after Thanksgiving, players today are just too sensitive.

'Dots don't connect' for Sixers on inbound confusion

'Dots don't connect' for Sixers on inbound confusion

Of all the scenarios that transpired over the Sixers’ triple-overtime loss to the Thunder on Friday, there is one moment that stands out.

Fast-forward to the end of the second overtime. The Sixers had the opportunity to take the final shot after Dario Saric grabbed a defensive rebound. Joel Embiid motioned for a timeout before Saric put the ball on the floor. 

The Sixers huddled and prepared for a half-court play they had practiced before, confident they could execute it with 1.2 seconds on the game clock.

However, as they went to set up, the officials told them the inbound was actually full court. Saric had dribbled the ball before the timeout was called, they were told. That change wiped out the play they had initially planned. 

“They asked us what side of the floor did we want to advance it to, and so we told them,” Brett Brown said. “We drew up a play to try to score. Then we walked out and they said no you can’t advance it, it goes full court. When you look at the tape, you can see Joel and myself calling a timeout with 1.2 seconds. They said Dario dribbled, yet there were still 1.2 seconds. The dots don’t connect.”

The last-second shift in inbound position left the Sixers scrambling. Embiid said the team was “caught off guard.” Ben Simmons considered the call to be “huge.” 

“We weren’t told that we couldn’t progress the ball up the floor until we actually had to run the play,” Simmons said. “That kind of messed us up. We got into a late play, which didn’t convert.” 

The Sixers didn’t connect on their final possession. There’s no guarantee the shot would have gone in, but they would have been prepared to get a good look. 

“[It changed] everything,” Robert Covington said. 

Instead of pulling off a last-second game-winner, the Sixers went into triple overtime. They were edged out by two points, 119-117 (see game recap)

"That kind of like messed up in our minds, but that’s not an excuse," Embiid said. "We shouldn’t have an excuse for losing that game."