Today's vague update on Markelle Fultz

Today's vague update on Markelle Fultz

CAMDEN, N.J. — Markelle Fultz's return to basketball this season remains uncertain. With 31 games left on the regular-season schedule, the Sixers have not officially ruled if he will or will not play.

"There's always a chance that he's going to be out there soon, and there's a chance that he's not going to play this year," Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said Friday morning. "I can't answer that question because we don't know the answer to that."

Fultz has not played since Oct. 23 because of right shoulder soreness and scapular muscle imbalance. What is known is the injury occurred in August; what is unknown is if a change in his shot caused the injury or vice versa. Fultz has been working on getting his shot back since then.

"There was a breakdown in muscle function and coordination," Colangelo said. "Once you get that back, which is not fully back as you're going through this recovery and rehabilitation, you're also simultaneously trying to retrain what those movement patterns were to shoot a basketball. There were some limitations there for him for some time and continue to be as he's getting through it. Again, there's a long recovery. It's taken probably longer than anyone had hoped or imagined."

Fultz's shooting struggles are a stark contrast from his success at the University of Washington, where he averaged 23.2 points and knocked down 41.3 percent of his threes while leading all freshmen in scoring. With the Sixers, he posted 6.0 points and did not attempt a three in his four games this season. His free throw form sparked the most critiques on opening night. 

At this point of his rehab work, Fultz is shooting inside the paint. He has been participating in full-contact drills but is not yet going through complete practices. 

"Outside of perhaps perimeter shooting, he's doing some things on the basketball court in the limited basketball practice activity that he's taking place in and that he's participating in, and he's dazzling in many ways," Colangelo said. "But when he's going to be ready to help this team and be ready, I can't give you the timeline."

In addition to the physical aspect of Fultz's injury, there also has been speculation about the mental side of it — how much of his recovery is overcoming a mental hurdle? It's a question that can't be measured on a stat sheet. 

"I think that mental preparedness and overcoming an injury is part of any athlete, especially an athlete overcoming a debilitating injury," Colangelo said. "It's been proven in studies that is a big component. … We're talking about a situation where someone's relearning how to shoot a basketball, and that was one of his elite skill sets. That's got to be frustrating. But overall, I think he's making great strides in every capacity. We're going to a see a better Markelle Fultz because of it."

Fultz, when healthy, was providing a sixth-man spark. The Sixers' bench has struggled to find an offensive burst, with no player averaging more than 7.1 points in a reserve role. The team did not make a trade at the deadline and could explore players on the buyout market to enhance the roster. Whether Fultz is part of that mix for a playoff push will be determined. In the meantime, the Sixers are encouraged by what they have seen during his rehab work.

"Markelle was drafted here because of his elite talent and his ability to play the game at an elite level," Colangelo said. "We have every confidence that he's going to return to that."

Western Conference streaks give Sixers a boost

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Western Conference streaks give Sixers a boost

SAN ANTONIO -- LaMarcus Aldridge had 27 points and nine rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs won their fifth straight, 98-90 over the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.

San Antonio remained in sixth place in the Western Conference, one-half game behind fourth-place Oklahoma City. The Spurs close out a six-game homestand on Friday against Utah, which is 1 games behind San Antonio in eighth place.

Bradley Beal and Kelly Oubre Jr. each had 21 points to lead the Wizards, who dropped into sixth in the Eastern Conference.

San Antonio's winning streak follows a 3-11 skid that briefly dropped the Spurs out of playoff position.

Aldridge has been critical to the turnaround, averaging 29.6 points and 9.2 rebounds during the streak.

Against Washington, Aldridge scored nine points during a 23-9 run that gave San Antonio a 17-point lead with four minutes left in the third quarter.

Without injured All-Star John Wall, the Wizards were unable to answer (see full recap).

Davis, Pelicans outlast Pacers for 3rd straight win
NEW ORLEANS -- Anthony Davis capped a 28-point, 13-rebound, five-block performance with a 15-foot baseline fade, a gritty put-back and two free throws in the final minute, and the New Orleans Pelicans outlasted the Indiana Pacers 96-92 on Wednesday night.

E'Twaun Moore scored 23 for New Orleans, which had to overcome a scrappy defensive effort by Indiana to win its third straight.

The Pelicans, who average nearly 112 points per game, were limited to 43 percent (34 of 79) accuracy by the Pacers, who also turned 20 New Orleans turnovers into 15 points.

The Pacers shot only 36.6 percent (34 of 93), but kept the game close with 15 offensive rebounds and 17 second-chance points.

Neither team led by more than six, and the game was tied at 87 with 1:49 left, after Victor Oladipo's block of Jrue Holiday sent Darren Collison away for a fast-break layup as he was fouled by Moore.

Moore put back his own miss with 1:24 to play to put the Pelicans back in front, and after Oladipo was called for a travel with 1:12 to go, Davis hit his clutch fade in front of the Pacers' bench, holding his right arm up triumphantly as the shot went down (see full recap).

Howard has historic night in Hornets’ comeback
NEW YORK -- Dwight Howard had 32 points and 30 rebounds, becoming the first player with a 30-30 game against the Nets since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1978, and the Charlotte Hornets stormed back to beat Brooklyn 111-105 on Wednesday night.

Kemba Walker scored 10 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter for the Hornets, who trailed by as many 23 points in the second half to win in front of an announced crowd of 10,231 at Barclay Center while a heavy snowfall outside blanketed the New York City area.

Trailing 105-102 with 2:14 left in regulation, the Hornets went on a 9-0 run to pull off the impressive comeback.

Jeremy Lamb, who had 17 points to help end Charlotte's two-game losing streak, made a layup to cut the deficit to 105-104. The Hornets then called a timeout after a miss by Caris LeVert with 23 seconds left. On the ensuing possession, Walker spun around Quincy Acy and capped a three-point play to put Charlotte up 107-105, the Hornets' first lead of the night since a 16-15 advantage with 5:46 in the opening quarter.

LeVert missed a chance to tie it when he was met by Howard under the basket. Howard then hit a pair of free throws to make it 109-105.

D'Angelo Russell scored 19 points and LeVert added 11 for the Nets, whose two-game winning streak was cut short. They have yet to have won three consecutive this season (see full recap).

Robert Covington shoveled snow before Sixers' win

Robert Covington shoveled snow before Sixers' win

Did you hire someone to shovel out your driveway in Winter Storm Toby?

Robert Covington didn’t. 

“I shoveled my driveway and the sidewalk and my walkway,” Covington said following the Sixers' 119-105 win over the Grizzlies on Wednesday (see observations). “[It took me] about 20 minutes. It wasn’t that bad because the snow wasn’t really heavy and it wasn’t sticking, so I just kind of, in and out.” 

The thing is, Covington actually likes to shovel snow. It’s a task he grew up doing during the winters in Illinois and one that taught him the value of hard work. He shoveled to help his family and elderly neighbors who needed a hand. 

“The responsibility that my parents instilled in me was, when you’re told to do something, you’ve got to make sure you handle your business and you have to do it at a certain level,” Covington said. 

Covington, who signed a $60 million contract this season, easily could have hired a snow removal service to help him get to the game on time. But there was something he liked about taking care of it.  

“I’ve always done it myself,” Covington said. “It kind of gives you a sense of still working and still doing the simple things. Everybody tells me I could have paid someone to do it, one of the kids in the neighborhood, but it wasn’t about that. It was just something quick. I chose to go out there and do it, knock it out.”

The snow didn't slow down Covington at all. He scored 15 points in less than 23 minutes, shooting an efficient 6 for 9 from the field and 3 for 4 from three. 

So given how well he played following the shoveling, did he stumble upon a new pregame routine?

“No,” Covington said with a laugh. “I won’t continue to do that because I kind of got a little sniffles while I was out there. No, I won’t be out doing that too much because I don’t want to get sick.”