Markelle Fultz eager to learn to play off the ball in Sixers' summer league debut

Markelle Fultz eager to learn to play off the ball in Sixers' summer league debut

Markelle Fultz’s first summer league experience will be twofold: get adjusted to running the floor in the NBA as well as playing off the ball. 

Fultz will not have a clear-cut role as the point guard in summer league action. The Sixers plan to pair him with Larry Drew II and play the two-guard at times.  

“There will be possessions where Markelle will be in the game with Larry Drew, who is a dominant ball-handler, and they're going to have to learn how to play with each other,” assistant coach and director of player development Billy Lange said. “Then there will be possessions when Markelle is probably the primary, or dominant, ball-handler.”

This pairing is practice for how Fultz could be used with Ben Simmons this coming season. The Sixers have not stamped off on Simmons’ exact role, whether it will be a true point guard or a forward that runs the point (see story). What they do know is, they envision Simmons being a “primary ball handler.” 

Fultz's ability to play without the ball is one of the reasons he fit so well into the Sixers' system and traded up to draft him first overall. Lange sees that need for versatility extending beyond Fultz’s pairing with Simmons. 

“It's important for him [to play off the ball] regardless of who he is on the court with, because if he has Joel [Embiid], Joel is going to want to touch the ball,” Lange said. “Dario [Saric] has shown himself able to initiate some offense. So regardless of the Ben-Markelle pairing, it's primarily how we play anyone with the ball. The ball really dictating the movement of the offense. He has to learn. Being with a guy like Ben that can handle it, it becomes really important that Markelle learns that balance.”

Fultz has been inquisitive in his first days with the Sixers and shown a willingness to study the game. He already has an idea of the adjustments he will have to make playing the two-guard. 

“Being ready, moving without the ball, not just ball watching,” Fultz said. “Being a point guard, you see stuff where a guy has the ball and you might want to say, 'Damn, I wish you made that pass.' But just always staying focused and moving without the ball.” 

Fultz is prepared to take on multiple roles. He played one through four in high school, and while he won’t be tasked with guarding power forwards in summer league, he will have to shift across the backcourt. 

“Being versatile is one of the things that I worked on so I can play more than one position,” Fultz said. “It's pretty cool. I can score the ball easy. I can get other people involved easier. It's just another part of the game that I'm learning to become the best player I can possibly be.”

The Sixers will open summer league action in Utah on Monday night against the Celtics. 

Yet another bad break for the Sixers' backcourt

AP Images

Yet another bad break for the Sixers' backcourt

The Sixers’ backcourt has taken another hit.

Starting shooting guard JJ Redick suffered a left leg injury in Monday’s win over the Raptors. He will be re-evaluated in approximately 10 to 14 days.

An MRI on Tuesday showed bone edema and a small cortical crack in the fibular head of his left leg. X-rays after the game were negative.

Redick suffered the injury when he made contact with Delon Wright receiving a pass from Ben Simmons. He had an immediate reaction of pain, seemed to try to walk it off down the sideline in front of the Sixers’ bench, then rolled the ball back and headed to the locker room. Wright was whistled for a foul.

Redick has been a key piece to the Sixers’ 6-2 record since Christmas Day. He has averaged 20.1 points per game and shot 46.4 percent from three during that stretch. 

The veteran has missed four games this season, most recently two against the Raptors on Dec. 21 and 23 because of right hamstring tightness. Jerryd Bayless started in his place. 

The Sixers’ upcoming schedule is unforgiving of injuries. Looking at the approximation for re-evaluation, Redick would miss five games over the next 10 days (at Celtics, vs. Bucks, at Grizzlies, vs. Bulls, at Spurs). Two weeks would span the road trip that begins in San Antonio and includes the Thunder and Bucks (back-to-back).

Redick's injury comes as fellow guard Markelle Fultz is trying to make his way back on the court since being sidelined in late October because of his right shoulder. 

Sixers' opponent planning Super Bowl trip

USA Today Images

Sixers' opponent planning Super Bowl trip

Kyle Lowry has three words when it comes to the Super Bowl.

“Fly Eagles, fly,” he said.

The Philadelphia native is pulling for his hometown team to make it to Minneapolis. Lowry, who attended Cardinal Dougherty High School and Villanova University, was proud of the Eagles’ underdog performance against the Falcons on Sunday. 

“It was like one of those wins where everyone was counting you out, your star is down, and everybody else as a team plays to another level,” Lowry said Monday prior to taking on the Sixers. “Our defense did a great job. Nick Foles had a great night, didn't do anything bad. He had a great game to me.”

Even though the Raptors play at noon in Toronto on Feb. 4, Lowry already is thinking of ways to get to the championship game that night. 

“If they make the Super Bowl, I will be there,” he said.

Lowry, 31, also showed his support for his alma mater while he was in Philadelphia for Monday’s game. He pledged to donate $1 million to Villanova for its renovation project of The Pavilion, which will now include the “Kyle Lowry Men's Basketball Locker Room."  

On Monday evening Lowry was presented with the Native Son Award by the Philadelphia Sports Writers Association.