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. 

Kyrie Irving fined $25,000 for inappropriate comments toward fan during Sixers game

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Kyrie Irving fined $25,000 for inappropriate comments toward fan during Sixers game

NEW YORK — The NBA has fined Boston Celtics guard Kyrie Irving $25,000 for responding to a fan with inappropriate language.

Kiki VanDeWeghe, the NBA' executive vice president of basketball operations, announced the fine Sunday.

Irving spoke to a fan at halftime of Boston's 102-92 win over the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night (see story). 

The NBA fined Pelicans center DeMarcus Cousins $25,000 for language he used toward a fan late in a loss to Memphis on Wednesday night in the season opener.

Without Joel Embiid in Toronto, Sixers 'jumped' in telling loss to Raptors

Without Joel Embiid in Toronto, Sixers 'jumped' in telling loss to Raptors


TORONTO — Ben Simmons' double-double feat aside, the Sixers have had little to enjoy about the start to the season.

They were outclassed Saturday night, 128-94, by the Toronto Raptors and have lost their first three games (see observations).

As has been their custom for back-to-back games, center Joel Embiid did not play Saturday after playing Friday in the loss to the Boston Celtics to protect his left knee.

Head coach Brett Brown said he did not expect things to go this way.

“I didn’t,” he said. “I knew the first three games were going to be difficult. I knew coming into this building after a back-to-back was going to be difficult, but you are certainly not expecting it to be that margin of a deficit. I give Toronto credit.

“We have a lot of work to do; we look forward to getting Joel (Embiid) back in this and continuing to learn how to play the group.”

After trailing by as many as 17 points in the first quarter, the Sixers whittled the lead to eight when Jerryd Bayless hit a couple of free throws with 2:22 left in the first half.

Toronto led 62-49 at the half and blitzed the Sixers to open the third quarter with Serge Ibaka scoring eight of their first 10 points of the second half. With 3:12 left in the third, the Raptors led by 29.

“They jumped us, especially at the start of the third, certainly portions of the first period but especially the start of the third and you’re just playing catch up pretty much for the rest of the game after that first almost minute, minute and a half,” Brown said.

“You’re just trying to find some type of order and purpose to end the game with that in mind.”

It was a subdued atmosphere in the dressing room after the game.

The edge surely was removed from another double-double by Simmons.

He had 18 points, 10 rebounds and eight assists.

Simmons joins Oscar Robertson as the only NBA players to average 10-plus points, 10-plus rebounds and five-plus assists in their first three career games.

“It looks great, but I’d rather have a win,” he said. “I’d rather we had three wins than three double-doubles.”

Simmons said he is looking forward to Embiid returning to the lineup Monday against the Detroit Pistons.

He said he could feel the game slipping away Saturday.

“Toward the third, coming out we just didn’t click, didn’t have it together,” Simmons said. “It’s tough without Joel (Embiid), obviously there’s chemistry and then you switch it up, so that comes into it, but we need to learn to play without him, with those back-to-backs.

“We have to stay together as a team, talk it out, get through it, communicate on the court and hold each other accountable. … We have to sit down and look at what we did wrong, that’s with every game, you have to fix your mistakes and come out ready for the next one. It’s a long season.”

It could seem even longer if there aren't signs of improvement.

“Coach Brown has talked since Day 1 of camp about our goal; to build every day, to take something positive every day and I think for tonight, we were unable to do that,” guard J.J. Redick said. “I was just saying if it’s a six-minute stretch where we are doing things well, cutting into their lead, that’s something to build on. I don’t think we did that before but that’s what I was trying to get across.

“I’m a patient person; if we were 0-45 then I’ll start to panic. There are 82 games, we have a very tough schedule to start, we’re a young team, and that’s not an excuse but the reality is the team we played tonight and the team we played in D.C. Wednesday night, they’ve been together a long time and know how to play together. We have to figure out a way to jell quicker and we have to understand and close our margin for error.”