76ers

Markelle Fultz guarantees playoffs, talks LeBron James joining Sixers, Lonzo Ball

Markelle Fultz guarantees playoffs, talks LeBron James joining Sixers, Lonzo Ball

Joel Embiid has said it. Charles Barkley has said it. And Markelle Fultz has heard it.

The Sixers will make the playoffs this year. 

And on Thursday at the Sixers' day camp at Valley Forge Military Academy, it was Fultz's turn to utter that one word that Sixers fans haven't heard since 2012: Playoffs

"We’re going to be in the playoffs this year, and I think everybody is willing to put forth their best effort and listen to the coaches and listen to the bench. We've got to just do whatever it takes to get there," Fultz told CSNPhilly. "That’s practicing even harder, that’s doing extra work in the gym by ourselves, I mean, we’re going to do whatever it takes." 

As a newcomer, Fultz hasn't had to suffer through the worst years of The Process like others on the team. But now that things are looking up, Fultz understands the weight of 253 losses in the last four years and thousands of more jokes online hang over the team like a rain cloud. 

"I think we all know that we’re going to go against the odds, really," Fultz said. "Everybody thinks we’re not going to do it, but I think we know we’re going to make mistakes and we’re just willing to work through them."

Last season, the Sixers finished 28-54 and 13 games out of the 8-seed in the Eastern Conference. But with a revamped roster that includes Fultz, a healthy Ben Simmons and the big free-agent signing of JJ Redick, that dark cloud hanging over the Sixers has turned into a perfect storm for the team to grow now and add key pieces in the future.

On LeBron James potentially joining the Sixers
Could LeBron James be one of those future pieces the Sixers need to capture their first championship since 1983?

“Definitely, he would be a great fit," Fultz said. "I think he would be good, somebody else I can pass the ball to. Everybody, I think the whole city will love him, but I mean, at the end of the day you gotta do what you gotta do, but we’ll love to have 'Bron in Philly.

Anyone else on the wish list?

“We’ll take anybody right now, LeBron, Kyrie (Irving). If they want to come, come on. (Carmelo Anthony), anybody.

James can opt out of his contract following the 2017-18 season. He's also raised the eyebrows of Sixers fans everywhere with a back and forth with Simmons. Even Mike Trout has gotten in on the recruitment. 

On expectations for his rookie season
But regardless of what happens next offseason, Fultz is focused on what happens on the court this season. 

“My expectations are really just to give it my all," Fultz said. "I don’t really have any set goals or anything like that. Just play as hard as I can and live with the results. But also, getting us back on the winning side, getting us to the playoffs and everything like that. But in order to do that, you've got to play as hard as you can and that’s what I’m looking forward to doing."

On rehab
Fultz considers himself lucky to even be on the court this season. Fultz had to be helped off the floor in his Las Vegas summer league debut, as the entire city of Philadelphia let out a collective, "Not again." As it turns out, it was just a sprained left ankle, and Fultz appears on track to be a full participant in training camp.

“Rehab’s going real great," the rookie said. "Everybody knows I sprained my ankle, but my ankle’s a lot better thanks to the training staff. I give big props to them, one of the best in the business. ... I’ve been working out. I’ve been jumping, shooting, everything like that, so I’m real healthy, so I’m happy."

Fultz sat out the remaining four games of summer league while rehabbing. 

"Not even being the No. 1 pick, just being a basketball player and having a love for the game, it was bad, really," Fultz said. "Just being out there with my team, of course, it was fun being there with them, but I wanted to play every game. And not just to prove myself, just because I love the game. I don’t feel like I have to prove anything to anybody. I think it’s just me going out there and doing what I want to do and have fun and doing what's best for the team. It was disappointing when I got hurt but everything happens for a reason. That’s how I looked at it."

On Lonzo Ball
And of course, that meant missing out on the highly-anticipated showdown with No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball and the Lakers. 

"Me and him are cool," Fultz said of Ball. "I’m pretty sure we’re going to meet each other during the season. The NBA, I think, is going to do a good job of making that happen and I look forward to it. I wish him the best of luck this season, just like I’m pretty sure he does to me, but it’s going to be good. I’m looking forward to it.”

On the hype surrounding the Sixers
When Fultz takes the court for the Sixers' home opener (the regular season schedule has not yet been released), it'll be in front of a sell-out crowd — a rarity the Sixers haven't seen in quite some time. But with the team seemingly on the uptick, Sixers fans have already bought a franchise record number of tickets. The hype is real.

“Definitely, we feel all the hype. You can tell just walking around, everybody knows who you are. Just the hype is real. And I can’t wait to get in the crowd and just hear the packed out, sold-out arena and I think that just fires us. We stand behind our fans, especially me. I love the fans here and I think we’re going to put on a show for them and start winning."

Fultz was able to experience the frenzy surrounding Embiid and the Sixers firsthand in April when he attended a game during the pre-draft process. The Sixers were a longshot to land the No. 1 pick and nab Fultz then, but with some Hinkie-esque maneuvering, the Sixers jumped up to No. 1 to select Fultz in June. From that one game, Fultz knew he was meant to be in Philly. 

"It’s kind of crazy, but at the end of the day, like I said, I think God does everything for a reason. That’s the reason I took that visit, really. People were like, ‘why is he in Philly?’ But you never know what might happen.

"I kind of had a feeling that I was going to end up here. It’s kind of crazy, but I’m just glad it happened, really. I don’t wish I was anywhere else. I think this is the perfect spot for me. A young team, coaching staff is great, the training is great, everything. The fans are the best in the world.”

Sixers Notes: Eager for rowdy opener; Joel Embiid talks back-to-backs

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Sixers Notes: Eager for rowdy opener; Joel Embiid talks back-to-backs

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers first home game is Friday night, and if their season opener in Washington, D.C. was any indication of the fans’ excitement level, the Wells Fargo Center will be rowdy. 

Sixers fans traveled to the Capital One Arena on Wednesday and started a “Trust the Process” chant less than a minute into the game, much to the dismay of the Wizards crowd.

That enthusiasm and loyalty was not lost on the players. They are ready to feed off the vibe at the Wells Fargo Center when they host the Celtics. 

“First of all, Philly fans are passionate and I love that about them,” Joel Embiid said. “Just me going out there, playing hard and making plays just to get them off their seat and cheer and yell and just go crazy, I just love that type of atmosphere. It gets me going, too.”

Some players block out the noise from the stands, especially if they aren’t hitting their shots. Embiid, though, wants to hear the support and repay it on the court. 

“If I miss foul shots and then they’re cheering, I know that the next play I’ve got to do better,” he said. “I’ve got to make a crazy block or I’ve got to make a crazy play to get them going. Then that gets me going too because I love the excitement. Since I’ve been in Philly, I’ve embraced it and I just love it.”

The players don’t want the fans to hold back, either. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot has played in intense game environments overseas and welcomes the high energy in Philadelphia. 

“Here, whenever you go in the street, people call your name, cheer for you,” Luwawu-Cabarrot said. “During the game, it gets you going. The crazier they are, the better you feel and the better you’re going to play. It’s the best thing.”

Brett Brown always has emphasized the responsibility he feels to give the crowd a quality product. He reiterated that doing his job well is on his mind every game. For the first time in his tenure, Brown can debut a roster constructed with direction and a foundation.

“I’m confident and comfortable with what we’ve built, that we can deliver this year’s team to a court knowing that the base is there, there are people we really like and see as part of the future,” he said. 

Fans at the home opener will receive a t-shirt with caricatures of Brown, Embiid, Ben Simmons, Robert Covington, JJ Redick, Markelle Fultz and Dario Saric on it. 

 

The team also is launching the PhilaFanGram camera system that fans can use to take photos with a specially-designed Sixers-themed filter. 

Back-to-backs for Embiid?
Embiid is awaiting word from the medical staff to hear if he will be cleared for back-to-back games. Following Friday's game against the Celtics, the Sixers travel to Toronto the play the Raptors on Saturday. 

"Yesterday I played and my body feels great today," Embiid said. "My knee feels amazing. I feel like if I had to play today, I feel like I would play depending on how I feel. But I feel like I’m ready."

Embiid was held out of consecutive games last season. 

Amazingly, Sixers have avoided NBA's rash of early-season injuries

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Amazingly, Sixers have avoided NBA's rash of early-season injuries

MIAMI — Brooklyn's Jeremy Lin was horrified to see what happened to Gordon Hayward, whose season almost certainly ended in a most disturbing fashion five minutes into the Celtics' season-opener.

A night later, Lin met a similar fate.

Here's some of what should be celebrated from the opening nights of the NBA season: Milwaukee's Giannis Antetokounmpo had a 37-point game, Cleveland's LeBron James was one assist away from a triple-double, Houston beat Golden State on the Warriors' ring night and Miami's Hassan Whiteside went for 26 points and 22 rebounds.

It all seems overshadowed by injuries.

No, this is not the start the NBA wanted.

"It's tough watching that happen to anybody in the NBA," said Golden State guard Shaun Livingston, whose horrific knee injury from 2007 -- so bad that doctors originally thought he could lose his leg -- was compared to the grotesque nature of Hayward's injury Tuesday night. "It's all a brotherhood. You want to see guys succeed."

Many members of the brotherhood are ailing, none causing bigger shock waves than Hayward.

San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard hasn't played yet this season because of a quadriceps injury. The Warriors sent Draymond Green to get an MRI on an aching knee, which had knocked him out early in their season opener. Houston's Chris Paul missed a game at Sacramento on Wednesday with knee pain. Cleveland's Isaiah Thomas won't be back until January, at least, while recovering from a hip injury.

And those guys, along with Hayward, are just the hurting All-Stars from last season.

"There's no doubt we'll get him back to be better than he was before," said Mark Bartelstein, Hayward's agent.

Lin's injury was nowhere near as visibly horrifying as Hayward's, but the end result was the same -- a bad landing at Indiana on Wednesday left him in tears and saying, "I'm done, I'm done."

His personal diagnosis was officially confirmed Thursday morning: Lin ruptured the patella tendon in his right knee, the Nets said.

"We feel awful that the injury will cost him the season," Nets general manager Sean Marks said.

Plenty of other teams are missing key players and would-be starters.

Among them: Utah's Dante Exum may miss the whole season with a dislocated left shoulder, Miami's Rodney McGruder had surgery on a stress fracture in his leg, Phoenix's Brandon Knight blew his knee out in the summer, San Antonio's Tony Parker (leg) is still several weeks from returning, Indiana's Glenn Robinson III (ankle) may miss half the season and Milwaukee's Jabari Parker (knee) has months of rehab work left.

"You worry about guys getting nicked up," Memphis forward Brandan Wright said. "Lot of big injuries ... You want to just take care of your guys."

Hayward had surgery Wednesday night and is likely to miss the remainder of the season, after breaking his leg and dislocating his ankle in Boston's opener at Cleveland.

Livingston had no interest in seeing the replay of Hayward's injury. He knows the road that awaits the Boston star.

"I'm not watching the video, but I've seen the pictures," Livingston said. "Prayers go out to him. It's going to be a long road back for him but if he puts his mind to it, is a man of faith, keeps good people around him ... it's going to be a long rehab for him but he's very capable of coming back and being the same player."