Markelle Fultz

Joel Embiid practices, and Brett Brown is thrilled

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NBC Sports Philadelphia

Joel Embiid practices, and Brett Brown is thrilled

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid’s right hand looks like it hurts. It’s still puffy and swollen over a week after he originally injured it in the Sixers’ win on New Year’s Eve over the Suns.

But Embiid practiced on Monday, and for coach Brett Brown, that’s cause for celebration.

“Joel practicing today makes it one of my happiest days,” Brown said.

“His hand’s still sore. But any time we can get him to practice, to improve his conditioning and more importantly, let him interact with his teammates when it’s not only in front of 20,000 people in an NBA game, that stuff is more important to me than the side note of him going up and down and getting his cardio.”

According to Embiid, his hand is more than just sore. He said it’s “still bothering me a lot,” still “really painful,” just not enough to sideline him.

“I want to be on the court, and if I miss a game, that means something is hurting really bad,” Embiid said. “The other night, obviously I was doubtful, but I felt like I could help the team win, so I went out there. I was kind of scared because if someone hits you, that’s when it hurts more, so I've just got to be careful. But I want to be on the court, I want to play, so if it’s not the type of pain that really bothers me, I’m going to be out there.”

Despite not being pain-free, Embiid is optimistic about eventually being cleared to play in back-to-back games, though he acknowledges the medical staff has the final say.

“I think the main thing is for me to keep practicing," Embiid said. "And after games, the next day to practice and see how my body feels. And that’s on them, that’s their decision. Obviously I want to play, but that’s their decision, and if they feel like I can sustain the intensity of game, practice, game, then I think by the beginning of February I should be playing back-to-backs.”

The team’s first back-to-back set next month is Feb. 2 vs. Miami and Feb. 3 at Indiana.

The other major development on the injury front for the Sixers is Markelle Fultz playing full contact 5-on-5, which he did for the first time Sunday (see story). After Monday’s practice, JJ Redick said he was impressed with the rookie’s progress.

“He looked great, truthfully. He looked great,” Redick said. “I’ve been really, really impressed with him. Especially for how long he’s had off and away from playing 5-on-5, I thought he’s looked really good.”

Brown said the main barometer for when Fultz will return is “the discomfort in his shoulder as it affects his shot.” He acknowledged that Sixers fans are eager for Fultz’s return, and empathized with those closely studying the short video snippets of Fultz’s jumper at practice, desperate for some sort of definitive timeline.

“I think it’s such a snapshot into Philadelphia fans, that they are dying, they are crying for success,” Brown said. “They’re curious about what’s going on with Markelle. The things our fans have had to endure with the history of our high draft picks either being out for a long time or missing the year, and now wondering what’s going on with Markelle, we understand the whole thing. And I think the excitement is just a snapshot in a positive way of Philadelphia fans and the genuine interest they have in the growth of our program.”

Markelle Fultz takes major step toward return

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USA Today Images

Markelle Fultz takes major step toward return

CAMDEN, N.J. — Markelle Fultz took a key step in his return from injury Sunday.

The 2017 No. 1 pick went through full-contact 5-on-5 work in practice for the first time since being sidelined with a right shoulder injury. He participated in the “large majority” of the afternoon practice, according to Brett Brown. 

“I thought he looked good for not having done much obviously the past few months,” Brown said. 

Fultz was available for portions of practice, including transition defense, play calling and passing drills. In comparison to previous days, Fultz was available to “get up and down the floor in a more detailed, lengthy way,” Brown explained. 

Anytime Fultz’s recovery is mentioned, a question that follows is, ‘How did his shot look?’ Fultz’s form changed during the injury and has been in the spotlight as he makes his way back. Brown was encouraged by what he saw from the rookie on both ends of the floor. 

“I thought his rise up looked pretty good,” Brown said. “He didn’t shoot any threes. But I thought that thing, that skill that he has, I’ve said to everybody, it connects the dots. When you don’t have it, you realize it even more. He can create a shot for himself, he can create a shot for others, he’s got a lot of wiggle to his game. That was different. 

“He’s different than all of our players. So to watch him play in that environment and really wind him up defensively, because he’s got a long wingspan, was to me to the positive of the day.”

A date for Fultz’s return has yet to be determined. Brown does not think it will be the Sixers' next game, Wednesday against the Celtics abroad. The team will continue to monitor Fultz has he goes through the action like he did Sunday.

“I do not expect him to return to play in London, personally,” Brown said. “There’s no pre-ordained date. We’re not going to put ourselves in a box and declare a date. It doesn’t work like that. He will tell us as we watch his body react to the first kind of workout he’s had in, what, two months. There is no date."

Fultz has not played since Oct. 23 because of right shoulder soreness and scapular muscle imbalance. He received treatment with the Sixers and with Dr. Ben Kibler, Medical Director of the Shoulder Center of Kentucky at the Lexington Clinic to get back on the court.

“It’s great having him with the team,” Brown said. “He’s good people. He’s got a very charismatic way that he engages with the team and coaching staff. We’re all with him. He’s ours. We understand the responsibility to grow him and help him navigate a very unusual introduction to an NBA season … It was a great thing to have him compete, sweat, be around teammates.”

Joel Embiid did not practice Sunday because of back soreness.

Sixers share footage of Markelle Fultz balling like a boss

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76ers Twitter

Sixers share footage of Markelle Fultz balling like a boss

A new year often brings hope.

Some of us act like we're going to eat better and go to the gym while others simply go on Twitter and refresh the Sixers' page looking for any sign of life from Markelle Fultz.

And it looks like 2018 is off to a nice little start for Sixers fans. After the team released a statement earlier in the day about Fultz reaching the next step in his rehab, their multimedia folks gave us a new year's treat on Tuesday evening.

Perhaps you saw earlier in the day when a number of media members shared very brief clips of Fultz at the team's practice facility doing basketball things.

Well, the Sixers have all the access to Fultz that they want -- and more than the rest of us -- so they shared a much more in-depth (and likely edited!) look at Fultz on the court.

The slow-mo, the spin, the hesi, the up-and-under, the creation-ability... it's certainly a teaser Sixers fans both wanted and needed. But the shot? The shot still looks a touch uncertain.

In case you missed the earlier report, Fultz is cleared to begin “the final stage of his return-to-play program.” Whatever that means. But there he is on the court doing basketball things, so I'll take that as a positive.