Will Markelle Fultz play this season or won’t he?
With 14 games left before the playoffs, that is the constant question for the Sixers.
“I truly don’t know,” Brett Brown said Friday.
The Sixers have not put a timeframe on making a decision about Fultz’s availability for the remainder of his rookie year. He has not played since Oct. 23 because of a right shoulder injury, which affected his shot early in the season.
“We speak internally but we really haven’t set a hard date, X amount of games, X date,” Brown said. “We’re letting this thing sort of play out. I do understand, we understand, that at some point very soon some final decisions will have to be made.”
Videos of Fultz shooting after practices, shootarounds and during pregame drills have provided insight into his progress. Each release is watched on replay as Sixers fans yearn to see the complete turnaround of his offense.
“The marketplace and you (the media) see what we see too: We see him getting better,” Brown said. “I also know that this decision that we’re speaking of will be generated very much in a collaborative spirit led by him. We have medical people, we have coaches, we have Markelle Fultz, the player. It’s all kind of fluid.”
The Sixers (38-30) are entering a key stage in their schedule in which every game is counting toward their playoff positioning. Incorporating a new player into the rotations, which Brown has been tightening up, could present challenges with such little time left in the regular season. Fultz also would need to adjust to the pace of the NBA game and get immersed in a system where he could take on some ball-handling responsibilities.
Brown said the potential reward would outweigh the risk if Fultz were cleared to play.
“What he does in open court, what he does with a live ball, I think that he’s very different than any player that we have,” Brown said. "What I see in practice at times, you understand completely why he was the first person chosen in the NBA draft.”
For a situation with so many complexities over the course of the season, Brown's reasoning for wanting to play Fultz is very simple.
"Because he can make us better," Brown said.