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The Sixers may be mishandling Markelle Fultz's injury

The Sixers may be mishandling Markelle Fultz's injury

We don’t know much about the nature of the shoulder injury that’s bothering Sixers guard Markelle Fultz. We don’t know when he got hurt. We don’t know exactly what the injury is. We don’t know how long it will take to recover.

All we know is that whatever is wrong with Fultz’s shoulder, he can barely heave a free throw to the basket from 16 feet away. His shot has been so obviously altered, people assumed the Sixers had to be messing with the 19-year-old’s mechanics. And with his performance visibly affected, and his minutes limited during the preseason, the No. 1 choice in the 2017 NBA draft is set to begin the season on the bench.

That plan was announced to some controversy, as Fultz becomes one of a small handful — and, to this point, disappointing batch — of recent top overall picks who failed to open their rookie seasons as starters. Yet, lost in the hoopla over whether coming off the bench is an ominous sign for Fultz’s future is a far more practical question.

Should Fultz be playing at all?

Fultz appeared in only two exhibition games for the Sixers, and they weren’t pretty. He shot 2 for 13 from the field (0 for 3 from three) and scored four points against the Grizzlies, and scored 12 points off of 5 for 11 shooting from the field (no three-point attempts) against the Celtics. Numbers aside, Fultz’s shot looked flat and often came up short of the basket. He looked like a kid who’s playing hurt.

Naturally, team doctors are privy to a lot of medical information the general public is not — in this case, all of the information — but it’s difficult to watch Fultz struggle to hoist a basketball to the rim and not ask what good playing is doing him. And given the Sixers’ fiasco handling Joel Embiid’s torn meniscus last season, it’s certainly fair to wonder whether the organization has this latest situation under control.

Embiid wouldn’t undergo surgery for two months after the injury, initially classified as a bone bruise, and is beginning this season on a minutes restriction partially as a result. Seemingly in response to criticism over the debacle, the Sixers created the post of vice president of athlete care and tabbed Dr. C. Daniel Medina Leal for the position in September.

Apologies if that move didn’t immediately erase any concerns or skepticism.

Conversely, we’ve also seen this same organization practice extreme caution when dealing with injuries to Ben Simmons and Embiid. Simmons missed a full season, and Embiid missed two full years, both with foot injuries. The Sixers are still exercising more restraint than some would like with Embiid’s current restrictions. It’s been maddening at times, but simultaneously easy to see where they’re coming from.

So why not show a modicum of patience with Fultz and allow him to rest his injury? Granted, there’s generally far more risk involved with lower-body injuries, particularly those of the magnitude Embiid and Simmons were dealing with. But even if Fultz isn’t doing any more damage to his shoulder or slowing the healing process by playing, what exactly is the benefit to his working through this?

Sixers coach Brett Brown talked about the need to balance Fultz’s development with winning games. How much does the rookie’s presence on the hardwood help the Sixers accomplish either goal right now?

Fultz’s shot couldn’t possibly be as painful to watch as it is for him to take, and you can only imagine the toll that’s taking physically and mentally. Will it hurt his confidence? Will it prolong the recovery? Will it cause him to alter his form even after the pain has dissipated? Will he be able to focus on honing other aspects of the game?

Because while it’s been only two preseason games — and just two summer league games before he went down with a sprained ankle — it doesn’t look the Sixers are counting on Fultz to key many victories in the early stages of this season.

There are 82 games to go, not including the prospect of playoffs. If the Sixers are worried about Fultz’s development, there’s time. It’s a long season.

Again, we don’t actually know much at all about Fultz’s injury, so maybe it’s unfair to judge. But going off of the two preseason games he played, I’m not certain I understand the rush to get Fultz on the court when he’s clearly laboring.

Philly won weird Super Bowl bet with Brockton, Massachusetts

kenney-rocky.jpg
Mayors of Philly/Brockton

Philly won weird Super Bowl bet with Brockton, Massachusetts

Mayor Jim Kenney doesn't seem to fully understand the concept of a sports wager.

The general rule I like to follow: if you win a bet, you GET SOMETHING OF VALUE in return.

Now, the Mayor of Philadelphia won a bet with the city of Brockton, Massachusetts, and he has to SEND THEM STUFF.

Makes no sense.

Anyway, I guess the city of Brockton now has to dress their Rocky Marciano statue up in Eagles gear. Lulz. So Mr. Kenney is shipping them some goods. I hope the people of New England had to pay for it.

As Eagles fans know all too well, the official Eagles gear is not cheap.

Did the Sixers Really Win That Game II: The Portis vs. The Process

Did the Sixers Really Win That Game II: The Portis vs. The Process

Geez, if you only watched the ends of the last two Philadelphia 76ers games, you'd think they were owed years' worth of good karma from getting perpetually screwed in the fourth quarter or something. That's right, the basketball gods may have finally approved the Sixers' line of credit: One game (and eight days) after Brett Brown's squad came back from 20-plus down to squeak one past the Miami Heat, the team again pulled out a miracle last night in Chicago, coming from five down in the final minute against the Bulls to win 116-115. 

And boy, did this one feel like a loss, too. After surging out to a 25-7 lead in the first, the Sixers quickly relinquished the majority of their lead to the Bulls, who pulled even in the third and kept the Sixers from ever running away with it. They hit an absurd 18 threes, tying a season high, and two role players posted career highs: starting wing David Nwaba (21 points on 9-14 shooting) and bench forward Bobby Portis (38 points on 15-26 shooting, including a stupefying 6-9 from three). 

Meanwhile, the Sixers went cold down the stretch; Robert Covington missed a clean look at a three, Ben Simmons missed two of two from the line, Joel Embiid dribbled the ball off his foot. When Zach LaVine hit a tough pull-up three to put Chicago up five with a minute to go, and then Cov missed an open baseline two, it almost felt a merciful end to our suffering. 

But somehow, that wasn't it. Portis shot a long two a little too quickly at the other end and missed, and Simmons put back his own miss at the other end for a quick two to cut it to three. LaVine bricked a tough jumper with 17 to go, and J.J. got fouled at the other end to prevent a possible tying three. He made both, and then good ball denial on the ensuing Chicago inbounds led to an Embiid steal and pass to Simmons, who got fouled. 

After going just 4-9 from the line to that point, Simmons calmly nailed both his free throws to put Philly up one. Embiid stonewalled a Portis attempt near the basket at the other end with seconds to go, Denzel Valentine's putback attempt missed, and the game was over, with the Philly outscoring Chicago 6-0 in the final minute to seal the W. 

It was beautiful, man. There aren't going to be many games in this life where you give up 18 threes, allow two opposing players to go for career highs, miss 14 free throws and go down five with 60 seconds to go and still somehow manage to win the damn thing. 

But there also aren't gonna be many teams in this life with a one-two punch as potent as Simmons and Embiid. The latter picked up where he left off at the All-Star Game, scoring 30 (on 11-17 shooting, including 3-3 from deep) with 13 boards, five assists, three steals and two blocks -- just a few box score tallies away from his first 5x5 game. And the former picked up where he left off before the All-Star Game, scoring a career-high 32 (13-18 shooting) to go with seven boards, 11 assists a steal and a block. And maybe most impressive of all? The two had just three turnovers between them in 69 combined minutes. 

Ben and Jo were nothing less than dominant on offense all night. They couldn't turn the faucet off on the Bulls defensively for most of the game -- though aside from a couple slow-ish rotations in the first half, I'm not even sure they played all that badly, rather just paying the three-point defense regression to the mean that Liberty Ballers writer Sean O'Connor had long been warning fans about

But in any event, Embiid finally got the best of Portis in the final minutes, shutting him down on a couple crucial possessions (including the final one), and he made the play of the night on that inbounds steal. When you have two transcendent talents -- as Embiid and Simmons undoubtedly have proven they are, even this early in their careers -- you win a lot of games you probably shouldn't, and gravity was finally on the Sixers' side tonight. 

Of course, the Sixers might not've needed such combined brilliance from their two best players if their supporting cast was able to pick up the slack a little. But no one else was really cooking for Philly last night, and as is becoming a distressingly frequent occurrence this season, Covington hit a couple shots early and then went flat for the rest of the game. Even on the Bulls broadcast, they were talking about how Cov was gonna have to hit shots in the playoffs for the Sixers to have a chance, and they're probably right: We need Rock's defense and smarts out there, but if he's gonna routinely brick open looks in big moments, he's gonna be a liability -- and he's now 6 of his last 29 from deep. 

But that's a concern for another day -- one that seems more and more likely to actually be upcoming at this point. In the meantime, Philly is 31-25, having won six in a row, and with a creampuff game coming up next at home against Orlando, before a three-game roadie against East playoff teams (Washington, Miami and Cleveland) that represents the only really tough swing remaining on the Sixers' schedule. The playoffs seem increasingly probable, and with Simmons and Embiid playing at this level, just about anything seems possible if we get there. Pity the foolish rival execs who still don't trust the process at this point.