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After plenty of 'trial and error,' Sixers' Markelle Fultz happy with new jumper

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After plenty of 'trial and error,' Sixers' Markelle Fultz happy with new jumper

CAMDEN, N.J. — The concept sounds simple enough: Shoot when you’re open. But for Markelle Fultz, having the confidence to take open shots is a huge step after a rookie season derailed by a shoulder injury and the much-maligned jumper that accompanied it.

“The best thing I see in him, and I saw it in the month of September, is he’s not bashful,” Sixers head coach Brett Brown said Sunday at training camp. “He takes the shots he should shoot. And sometimes they go in, sometimes they don’t. But his mindset is money. He’s really not gun-shy at all. And I think that’s as good a compliment as I could give him.”

Fultz, who shot down the notion that he had the "yips" (see story) on Saturday, wouldn’t detail the mechanical adjustments he’s made. But the brief glimpses we’ve seen of his jumper so far, both in a Players’ Tribune video and at training camp, look nothing like the shaky, hesitant shot we saw last season. The release appears more fluid, the follow-through more natural and pronounced. He looked comfortable working a pick-and-roll with Joel Embiid and pulling up from just inside the foul line during a scrimmage at the end of practice.

“I just had to figure out what worked for me,” Fultz said. “It was a lot of trial-and-error stuff, and I found out what clicked. I’m happy with it and I’m just going to keep working every day.”

The sheer volume of Fultz’s work with trainer Drew Hanlen is the No. 1 reason for his newfound confidence. Brown said Fultz took 150,000 jumpers this summer.

“You feel like you’ve studied and you’re ready to take a test,” Brown said. “And he’s done that, he’s put in the time. To me, his body language, his spirit, really to me reeks of one that seems very sure in himself. I think that’s based out of him knowing he hasn’t skipped steps or cheated. He’s invested time and he feels pretty good about it, and he should.”

Brown placed plenty of faith in Hanlen this offseason; not every coach would’ve trusted an outsider to repair their No. 1 pick’s shot. 

“His reputation with a few of the players that I know was excellent,” Brown said. “Any time you get somebody that’s committed to live with somebody for the summer, and the client, the player is really equally as excited to partner up as well. And re-position himself on the other side of the country; the Philadelphia scene for a moment probably didn’t produce a ton of great memories and he just wanted to get away. And I applauded it.

“We maintained continuous dialogue and flying out there and seeing him … I think that Drew’s done a great job. He’s really taken it personally, trying to bring him under his wing and help a young man as much as somebody’s shot, and for those reasons, I respect Drew’s genuine care for him. It’s deeper than, ‘let’s fix his shot.’ And I respect it, I appreciate it.”

If Fultz is taking and making outside shots, the prospect of playing him together with Ben Simmons becomes much more promising. The pair were together again during the Sixers' end-of-practice scrimmage, with Simmons at the power forward spot and Fultz running the point. 

“It just helps to know that you have someone out there who’s going to get you the ball when you’re open,” Fultz said of Simmons, “and who’s going to play as hard as you also.”

Trudging into Camden every day and trying to fix what was wrong with his body and the shot that had served him well most of his life, then sitting on the sidelines at night, must not have been a very fun way to spend most of last season for Fultz. This season feels very different. 

“Just being able to know that I prepared very well for this season, I can’t wait to start it off with these guys,” Fultz said. “Every day I’ve been coming in, I’ve been happy.” 

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Actual NBA players hilariously voted for these 6 Sixers to make All-Star Game — which is a problem

Actual NBA players hilariously voted for these 6 Sixers to make All-Star Game — which is a problem

The NBA released the All-Star Game voting results on Thursday and as expected, some of the results are quite curious.

The voting process currently takes into account voting by the fans, players, and media, with the fan vote being counted as double. There are clearly flaws to this method.

Fan favorites like Tacko Fall can garner close to a million votes while his play on the court clearly doesn't reflect any All-Star bona fides. But there are some checks to a fan-only system. Player and media votes count for a significant portion of the voting. But there are flaws to that portion of the voting as well.

Some players clearly don't take the voting process very seriously.

Just look at some of the Sixers' bench players who received votes from fellow NBA players — to be an All-Star!

Marial Shayok - 1 player vote
Shake Milton - 1 player vote
Trey  Burke - 1 player vote
Matisse Thybulle - 1 player vote
Furkan Korkmaz - 1 player vote
Norvel Pelle - 1 player vote

Raul Neto, sadly, did not get any love from his fellow NBA players, nor did Mike Scott. Then there are the starters who received significant player votes: Tobias Harris (19), Al Horford (16), Josh Richardson (13). Those make some sense.

Joel Embiid was voted a starter by receiving a hefty portion of all three segments of the voting audience. The only other Sixer with a legit chance to make the team as a reserve appears to be Ben Simmons.

Simmons received the third most votes among guards in the East from the media, fourth most from the players, but a curious eighth most by the fans. More fans voted for Jaylen Brown than Simmons. OK, sure.

You can see a list of all players who received votes here. The reserves for the 2020 All-Star squad will be announces on Thursday night on TNT. The reserves are chosen by head coaches.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say the coaches around the league aren't going to give Pelle the nod for all of those sweet blocks.



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Sixers' Joel Embiid named All-Star starter for third consecutive season

Sixers' Joel Embiid named All-Star starter for third consecutive season

Joel Embiid is again one of the 10 best players in the NBA, according to fans, a panel of media members and his fellow players.

The Sixers’ center was named an All-Star starter on Thursday for the third consecutive season.

Starters were determined by the votes of fans (50 percent weight), media members (25 percent) and players (25 percent). 

Embiid has averaged 23.4 points, 12.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists per game for the 29-17 Sixers. He’s been sidelined for the past eight games with a torn ligament in the ring finger of his left hand. If Embiid is unable to play in the All-Star Game, which will take place on Feb. 16 in Chicago, then Commissioner Adam Silver will select an injury replacement. 

Though his scoring is down from last season, the Sixers have still been a much better team with Embiid on the floor than with him off it.

He’s second in the NBA in defensive win shares per game and fourth in defensive rebounding percentage (minimum 20 games played, 15 minutes per game). Lineups with Embiid have a 99.5 defensive rating, while lineups without him are at 106.9. 

It’s been an eventful year so far for Embiid, who’s been suspended for a fight and subsequent social media barbs, called load management “BS,” publicly grappled with questions about how to balance maturity and dominance, and sustained a nauseating injury.

Though the Cameroonian big man has said he cares most about being healthy and at his best for the playoffs, he now has another personal accolade.

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