Joel Embiid knows a thing or two about injuries and off-court drama. Even he hasn’t seen anything like the current situation with Markelle Fultz.
Wednesday night, about 30 minutes before opening tip of the Sixers’ 121-120 win over the Pelicans (see observations), The Athletic published a report that Fultz has been dealing with a wrist injury in addition to his previously diagnosed scapular imbalance. According to the report, Fultz “would prefer a fresh start with a new team" (see story).
Fultz’s agent Raymond Brothers denied that his client wants to be traded. Per Brothers’ recommendation, Fultz will have an outside medical consultation on Monday in New York. He won’t play in games or participate in team practices until then, although head coach Brett Brown said pregame that Fultz took part in the Sixers’ light walkthrough before the game.
Fultz was on the Sixers’ bench in street clothes during the game.
After the game, Brown said, “It would be irresponsible and reckless for me to even comment on it.”
He didn’t respond directly to a question about Fultz’s wrist.
“I’ve said as much as I can on Markelle,” Brown said.
Ben Simmons said, “That’s my brother; that’s my teammate,” and left it at that.
Embiid was much more expansive with his thoughts on Fultz:
It’s a crazy situation. I thought I went through it my first two years, but this is different. Honestly, I don’t know what’s going on. I’m just a player on the 76ers, so I just try to do my job. All I can do is try to help him and give him advice. It’s a tough situation. Last year I felt like a lot of people didn’t have his back — that was with the previous management. I feel like everybody has been trying to do their job helping. I don’t even know what’s the problem. I think he’s been playing really well, coming off the bench, coming in, doing his job. I love playing with him. We have something going, especially on that pick-and-roll. A lot of people talk about, 'He’s a bust' and all of that. It’s stupid. He’s been doing a great job. In the limited minutes that he gets, he comes in, does his job, runs the offense, defensively he tries. He has a lot of potential. I just got to keep doing my job and try to help him.
Embiid’s reference to “previous management” appears to be a shot at former president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo’s regime. Colangelo drafted Fultz No. 1 overall out of the University of Washington last year.
Fultz has averaged 8.2 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 19 games this season. He’s made 29.5 percent of his jumpers and is shooting 56.8 percent from the foul line.
In Embiid’s mind, Fultz’s production outside of his shooting and the fact that he has just 33 games of NBA experience makes the “bust” label premature.
Even with the Sixers at 13-7, winners of four straight and all 10 home games this season, it’s inevitable that the team is going to continue to be asked about Fultz. A former No 1 pick reportedly dealing with multiple injuries and preferring a change in scenery is a big deal, though it’s not an especially palatable story.
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