The Markelle Fultz mystery has migrated to Orlando.
And though many questions still remain unanswered, we got more insight into Fultz’s situation from the former No. 1 pick himself Thursday at his introductory press conference.
Flanked by Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman and head coach Steve Clifford, Fultz took questions from reporters in Orlando about his diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome, what excites him about joining the Magic, and his time in Philadelphia.
His thoracic outlet syndrome symptoms
For the first time, we got to hear from Fultz about his thoracic outlet syndrome. He said his rehabilitation is “going great” and that he’ll continue working in Los Angeles. Fultz didn’t directly answer questions about a timeframe or when he expects he’ll be able to shoot without discomfort.
It’s really hard to describe, hard to explain to people. It’s almost like hard to lift up your arms. You lose feeling in your fingers. It’s not really like you can tell when it’s going to happen. It’s not like you can do the same motion every time. You get tingling in your fingers, numbness, stuff like that. It was hard to describe. It’s tough, because you hear all this stuff about this, that and the third, but you know something’s wrong and you’re trying to figure it out. It was just hard to describe to a lot of people. If you’ve never been through it, you’re not going to really know. But if you talk to anybody who has TOS, they’re going to tell you it changes your life [dramatically].
‘Not just tell you what you want to hear’
He didn’t say it with anything approaching a malicious tone, but one of Fultz’s comments about why he’s looking forward to joining the Magic could be perceived as a shot at Brett Brown and the Sixers’ coaching staff.
“I think it excites me to have coaches that you know are going to push you to be better,” he said, “and not just tell you what you want to hear.”
Brown had only 33 games to coach Fultz, but he had to cope with plenty of off-court drama during Fultz's year-plus in Philadelphia. Brown inserted the 20-year-old into the starting lineup for the first 15 games of this season, during which Fultz averaged 9.0 points on 41.2 percent shooting, 3.8 rebounds and 3.5 assists. The Sixers were 9-6 with Fultz as a starter.
Brown reflected Friday on his feelings upon hearing Fultz had been traded.
I’d be lying if I didn’t feel sad. It was two emotions I had. Sad personally, selfishly I suppose. And that I never really felt like I got a chance to coach him. I never really feel like this city got a chance to see him. I felt sad for that. And I was pleased for him that he had a new start, a fresh start, another opportunity.
What Fultz learned from the Sixers
With the possible exception of the comment about now having coaches who are going to push him, Fultz was very complimentary of his time with the Sixers.
“I learned a lot, both from being on the court and off the court," he said. "Going to the playoffs last year, I learned about how physical it was. I was fortunate enough to see the game and be in the atmosphere.
“Had great vets around me. Just learned that it matters — every practice matters going into the season. It’s a long season, but you go day by day. You just take it as profesionally as you can, but also have fun with your teammates. And the closer your team is, the better you’ll do.”
Weltman and Clifford both had high praise for Fultz’s potential. Weltman went as far as saying, “For us, this was an obvious choice.”
The Magic are enticed by the possibilities with Fultz, just as the Sixers and so many talent evaluators were in 2017.
“As Markelle’s game develops, as his body develops, as his experience level develops, there’s not going to be too many things in a game he can’t do,” Weltman said.
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