76ers

Markelle Fultz injury update: Guard out indefinitely with thoracic outlet syndrome

Markelle Fultz injury update: Guard out indefinitely with thoracic outlet syndrome

Updated: 8:21 p.m.

Markelle Fultz has a new diagnosis.

Vice President of athlete care Dr. Daniel Medina said in a statement Tuesday that Fultz has been diagnosed with Thoracic outlet syndrome after a series of consultations with various specialists. 

Fultz will begin physical therapy immediately and is out indefinitely.

The second-year guard decided, at the recommendation of his agent, Raymond Brothers, to seek outside consultation on Nov. 20. He has not played or practiced with the Sixers since then.

According to a report on Nov. 21 from The Athletic, Fultz “could prefer a change in scenery.” This diagnosis makes an imminent trade improbable.

Fultz missed 68 games his rookie year with a diagnosis of scapular muscle imbalance. 

Brothers told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski that Fultz has been diagnosed with neurogenic Thoracic outlet syndrome, the most common form of Thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS). Fultz will begin his rehabilitation in Los Angeles, Brothers informed Wojnarowski.

Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic reports Fultz will work with Judy Seto, former head physical therapist of the Los Angeles Lakers, with the Sixers' support. Sixers general manager Elton Brand worked with Seto to recover from a torn Achilles tendon in 2007. 

Wojnarowski reports that, though the team is saying Fultz is out indefinitely, there is optimism Fultz can return within three to six weeks

NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Clark reports Fultz has seen over 10 specialists over the past year, and that one suggested TOS as a possible condition but determined it wouldn't prevent Fultz from playing. Specialists this week diagnosed the syndrome.

Per The Mayo Clinic, neurogenic TOS is "characterized by compression of the brachial plexus. The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that come from your spinal cord and control muscle movements and sensation in your shoulder, arm and hand.”

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Sixers Talk podcast: Matisse Thybulle might already be the sixth man

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NBC Sports Philadelphia/NBC Sports Philadelphia

Sixers Talk podcast: Matisse Thybulle might already be the sixth man

Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick discuss the amount of games they expect Joel Embiid to play, Ben Simmons' self-awareness and Matisse Thybulle already surpassing expectations.

• Will Embiid set a career high in games played with his new load management plan? The guys make a friendly wager.

• Simmons gave arguably the most thoughtful quote he's ever given.

• Is Thybulle already the Sixers' sixth best player?

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Sixers pick up Zhaire Smith's third-year option, make clear call to bank on his further development

Sixers pick up Zhaire Smith's third-year option, make clear call to bank on his further development

Zhaire Smith's role with the Sixers isn't yet clear for this season, but the 20-year-old guard has a future with the team.

General manager Elton Brand confirmed that Wednesday. The team announced it has exercised Smith's third-year option for the 2020-21 season, worth $3.2 million

The Sixers acquired Smith and the Miami Heat's 2021 first-round pick last year in a draft-night trade with the Phoenix Suns, who received Mikal Bridges. Smith played in six regular-season games his rookie year, averaging 6.7 points and and 2.2 rebounds per game, but that's far from the whole story. Smith broke his foot in August, then suffered a severe allergic reaction and subsequent complications that led to him losing over 35 pounds. Over time, Smith regained his standout athleticism and rebuilt his jump shot after changing his form to compensate for his loss of strength (see story).

Head coach Brett Brown described Smith during training camp as a "pogo stick" and has praised his talent for on-ball defense, comparing him on multiple occasions to Avery Bradley. However, Smith has not been part of the Sixers' rotation during the preseason. Brown has acknowledged that development is a great priority for the Sixers with Smith than immediate contribution, especially after everything he went through as a rookie. The emergence of rookie Matisse Thybulle and solid play of Shake Milton during the preseason are further reasons why Smith hasn't been playing with the Sixers' regulars. Smith played the entire fourth quarter Tuesday night of the Sixers' 106-86 win over the Pistons and had seven points and three rebounds.

"It's just a process, so I'm not worried about it," he said. "As long as we get the win, it doesn't matter."

Given the potential the Sixers saw in Smith — and continue to see — it never seemed plausible that they would decline his third-year option.

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