The Sixers have become unfortunate experts when it comes to dealing with injuries to first-round picks.
And the situations only seem to get weirder. From Joel Embiid’s navicular bone to Zhaire Smith’s food allergy, it’s been a wild ride. None of the other circumstances are nearly as strange as the Markelle Fultz shoulder saga.
On Tuesday, we found out that Fultz has thoracic outlet syndrome — a condition explained thoroughly by Dr. Mark Schwartz to my teammate Noah Levick (see story). The news itself isn’t as odd as the way it was presented.
Fultz’s agent/lawyer Raymond Brothers released the diagnosis to ESPN’s Adrian Wojranowski. The fact that Brothers wanted the “Woj bomb” instead of a joint statement from the team is clearly purposeful. Brothers appears intent on separating his camp from the Sixers.
It gives the appearance that Brothers is trying to pin this on the Sixers’ medical staff — an easy target given the aforementioned issues. That’s not to say the medical staff isn’t at all to blame. Should Fultz have been sitting this entire time? Was the condition misdiagnosed and mistreated as scapular imbalance last season? We may never know if that’s the case, but the reports that Fultz saw 10 different specialists from all over the country makes it seem like Brothers was out to prove that Fultz’s shoulder has been mishandled.
The timing couldn’t be worse for the Sixers. The team is coming off its best week of the season and faces its biggest litmus test since acquiring Jimmy Butler in the Raptors Wednesday night. That means Brett Brown will have to answer questions about Fultz before the game begins. That means the players — either celebrating a big win or dealing with a crushing loss — will also have to face those questions after the game.
So now what? Really both sides’ hands are tied. If Fultz would “prefer a change in scenery” as a report said a couple weeks ago, he has to prove he’s healthy and resemble the player that was the No. 1 overall pick. If the Sixers don’t see Fultz as part of their long-term plans as another report stated, then it would behoove them to get Fultz back on the floor to restore his value.
Brown has given his unwavering support to Fultz.
And so have his teammates.
“I just want Markelle to know that he’s got everybody in his corner here," Butler said last week. “We want him to be great. We want him to continue to work. All of the outside noise is just what it is, it’s noise from the outside.
“I love having him around. I think everybody here loves having him around. So when he's ready to get back in here and work, we’re all for it. We need the guy.”
The best-case scenario would be all parties healing the relationship, Fultz regaining his form and helping the Sixers in their championship aspirations.
But given the way Brothers has handled everything recently, the scenario seems less likely every day.
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