76ers

Markelle Fultz's agent's actions make mending relationship with Sixers look difficult

Markelle Fultz's agent's actions make mending relationship with Sixers look difficult

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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Sixers Talk podcast: Is Ben Simmons an All-Star? A reunion with Robert Covington?

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NBCSP/USA Today Images

Sixers Talk podcast: Is Ben Simmons an All-Star? A reunion with Robert Covington?

On the latest Sixers Talk podcast presented by Wilmington University, Danny Pommells and Paul Hudrick discuss Ben Simmons' recent play since Joel Embiid went out with an injury, how alarming the Al Horford situation is becoming, and a possible reunion with Robert Covington.

• No, Simmons hasn't scored late in games, but he's been attacking the rim and causing opponents to make plenty of business decisions.

• How worried should we be about Horford's up-and-down season?

• Would a RoCo reunion make sense? What would you give up?

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Sixers Injury Update: Al Horford is questionable vs. Nets with left hand sprain

Sixers Injury Update: Al Horford is questionable vs. Nets with left hand sprain

The Sixers might be without their best two center options for Monday afternoon’s game against the Brooklyn Nets.

Al Horford is questionable with a left hand sprain. He sustained the injury with 6:31 left in the third quarter Saturday night vs. the Knicks after being fouled by Reggie Bullock.

"Yeah, I just took a fall there, landed on the hand,” Horford told reporters. “We’ll see where we’re at tomorrow. It’s pretty sore right now, but I’m just glad I was able to stay in the game and give the team whatever I could. … It’s definitely uncomfortable. In this game you always play through injuries and things like that. I just wanted to make sure that I did what I could. We’ll see where I’m at tomorrow, and hopefully good to go for Monday.”

Horford scored a season-low four points vs. the Knicks on 2 for 9 shooting. In the six games since Joel Embiid has been out because of a torn ligament in the ring finger of his left hand, the Sixers have gone 4-2 with Horford as their starting center.

According to multiple reports, Norvel Pelle will be listed as available but his status could change. The team is in a precarious situation with Pelle, who has one NBA day remaining on his two-way contract. The Sixers have opted against converting Pelle to an NBA deal for the time being to prioritize flexibility ahead of the Feb. 6 trade deadline, which has left them in this spot. The 26-year-old rookie has played 13 NBA games and averaged 2.6 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.

On Friday vs. the Bulls, the Sixers decided not to use up one of Pelle’s NBA days, and Kyle O’Quinn played nearly 16 minutes, his first action of 2020.

It looks like Ben Simmons playing some at center could be a possibility. Brett Brown used Simmons as a small-ball five in the first half on Jan. 9 vs. Boston and after the game said, “I suspect you’ll see it again.”

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