Markelle Fultz's disjointed support structure isn't helping him or the Sixers

Markelle Fultz's disjointed support structure isn't helping him or the Sixers

CAMDEN, N.J. — At this point, after all the confusion; the diagnoses; the shaky cell phone video of ugly after-practice jumpers; the hundreds of thousands of shots of remedial work; the deleted tweet from a trainer; the pump-fake free throw; and, most recently, the upcoming consultation with an outside specialist, the notion that there is some sort of unified team supporting Markelle Fultz is ludicrous.

There are countless parties trying to help Fultz, the No. 1 overall draft in the 2017 draft. As a result, Fultz and the Sixers find themselves in a bizarre, perplexing position.

Yet after Tuesday’s news that Fultz will be sidelined until his appointment with a shoulder specialist in New York on Monday, as recommended by his agent Raymond Brothers, head coach Brett Brown insisted that Fultz has a cohesive support system.

“I think that there has been, for the most part, a linear, consistent messaging that his sort of Team Markelle, from family to agent to coach to GM, that we’ve all tried to collaborate and point it to an end game, a clear sort of objective, a clear path,” Brown said. “For the most part, I think we’ve done this.”

All the evidence points to Brown’s assertion being false. Both Brown and general manager Elton Brand admitted they were caught off guard by Brothers’ recommendation that Fultz see a specialist.

On Nov. 6, after a deleted tweet from trainer Drew Hanlen that indicated Fultz still wasn’t healthy, Brown said, "To the best of my knowledge, he’s healthy enough to go do what he’s been doing. He’s been playing basketball and doing well. He’s fine."

Something either changed drastically with Fultz’s health in the last two weeks, or the “bumps and bruises” Fultz was dealing with, which Brown thought were typical for one of his players, were more serious than first thought. Brand also said he talked “a little about on-court stuff” with Brothers, though he didn’t want to speculate about whether the timing of the consultation was related to T.J. McConnell taking Fultz’s backup point guard minutes in Monday night’s game.

Either way, Brothers, Fultz, and the Sixers organization were not on the same page. As Brand conceded, Brothers’ interests are not the same as the Sixers', even if the ideal outcome for both parties is Fultz eventually figuring out what’s going on with his shoulder and shot, and becoming the special player everybody thought he could be when he left the University of Washington.

“This was brought to me by Markelle’s agent [Monday] morning,” Brand said. “We’ve been aligned. We’ve allowed Markelle to see many specialists per Raymond, his agent’s, recommendation. And Raymond’s job is different than my job; Raymond’s job is to do what he thinks is best for his client. My job is to continue our positive trend and trying to get deeper in the playoffs. At the end of the day, we all want to support Markelle, and we want what’s best for Markelle.”

If you’re looking at things generously, Team Markelle exists. There are indeed plenty of people who genuinely want the best for Fultz. But even if you believe there’s a Team Markelle out there, it’s obviously fractured in a million pieces.

Team Markelle is currently comprised of the Sixers medical staff; outside specialists; outside trainers; Brown; Brand; Brothers; Sixers legends; NBA veterans; and Fultz’s teammates, ex-teammates, family and friends.

In the middle of that crowd of supposed well-wishers is a 20-year-old with 33 games of NBA experience.

It’s still very possible that Fultz thrives in the NBA — perhaps his latest consultation will result in a new diagnosis, which will lead to a clear, effective treatment plan, which will help Fultz fully rehabilitate his shot. Or maybe the consultation will reveal he’s healthy, and Fultz will return to the lineup, earn back his minutes as the second-unit point guard, and start taking and making long-range shots again.

Neither of those scenarios appears likely at the moment. While Fultz’s first year-plus in the NBA has been as unpredictable and mysterious as any player’s in history, one thing is clear: The chaotic, disparate environment of Team Markelle is not conducive to his success.

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Jim Lynam has tales on when Moses Malone stunned him, Julius Erving’s class, relationship with Maurice Cheeks

AP Images/David Zalubowski

Jim Lynam has tales on when Moses Malone stunned him, Julius Erving’s class, relationship with Maurice Cheeks

If you’d like in-depth, entertaining insight into some of the great players and moments in Philadelphia basketball history, Jim Lynam is the right person to talk to.

Now an analyst with NBC Sports Philadelphia, Lynam played and coached at St. Joe’s, served as a head coach, assistant coach and general manager throughout the years with the Sixers, and has developed close relationships with a slew of Hall of Famers. He joined Paul Hudrick and Danny Pommells on the latest Sixers Talk podcast and had plenty of stories to tell about Moses Malone, Charles Barkley, Maurice Cheeks and Julius Erving.

Lynam's first experience with the late Malone was in 1985, when he joined the Sixers as an assistant coach after a stint with the Clippers. 

Moses, in my mind, was going through the motions,” Lynam said on the podcast. "And I personally was concerned, maybe after three or four days. … Is Moses all right? Is he hurt? Does he always start like this? They were almost, to a man, dismissive of my thoughts, from [head coach] Matty [Guokas] right up to Harold Katz, the owner. So, this went on for the entire preseason. Moses was beyond desperate. And I’m now really concerned. This guy was key to our team if we’re going to be legit. 

“Well, we open the season in New York against rookie Patrick Ewing, and all the fanfare. Moses gave Patrick Ewing 38 [points] and 24 [rebounds]. It was the first sweat that he broke. And he put Patrick Ewing in the basket probably about six times. So it was a real eye-opener for me.

The official box score says Malone had 35 points and 13 rebounds, but it must have felt like 38 and 24 to a coach getting his first exposure to Malone's Hall of Fame talent. 

“The public persona of Moses was really quite different than who the real guy was,” Lynam said. “He was really one of the best. He was genuine, no nonsense, come to do his work every day. A person of few words, yes, but when he spoke, all heads turned.”

Lynam has a vivid memory from that same year of an incident that showed him Erving’s character. He recalled a mob of fans swarming around Erving after a preseason game, eager for his autograph.

“As we’re walking down this corridor with people all over the place, a fan barges out with a pad and a pen, and obviously somewhat inebriated,” he said. “The first cop takes exception. … Doc’s trying to take care of the fan. ‘Sure, sure I’ll sign.’ And there’s this cop literally with a stick. To see Doc defuse that — he takes cares of the fan. ‘Fine, my man, ‘ he says, ‘but we’ve gotta go.’

"The fan’s ecstatic because he got the autograph. [Erving] turns to the cop, and I could see in the cop’s eyes, he’s irate. Puts his arm out to the cop and he kind of gives him a side embrace, and he says, ‘Thanks, my man, I appreciated that.’ And I went, ‘Are you kidding me?’ It was like watching somebody walk on water. He defused what could’ve been a split skull and a near-riot in a matter of seconds, that’s how good he was.” 

Erving was the first of his kind, according to Lynam.

“Playing above the rim, playing in the stratosphere — he brought the game up there,” he said. “He was the first one, because he did it with a combination of spectacular and graceful.”

From 2001-2005, Lynam coached under Cheeks, who hired him to be an assistant on his staff with the Trail Blazers. One quality Lynam admired in Cheeks as a player was “the game was never too big for him.”

“That’s a huge compliment that I would pay a player because, for a lot of good players, the game can get too big,” he said. “Charles Barkley used to tell me, ‘Coach, you’ve gotta be careful who you set that last shot up for.’ Obviously he said it one night when I didn’t set it up for him. But Charles is right. Not everyone relishes having to take, or looks forward to taking, the shot that’s going to decide the game one way or the other. In that light, Cheeks was as good as there was."

You can listen to the full podcast below, which also includes a story from August of 1989 that involves Lynam frantically searching through the city of Philadelphia, looking to tell Cheeks he’d been traded.

Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

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Sixers smother Wizards in rare road win in NBA2K simulation

Sixers smother Wizards in rare road win in NBA2K simulation

If only the real Sixers were as good on the road as the NBA2K version.

The Sixers smothered the Wizards in a 64-50 win during an NBA 2K20 simulation Friday night.

A 17-0 run to start the fourth quarter pushed the Sixers’ lead from five to 22 and essentially sealed the victory.

Perhaps Washington’s mascot — who basically looks like Gonzo from the Muppets with a gut and a wizard hat on — rollerblading on the court at halftime affected the hardwood.

Here are observations from the win:

Bully ball defense

Bradley Beal got off to a scorching start, scoring all 11 of the Wizards’ first-quarter points. After that, it was tough sledding for Beal and the Wizards.

The star guard had just one point in the second and two in the third. By the time Beal hit a three with under four minutes left in the fourth quarter, the Sixers had already gone on a 17-0 run and put the game away.

Embiid quiet again

For some reason, the Sixers don’t get the ball to their best player in this video game. It makes zero sense. Embiid did appear to be playing banged up. He kept flexing his shoulder and had a little medical symbol pop up next to him. Embiid scored one basket with 16.9 seconds left in the first half. That’s it. He did challenge a ton of shots at the rim.

On the other hand, Ian Mahinmi was the Wizards’ best player and played really well … which is something. Mahinmi, who has one of the worst contracts in the NBA, would not normally be the type of big who takes it to Embiid, but in this simulation, it was Mahinmi’s night.

Sixers would take this Harris and Horford in real life

Yet again, Horford was strong in this simulation. He was great on both ends, punishing rookie Rui Hachimura in the post offensively and defensively. Though the mighty Mahinmi did take it to Horford on a couple possessions. 

Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson were also big in this one. Harris, who was the 2K Player of the Game, posted a double-double while Richardson put the clamps down on Beal. Both players played a big part in the fourth-quarter run.

A night to forget for Neto

In a surprise move, virtual Brett Brown decided to go with seldom-used Raul Neto as his backup point guard. It did not go well. Neto missed his first four shots, which all seemed of the forced variety. Brown had seen enough and went to Richardson as his backup one.

Brown gave Neto a second chance in the second half and the veteran point guard rewarded him. Neto came up with a steal on former Sixer Ish Smith and finished on the other end in the third.

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