76ers

More questions than answers with Markelle Fultz shoulder saga

More questions than answers with Markelle Fultz shoulder saga

The Sixers are unfortunately in familiar territory.

No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz will be shut down for at least the next three games with a shoulder injury. That's not the only thing that's familiar. The circumstances surrounding Fultz's injury are flat out weird.

First, his agent said Tuesday that Fultz had his shoulder drained. He then came back out and said Fultz actually had a cortisone shot.

It may be optimistic to say Fultz will be ready to go after his three-game absence, but head coach Brett Brown said he sees this situation as a good thing.

"I'm glad for him," Brown said before Wednesday's game against the Rockets. "I think we all understand that there were some things going on and I feel like this is a time where he can take a deep breath. We can help move forward I think in a cleaner way. I'm looking at this as a positive."

Fultz's shot has been an interesting topic of conversation. His struggles with it have been evident as the rookie has shot just 33.0 percent from the field in four games. The 19-year-old guard shot 41.3 percent from three at Washington, but did struggle somewhat at the line, shooting 64.9 percent.

So was it Fultz who decided to change his shot mechanics, hoping to improve, or was it the shoulder injury that caused the change?

"There's no doubt that Markelle, in the goodness of his heart and trying to do the right thing, tried to readjust his shot," Brown said. "He historically has been a left hip guy and [not shoot with his feet square to the basket]. On his own he decided, with some help, to be able to try and improve it." 

If there's someone who can feel Fultz's pain, it's Joel Embiid. The Sixers' star big man missed his first two seasons with a broken navicular bone. He was then subject to a minutes restriction during a 31-game rookie season that ended prematurely with a torn meniscus. 

Embiid has talked to Fultz about his situation and has told the rookie to keep his head up.

"He's been trying to stay positive," Embiid said. "Obviously he's been dealing with that since the summer. I think I'm the best one that can help him just because I've gone through that. Then the media perception and also the fans, I've gone through all that and I've been around him a lot."

One thing is for sure, Embiid can't wait to see his new teammate back on the court.

"I can't wait to play with him because I think me and him in the pick-and-roll is going to be unstoppable because I think that's going to be where it's going to help us a lot," Embiid said.

We're left with so many questions, even after speaking to president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo and Brown. 

Why did Fultz want to fix his shot, part of the reason he became the first overall pick? When did he start to experience pain in his shoulder? When they saw Fultz struggling so much with his shot, why did the team continue to play him? How much time will he miss?

"The kid is a baller. He can really play," Brown said. "I think as time unfolds we're going to feel this out a little more. We have a very aggressive plan for him in place as he comes with us and continues to be a part of our team."

Should Ben Simmons shoot right-handed? He doesn't seem to think so

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Should Ben Simmons shoot right-handed? He doesn't seem to think so

For those sharing the conspiracy theory that Ben Simmons should be shooting with his right hand, prepare to be disappointed.

The Rookie of the Year appeared to shoot down the notion on Twitter, commenting on a story suggesting the Sixers’ point guard is shooting with the wrong hand.

This story stemmed from a piece by The New York Times basketball writer Marc Stein, but questions of the 22-year-old’s handedness were first posted by Kevin O’Connor — formerly of SB Nation, now with The Ringer. O’Connor has been charting Simmons’ shots since LSU. In a feature for SB Nation back in 2016, O’Connor noted that Simmons used his right hand on 81.5 percent of his shots. That’s pretty much reverse for any lefty currently in the NBA.

Since O’Connor first presented this theory, it’s picked up some steam.

Below is a video of Simmons taking free throws right-handed during warm-ups last season.

You have to admit, it looks pretty smooth. It’s a tough angle, but his elbow looks more tucked in than when he shoots with his left. His wrist action and follow through look smoother as well. 

Let’s also not forget when Simmons was given the chance to throw the first pitch at a Phillies game earlier this season.

That’s a pretty nice right-handed strike.

His free throw shooting was an issue last season. As dominant as Simmons was at times, he shot just 56 percent from the line. In a game against the Wizards on Nov. 11, the Sixers held a big lead. Sensing the game was slipping away, Washington head coach Scott Brooks went to the hack-a-Ben strategy. Simmons took 29 free throws, hitting just 15. It allowed the Wizards to make the game a little too close for comfort.

With all that said, there have been instances where Simmons has showed promise with his left-handed shot. In the playoffs, Simmons shot 70 percent from the line.

He’s also flashed the ability to shoot in practice …

… and in games …

Would Simmons be better if he shot with his right hand? If Simmons’ reaction to that notion is any indication, we may never know.

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Sixers remain quiet as contenders make their case for Eastern Conference supremacy

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Sixers remain quiet as contenders make their case for Eastern Conference supremacy

These are truly the dog days of summer when it comes to the NBA.

Players are likely either putting in work with daily workouts or enjoying some vacation time before things get cranked back up in the fall.

However, those aren’t the only activities that are presented with that extra free time. There is also more opportunity for guys to do some boasting about what is to come. After all, they’re probably feeling good about the progress made during the offseason and the recent 2018-19 schedule release has put a jolt in their system.

Unless you’re a Sixer. They’ve remained relatively silent as members of one team after another have stated their case for the Eastern Conference crown now that LeBron James took his talents to Hollywood.

Boston swingman Jaylen Brown openly laid claim to the East during an appearance last week on Portland guard C.J. McCollum’s Pull Up podcast.

“Oh, we're getting to the Finals. No question about it,” Brown said.

And Brown made it clear that he didn’t feel that way about his Celtics just because James signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. In fact, he said the C’s were going win next season regardless of whether James stayed in the Eastern Conference or not.

“I hate how everybody is like, ‘Oh, LeBron's gone in the East,’” Brown said. “I know he did have a strong hold on the East for the last seven years, but he barely got us out of there this year. And our mindset was like, ‘Man, he’s not beating us again.’”

That’s pretty bold, but the Celtics have a right to feel good about themselves. They were on the cusp of reaching the NBA Finals a year ago and are getting All-Star reinforcements back in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward.

New Milwaukee Bucks center Brook Lopez was a bit more diplomatic with his expectations for next season. Still, he presented the case for his squad to become the new big dogs in the East.

“We definitely think the East is wide open,” Lopez said to Hoopshype a week ago. “It’s going to be such a fun, exciting time in the East and it’s going to be super competitive. There are a lot of teams that can do [big] things, from Toronto to Boston to Philly — you just go down the list and it’s clear that the East is as exciting as it’s been in a long time. I think we’re very confident that we can, no question, win the East.”

Even Washington Wizards guard John Wall explained why his group could be the one to rise to the top of the conference.

“I feel like we’re all equal,” Wall told Yahoo! Sports. “None of them won a championship. This is no knock on no other team. Don’t get me wrong. Boston is a hell of a team. Philly has great young talent with those guys (Joel) Embiid, (Ben) Simmons. And Toronto, losing DeMar (DeRozan), they still get Kawhi (Leonard). Y’all might have been to the Eastern Conference finals, where we haven’t been to, but none of y’all were going to the Finals. It was one guy going to the Finals. Ain’t nobody separated from nothing. I know one guy that separated himself from the Eastern Conference every year and that was LeBron James and the Cavs. Other than that … if you lose in the second round or the conference finals, you still didn’t get to your ultimate goal.”

Throughout all of the chest-puffing discussions, the Sixers haven’t made a peep. Not even the 7-foot-2 All-Star known for trash-talking anyone in sight. Embiid barely gave a response to No. 1 overall pick DeAndre Ayton when the rookie recently decided to draw himself dunking on the Sixers’ center.

It’s a stark departure from Embiid’s normal back-and-forth nature, but it’s safe to assume that the big man and his team will wait until they step on the court to let their game do the talking.

With a healthy offseason under his belt for the first time as a professional, you can bet that Embiid — and in turn the Sixers — will have plenty to say at that time.

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