Sixers soak in Markelle Fultz's historic night

Sixers soak in Markelle Fultz's historic night

After becoming the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double, Markelle Fultz got quite the unique shower from his teammates in the locker room.

“They poured strawberry milk, chocolate milk, water,” Fultz said. “They drowned me with everything, but it’s all love and appreciation.”

It was a night of celebration for Fultz and the Sixers, as the team clinched the No. 3 seed and a first-round matchup against the Heat with its 16th straight win, 130-95, over the Bucks Wednesday (see observations). Fultz, who posted 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in 25 minutes, was mobbed by his teammates after grabbing his 10th rebound with 1:12 left to seal the accomplishment.

Fultz was also spurred on by the crowd at Wells Fargo Center, who stuck around during garbage time, cheering the rookie’s every move and chanting “Fultz” in a Philadelphia variation of the Vikings’ “Skol” chant.

“It’s unbelievable,” Fultz said. “That’s the support I’ve been getting all year. Going through what I’ve been through, they’ve been like that all year, just being there, supporting me, boosting my confidence, and that’s why I love it.”

With Brett Brown confirming pregame that he intends to stick with Fultz in the rotation during the postseason, Fultz showed Wednesday night some of the ways he could help the Sixers.

He pushed the pace aggressively in his first stint, finding Justin Anderson for two long-range jumpers, converting on a pair of fast-break layups and leading an unstoppable Sixers’ offense. By the time he checked out early in the second quarter, the Sixers led by 31 points.

While Fultz still looks more comfortable in transition than in half-court offense, he seems to be growing in confidence with his decision-making. But Fultz insists he’s always had faith in his ability.

“I always believed in myself,” Fultz said. “It was just a matter of going out there, enjoying myself, having fun and playing confident.”

Since JJ Redick was sidelined with lower-back tightness, Brown mainly paired Fultz in the backcourt with T.J. McConnell, who finished with 16 points and seven assists. While Fultz has taken some of McConnell’s minutes recently (see story), McConnell said he enjoys playing with the rookie.

“I’m doing whatever the coach asks me to do,” McConnell said. “I love playing with Markelle, I love playing with Ben. Any way I can get on the floor and play, that’s what I’m going to do. Anything to help us win.”

McConnell’s attitude is not an outlier on the unselfish Sixers. Brown pointed to the moment in which the team rushed to celebrate Fultz’s achievement as the highlight of the night, and as evidence of the unity this team has heading into the postseason.

“If you said what was the most impressive thing of the night, that’s mine,” Brown said. “To see his teammates react to Markelle Fultz was special. I think it’s a snapshot into who these guys are. I think it’s a real-time example when you hear me say, ‘Oh, they play together, they coexist, this and that’ — that’s real. That doesn’t require a coach throwing out some math. There’s a human side to that which is special.”

The fan responsible for JJ Redick's big night

The fan responsible for JJ Redick's big night

When JJ Redick told me in our postgame walkoff interview (after the Sixers beat the Magic) that he told this “guy courtside” before the game that he was going to hit eight three-pointers, I had to find out: Who is this “courtside guy” and did this actually happen?

Turns out, it most definitely did. 

Before you see the video (oh, yes, there is video proof!), you’ve got to understand the backstory.

It all started when Jared Satkoff, a 32-year-old courtside seat holder, read the NY Times article in May last season about JJ’s “meticulous routines” which included eating the same meals, taking the same two-hour naps, and of course having the same pregame routine before every game. 

You see, Satkoff could relate -- he too eats the same food every day and plans out his clothes for the week and subscribes to the notion of “decision fatigue” but that’s a story for another day.

So before the next game, Jared made sure to tell JJ how much he appreciated him sharing his story, and Redick gave him a “hand pound.”

That “hand pound” was the first of what has now become an additional part of Redick’s routine. 

At first, Satkoff wasn’t sure if JJ would remember him this season, but when the first preseason game rolled around, the pregame hand pound was back in action.

Until the second preseason game, when Satkoff was about eight feet from his normal spot, and Redick was taken aback.

“Dude you threw me off, you’re not in your normal spot.” 

So Jared laughs and says: “True or false: Am I part of your pregame routine?”

From one meticulous man to another, Redick’s smirk said all Satkoff needed to know.

“I sound like such a 32-year-old groupie,” Jared laughs over the phone. “But I’m a grown man, and I just think it’s so cool because I respect his routine.”

It didn’t end after Redick delivered eight threes either (one of which turned out to be the game-winner). Before the postgame shoutout, Redick bolted over to Jared after the game.

“I told you!”

“The fact that he ran over to me…I’m like A. That’s cool as s--- and B. It just shows he’s a class act, it really is. I don’t know many other players that would actually do that.” 

And now for the video evidence.

By the way, Satkoff is going on vacation Nov. 9, when the Sixers play the Hornets.

He plans to tell Redick. Since he’s a part of it now, he doesn’t want to mess with his routine.

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Sixers notes, quotes and tidbits: Joel Embiid unlocks 'unguardable' level

Sixers notes, quotes and tidbits: Joel Embiid unlocks 'unguardable' level

Much like the rest of the Sixers, Joel Embiid got off to a slow start Saturday night. He had four points on 2 of 6 shooting and was a minus-13 in the first quarter.

“We started off the game pretty bad,” Embiid said after the Sixers’ 116-115 win over the Orlando Magic. “At one point, I think we were down 16.”

That’s right, but you knew the big fella wouldn’t be held down for long. Whether it was just finding a rhythm or getting amped up by going against his protege Mo Bamba, Embiid started rolling after the opening period.

He torched the Magic in just about every way imaginable. There were the bully ball post moves, the sweet midrange jumpers, one highlight-reel Euro step and even a few threes.

“That was good because I wouldn’t have shot any threes for the rest of the season if I didn’t make one today, but I’m glad I did,” said Embiid, who finished with 32 points, 10 boards and three assists. “It opened up my game and I feel like that’s where I always talk about being unguardable, unstoppable, but making threes just takes you to another level. It is something that I have to focus on. I’ve been focusing on it for the past few days. It is something that I have to keep focusing on because it makes me really unguardable.”

However, Embiid put up a zero in one category that truly makes him dominant: turnovers. The All-Star has struggled with giveaways throughout his young career, but he became the first Sixer since GM Elton Brand in 2011 to have at least 30 points and 10 boards without a turnover.

“A lot of people just think I’m a big man, but I’m a basketball player,” Embiid said. “I am able to do everything that a basketball player can do. From playmaking and scoring to just passing the ball and just being a leader and post presence.”

Closing time for McConnell
With the game hanging in the balance and primary ball-handler Ben Simmons sidelined by back tightness, Brett Brown had a decision to make. Would the head coach put the ball in Markelle Fultz’s hands and give the 20-year-old a critical learning experience? Or would Brown go for the comfort and energy of handing T.J. McConnell the keys?

Brown chose the latter as McConnell finished off the game at point guard for the Sixers.

“Just T.J’s experience,” Brown said of why he picked McConnell. “You get to a stage going into the fourth like, ‘How are you going to sub that? How are you going to play that out? So immediately I probably shrunk it down to that type of rotation. You saw you try to manipulate it where you can get Joel a good rest and JJ (Redick) a rest but then end back with that group. Markelle was a part of that. Then T.J. coming back in, that was my plan for that reason.”

“I thought, ‘Oh my god. I hope that won’t go in.’”

-Dario Saric on Terrence Ross’ 42-foot rainbow to give Orlando the lead with 1:24 remaining in the game

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