76ers

'There's no conspiracy': Markelle Fultz, Sixers respond to Drew Hanlen's deleted tweet

'There's no conspiracy': Markelle Fultz, Sixers respond to Drew Hanlen's deleted tweet

CAMDEN, N.J. — Brett Brown was firm in his message Tuesday — the Sixers aren't hiding any dark secrets about Markelle Fultz's health.

After a now-deleted tweet from Fultz's trainer Drew Hanlen that claimed Fultz is "still not healthy" after the shoulder injury and accompanying unsightly shot he dealt with last season, Brown said there are no major injury concerns with the second-year guard.

“Nobody’s ever 100 percent 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."

Perhaps recognizing that "nobody's ever 100 percent healthy" could be twisted into unfounded speculation, Brown clarified that, in his mind, Fultz isn't dealing with any significant injuries.

"There’s no conspiracy theory out there," he said. "Nobody’s 100 percent healthy. But he’s healthy to play basketball like JJ [Redick] is and Joel [Embiid] is.”

While Fultz didn't directly answer a question about his shoulder, he said he felt fine. But he used the exact same phrase as Brown when asked if he's fully healthy, or close to it.

"For sure," Fultz said. "Nobody’s ever 100 percent healthy in this game. You play five games in seven days, you get bumps and bruises. That’s life in the NBA, that’s what you sign up for when you get here. But I’m working every day to get better.”

In the first 11 games, Fultz has made 18 of 64 jump shots (28.1 percent), 4 of 13 three-point attempts. He shot 17 for 56 (30.4 percent) in 14 regular-season games as a rookie and didn't make a three-pointer.

Though there's not a big statistical difference, there's no doubt Fultz's shot has generally looked smoother, and he's been more confident to take the open jumpers presented to him after a summer of work with Hanlen. His free-throw form is much improved, and his percentage has jumped from 47.6 percent to 66.7 percent.

That said, a jumper that barely grazed the bottom of the backboard (see video) in the fourth quarter of the Sixers' blowout loss to the Nets on Tuesday raised some eyebrows, and prompted Hanlen to defend his client on Twitter.

While Brown said he thinks Hanlen is "really good at his job," he understandably wasn't thrilled about his tweet.

“We wished he didn’t," he said. "We wished he didn’t, and we move on. Elton [Brand] as our general manager will deal and has dealt with it. We’ll move on.”

Fultz said he never even saw the tweet because he doesn't use social media during the season. He wouldn't answer questions about any conversations he's had with Hanlen regarding the tweet and said his focus is on continuing to improve.

“Everything feels good," Fultz said. "Like I said, I’m out here playing and competing every day. My shot can get better. It’s all about putting in work, like I did this summer, putting in work every day to get better. For me it’s not just my shot, it’s everything. … I want to work on defense, being a good teammate. It’s a process.”

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Sixers 106, Heat 102: Boban Marjanovic, Tobias Harris lead way in win

Sixers 106, Heat 102: Boban Marjanovic, Tobias Harris lead way in win

BOX SCORE

The Tobi and Bobi show has officially launched in Philadelphia.

The duo led the Joel Embiid-less Sixers to a 106-102 win over the Miami Heat at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday night.

The victory puts the Sixers at 24-7 at home and 38-21 overall.

Here are observations from the win.

• With Embiid out, Boban Marjanovic got the start and the Sixers didn’t miss a beat early. Marjanovic was a perfect 4 of 4 from the field for a game-high 11 points in the first quarter.

Aside from being a massive human, Marjanovic is actually pretty damn skilled. He has excellent touch around the basket and even a little extended.

His passing is also impressive. He’s excellent at finding cutters. He’s also an exceptional screener and roller.

You could make the argument he was the Sixers' best player, finishing with 19 points and 12 rebounds. Like Embiid, he does have his issues with ball security. He had five turnovers. The team also certainly missed Embiid's presence on defense.

• The Jimmy Butler at point guard experiment is still intriguing. There are times when Butler just sort of blends in offensively because of the firepower the Sixers now have. Playing the one allows Butler to get the ball in his hands early in the possession.

He’s also an underrated playmaker that takes care of the basketball. When the playoffs arrive, we should see more of Butler at the point — maybe with Ben Simmons playing a more traditional four.

Simmons will still have the ability to grab the ball off the rim and do his thing in transition, like on this play to Butler.

Butler was clearly the focal point of the offense, posting 18 points (5 of 14), six assists and six rebounds.

• Good thing Elton Brand got this Tobias Harris guy. Harris showed off his versatile offensive game once again. He was just 4 of 11 from the field and 1 of 5 from three for 12 points through three quarters. He then made an effort to attack more off the dribble and look for shots around the rim. That led to a 4 of 4, 11-point fourth quarter. Shooters shoot and Harris continued to do so even when he struggled early. He finished with a game-high 23 points and 11 rebounds.

• The substitutions were interesting Thursday and they’ll likely continue to be as Brett Brown figures out his playoff rotation.

Simmons was again out with the first wave of subs along with JJ Redick. That means Brown wanted to take a look at the Simmons-Redick pairing, which didn’t work out too well offensively with Jonah Bolden, Jonathon Simmons and Mike Scott rounding out the five on the floor.

Brown went with a Simmons-Harris pairing in the second half, which seemed to fare slightly better, but not much.

Simmons in general struggled in the first half (2 of 6, seven points), but looked much better in the second, getting more post touches against some of the Heat's smaller defenders. He recorded 21 points, seven rebounds and four assists. 

When Miami went small with Kelly Olynyk at the five, it allowed Brown to use Simmons as a five and have T.J. McConnell run the point with Marjanovic on the bench. That lineup is the one that got the Sixers back in front in the fourth quarter for good.

• The bench as a whole didn’t produce a ton, combining for just 12 points, but two guys stood out.

McConnell provided his typical energy and mid-range shooting. He made a very T.J. McConnell play, fronting Dwyane Wade and forcing an errant pass. As the ball was about to go out of bounds, McConnell saved it and it led to a Harris layup. As long as Brown picks his matchups with McConnell wisely, he can provide plenty.

The other reserve that stood out was Jonathon Simmons. Simmons is a legitimate NBA perimeter defender. He hasn't been a very good shooter throughout his NBA career, but he does have a little game off the dribble. He had a nice baseline drive and dunk late in the first half.

• Thursday was Dwyane Wade’s final regular season game in Philadelphia. They played a video featuring Sixers legend Allen Iverson honoring him. The Wells Fargo Center crowd cheered after the video ... but booed when he actually checked into the game. Never change, Philly.

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Sixers vs. Heat: 3 storylines to watch and how to live stream the game

Sixers vs. Heat: 3 storylines to watch and how to live stream the game

Fresh off the All-Star break, the Sixers (37-21) look to build on their 23-7 home record Thursday at Wells Fargo Center (23-7) against the Miami Heat (26-30).

Here are the essentials:

• When: 7 p.m. ET with Sixers Pregame Live at 6:30 p.m.
• Where: Wells Fargo Center 
• Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
• Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

And here are three storylines to watch:

No Jo Jo

On Wednesday, we found out that Joel Embiid has been dealing with left knee soreness for a few weeks now. Despite an MRI revealing no structural damage, the plan, for precautionary reasons, is to sit him out for approximately one week, at which point he will be re-evaluated. Brett Brown says that Boban Marjanovic will start in Embiid's place, and Jonah Bolden will likely regain some of the minutes that he’s lost since the Tobias Harris trade. Though Marjanovic is certainly capable of sliding into Embiid’s starting spot, look out for Miami to run quick-hitting pick and rolls to take advantage of Marjanovic’s slower foot speed.  

Who will step up?

Even without Embiid in the lineup, the Sixers have four guys in their starting lineup averaging at least 16.0 points per game. No other team has more than three players averaging 16-plus. That means business as usual in terms of normal play and flow, and taking advantage of the amount of dribble-out players they now have. But, if it comes down to crunch time, without Embiid, who steps up? Brown says he thinks it will be Jimmy Butler. Look out for that Harris-Butler two-man game.

Butler and Dwyane Wade

Speaking of Butler, he’ll have the chance to go up against one of his good friends tonight in Dwyane Wade, who also happens to be averaging 14.0 points and 4.3 assists off the bench in his 15th season.  Butler and Wade (both Marquette guys) played together in Chicago, where Butler says they trained and vacationed together. They also like to give each other a hard time, so watch out for when they’re both on the floor together.

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