76ers

Trainer Drew Hanlen says Markelle Fultz's new shot is 'ahead of pace' after case of 'yips'

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Trainer Drew Hanlen says Markelle Fultz's new shot is 'ahead of pace' after case of 'yips'

Since Markelle Fultz arrived at Sixers training camp last season, there has been a mystery surrounding what exactly happened to his pure jumper that was last publically seen at the 2017 summer league.

This week, trainer Drew Hanlen, who has been working with the former No. 1 overall pick in an effort to rework his shot, joined the Talking Schmidt Podcast  and was the first person around Fultz to put a name to what has been speculated to have caused his broken shot: "the yips."

"With Markelle, obviously, he had one of the most documented case of kind of the yips of basketball in recent years," Hanlen said, "where he completely forgot how to shoot and had multiple hitches in his shot."

There's no need to take a speculatory deep dive back into Fultz's weird rookie season. Regardless of whether it was the yips, a shoulder injury, a combination, changing the shot, or any other reason; it already happened. He lost that awesome jumper he had coming out of Washington, a shot that had a huge factor in the Sixers spending a valuable future asset in the Kings' 2019 first-rounder to trade up two spots and select him in last year's draft.

The more notable thing here is that Fultz is working to get it back and is using a popular trainer in Hanlen, who works with numerous NBA players, including Joel Embiid. 

And if you're starving for some Fultz jumpshot optimism, Hanlen delivered some:

For me, it was hey listen 'how can I get this kid that was No. 1 in last year's draft back rolling and get him to the point where he was before, or if not better?' We've been working hard everyday, working on rewiring his body and getting kind of a smooth stroke back in his shot. We're way ahead of pace where I thought we were gonna be. I thought it was gonna take me at least six weeks before we had kind of a serviceable jump shot. We already started to shoot with a jump in Week 2.

It's not perfect yet, but I think by the end of the summer it will be perfect, he'll be back rolling and he'll show people why he was the No. 1 pick. Even though I do give him trouble on a daily basis and tell him and remind him that I still believe Jayson Tatum was the best player in that draft.

Perfect by the end of the summer? Forget summer league, I think every Sixers fan will be fine signing up for just that. Hanlen, who has worked with Tatum dating back to before last year's draft, didn't reveal whether Fultz approached him about a complete rebuild or just adjustments, but he did describe the light-hearted conversation he had with the Sixers' guard before they started working together:

I knew (Markelle) because of Joel. Obviously, I spend a lot of time in Philadelphia working with Joel. Basically what I told him is, me being me, I said, 'Markelle listen, you're going to make me really famous and you're going to make me a lot of money when I fix your shot and can sell your program. And the good news is, I can't go down because it can't get worse.' So I said, 'Give me a chance, let me help you get back to who you are.'

He kind of laughed and chuckled and I said, 'Let's do this.' For two reasons: One, I wanna get you back rolling. I wanna get you back kind of loving basketball and finding success. And two, I wanna arrogantly be able to tell everybody, yeah, that's me right there I fixed it. We took a kind of funny approach to get rolling, but we've been working hard every single day. We spend a couple hours in the gym. So far the program is going well and he's finding some success with the new shooting motion.

If Fultz shows up to training camp with a reworked, reliable shot, Hanlen would become a legend in Philly.

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Criticism by analyst of Joel Embiid's opinion on NBA plan is well off the mark

Criticism by analyst of Joel Embiid's opinion on NBA plan is well off the mark

Joel Embiid on Tuesday gave a thoughtful and detailed explanation for why he initially “hated” the NBA’s plan to resume the season in Orlando and still does not believe it is safe enough.

Wednesday, Kendrick Perkins reacted to Embiid’s comments on ESPN’s “First Take,” and his stance was not as well-reasoned. 

In part, Perkins said, “To me, this is just an excuse. If they get knocked out, this is going to be an excuse because their superstar was halfway in. … Man, go down there and hoop. I ain’t trying to hear that, man. It’s a billion-dollar bubble.”

Perkins’ response evades the substance of Embiid’s remarks. Among Embiid’s primary points were that he is concerned about consequences the coronavirus might have for himself and his family, that basketball isn’t the only thing which should define him, and that he is skeptical other players will adhere to the NBA’s health and safety protocols intended to minimize risk of COVID-19 exposure. (Embiid noted he doesn’t do much outside of basketball besides playing video games and will personally do everything necessary to mitigate risk.) What Perkins said addresses none of those issues.

Instead, he focused on the notion of Embiid somehow being weaker than other superstars who committed to resume play without publicly voicing any concerns. To express worry about doing one’s job in these circumstances — playing basketball, in Embiid’s case — does not suggest a lack of character or toughness. It is a logical sentiment, and there is nothing wrong with Embiid being candid on the subject. 

… If you told me that the current trend is that people are getting sick and a lot of people are dying,” Embiid said, “obviously you don’t know what's going to happen and you don’t want to be in a situation where you put your life at risk ... and all that stuff, just for what? The money and all that stuff. At the end of the day, basketball is not all that matters. I've got family, I've got myself to look out for. That's all I care about.

Coronavirus cases have risen sharply in Florida, to the extent that many hospitals in the state have maxed out their ICU capacity. Embiid, who’s donated $500,000 to coronavirus relief efforts, has every right to say he is “not a big fan” of playing in Orlando. 

Familiar cliches in sports about sacrifice for the sake of the team and adversity over obstacles do not apply to a pandemic. This is a different category from Embiid shifting how he plays to accommodate teammates, and a topic that should be approached seriously. 

Perkins is allowed to criticize Embiid, of course, but his viewpoint is lacking in empathy and perspective.

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What to make of Joel Embiid's answers to big on-court questions

What to make of Joel Embiid's answers to big on-court questions

Since March, Joel Embiid has played a little under 27 minutes of competitive basketball.

He was impressive in that time on the floor, recording 30 points and 11 rebounds vs. the Pistons on March 11 after a five-game absence with a left shoulder sprain.

However, the most notable part of Embiid’s conversation with reporters Tuesday did not have to do with on-court matters. He said that he “hated” the NBA’s plan to resume the season in Orlando and does not believe it is safe enough. As Embiid said, he is more than just a basketball player. It is certainly valid to be critical of the idea of playing in Orange County, where ICU beds are at full capacity in several hospitals because of a spike in coronavirus cases. 

Still, we’re obligated to discuss Embiid the player, a three-time All-Star starter. 

Embiid didn’t volunteer many specifics about his fitness but said on multiple occasions he “feels good.” Over the last week, Brett Brown and Josh Richardson have praised his conditioning.

“I don’t think my weight is an issue,” he said. “The only thing to always watch is my body fat, and I feel good. Like I said, I’ve been chilling. Just doing what I have to do.”

He acknowledged Tuesday he did not always play at full intensity this season. 

“During this year, there were a lot of times when I was not into the offense and I was just basically going through the same motions and all that,” he said. “But with the playoffs coming, I’ve just gotta be more assertive and just be that guy — just demand the ball and do what I do.”  

Though no major statistic that might signify aggression — usage rate, free throw rate, post-ups, three-point attempts per 36 minutes — dropped significantly this year for Embiid, he feels he’s capable of more. In 44 games, he’s averaged 23.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 3.1 assists, playing 30.2 minutes per game. Brown said last Wednesday he’d ideally like to have Embiid play 38 minutes a game in the postseason. 

I know what I’m capable of, and I know what my teammates think of me. I know I’m capable of carrying the team,” Embiid said. “It’s all about me being assertive. If I feel like I'm not getting the ball, I've just got to talk to them and do what I have to do, but at the end of the day, I should never be in a position to complain about not getting the ball, just because of who I am. 

“I believe I can carry the team. I believe that by being able to do that, I’ve just got to take matters into my own hands. … Obviously I need to be in positions where I feel comfortable, and I'm sure my teammates are going to help me.

Embiid’s partnership with Al Horford was a prominent storyline for the Sixers before the hiatus, mostly because it hasn’t worked as the Sixers hoped offensively. Among regular Sixers duos, the team has the worst offensive rating when that pair is on the floor together, and by a three-point margin

In Embiid’s mind, the pairing isn’t doomed to fail, though he thinks the players surrounding himself and Horford are an important factor. 

I don’t believe there is a problem,” he said. “It’s just a matter of everybody buying in and being able to play their role. The pairing with Al, I feel like it has been fine. At times it could be better but then again, everyone on the court has a job and with that type of pairing you need to have shooters around or you need to have people or guys ... wanting to take that shot, especially, when you’ve got two inside presences like me and Al. 

“He can post up, I can post up and then around, you’ve got to be able to have guys that are willing to shoot and that are going to shoot the ball. I think that's what needs to happen, but I don’t think there’s a problem. I think we're fine. I like him, great guy. We've got to keep on working together. … We are better suited for the playoffs. We’ve got about eight games to get back into it ... so I’m excited.

Horford and Embiid have not played together with a cast of willing and able shooters very often this season. The Sixers as a team are 22nd in three-pointers attempted (31.6) and 14th in three-point percentage (36.2 percent). The duo has shared the floor most often with Tobias Harris, who’s taken the most threes on the team, but the Sixers only have a 101.0 offensive rating when those three play together.  

Embiid seems to think an intuitive understanding of how to play the game — when to take open shots, how to accommodate each other, when to feed the dominant big man in the post — can override what we saw in the first 65 games.

More than anything, he trusts his own abilities when he’s determined to attack. 

“We didn’t get the chance to see it as much this year,” he said, “but you can go back and look at last year’s regular season and what I did, and that’s the mindset I need to have — and even better — if I really want to achieve that goal, which is to win the championship.”

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