76ers

Sixers to rest Jahlil Okafor Tuesday, Joel Embiid Wednesday

Sixers to rest Jahlil Okafor Tuesday, Joel Embiid Wednesday

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor have been playing under minute restrictions this season. They also will be limited in back-to-backs.

The Sixers have consecutive games on Tuesday at home against the Magic and Wednesday on the road against the Hornets. Embiid will play Tuesday and stay back in Philadelphia on Wednesday. The team is planning for Okafor to sit out against the Magic (he will be suited up and available) and play in Charlotte.

“In regards to back-to-backs, we always felt that was going to be a challenge,” Brett Brown said after practice Monday. “This particular one, given Jahlil’s sort of infant stages into becoming healthier, we’re going to not use up his minutes tomorrow night and then spend our money more in Charlotte.”

The Sixers have 17 back-to-backs this season. Initially, it seemed unlikely Embiid would play in them given he is coming off two years of rehabbing foot injuries. His minutes have been capped at 20 to this point.

Then, Embiid had responded to game action so well during the preseason that the Sixers began to consider the possibility. Earlier in the month, Brown said the likelihood had "certainly progressed from 'no back-to-back' to 'we are looking at it.'"

But the Sixers decided that at this early stage of the season it is more beneficial for Embiid to remain in Philadelphia when he is not playing. He will have the opportunity to go through an individualized workout at the training complex on Wednesday. The Sixers are not scheduled to hold a shootaround that morning in Charlotte.

Okafor has been more restricted than Embiid. After aggravating an injury in the knee on which he had meniscus surgery last March, he was held out until the final preseason game. His minutes were maxed at 16 on Saturday, designated over smaller segments. The team has discussed increasing Okafor's playing time on Wednesday but has not determined a number. 

“It’s been tough,” Okafor said of the limitations. “There’s been times where I’ve gotten really frustrated and just wanted to go out there. But overall, it’s been benefitting me. My knee’s feeling really good right now and that’s what I want.”

Okafor will watch the game in uniform on the bench Tuesday. On Wednesday, Brown will look for Embiid to communicate what he sees during the game. The coach exchanges messages with his players at halftime when they are not with the team.

The Sixers will continue to monitor the availability of both Embiid and Okafor for consecutive games as the season progresses.

“I think it’s whatever level is a little bit more planned than week-to-week,” Brown said. 

“We feel like we’re getting a better handle on how this all works. There are some variables that you just can’t declare that this is perfectly how it’s going to work out.”

Elton Brand and Brett Brown answer questions about Markelle Fultz's shoulder, but many still remain

Elton Brand and Brett Brown answer questions about Markelle Fultz's shoulder, but many still remain

CAMDEN, N.J — Markelle Fultz will see a shoulder specialist for a consultation on Monday in New York, as recommended by his agent Raymond Brothers, Sixers general manager Elton Brand confirmed Tuesday. He won’t participate in team practices or games until that consultation.

That much we know. 

The rest of Fultz’s situation is murkier.

Brand and head coach Brett Brown responded to the many questions about Fultz, but many still remain. Neither knew why Fultz went from saying “everything feels good” on Nov. 6 to seeking outside consultation.

“I’m not sure,” Brand said. “Whatever it is, we’ll support him. We just want the best for him, and we’ll figure out a way to get that out of him.”

It’s possible the normal “bumps and bruises” Brown and Fultz said the 2017 No. 1 pick was dealing with two weeks ago may not have been as innocuous as they sounded then. 

Brand said there had been specific conversations about Fultz’s shoulder, as well as other ailments that he classified as minor — not the kind of things that would keep someone “medically off the court.”

“Yeah, I’m sure there [were conversations]," Brand said. "Other things, too. Other things that players who are playing more than 20 minutes a game complain about or get treatment for.”

However, Brand said this isn't the first time Fultz will see an outside specialist.

“In the last year, yes, he’s seen specialists per Raymond’s recommendation," he said. "I don’t know how much we can talk about, but yes, he’s seen specialists.”

Brown was surprised by the news. He thought the scapular imbalance which sidelined Fultz for 68 games as a rookie was 100 percent healed. 

“It was my understanding that it was pointing in the right direction, that it was good,” Brown said. “I was playing him, he’s lifting weights, it’s all good. So, this situation has come up, and we’ll deal with it.

“This news about his shoulder, it did catch me off guard. But if it’s that real that he needs to go seek further consultation, then we support him. In my eyes, it’s not complicated. That’s what it is, and we’ll support him.” 

The motivation for Brothers seeking a consultation for Fultz remains unclear. Both Brand and Brown said they didn’t want to speculate that there might be a correlation with T.J. McConnell taking Fultz's backup point guard minutes in the Sixers’ win over the Suns on Monday night (see story).

Brand did say he spoke “a little about on-court stuff” with Brothers but that he wanted to focus on Fultz’s medical situation. 

The one obvious answer is who replaces Fultz while he’s out. There’s no question it’s McConnell. Brand wouldn’t entertain the possibility of external options until the Sixers know more.

“We’ll see after the agent-recommended consultation,” Brand said. "We’ll see how it goes. We’ll see how he feels and what’s going on. I’m sure T.J. is going to play a lot more minutes. I’m really glad we have a player like T.J. in the fold to be able to step up like I’m sure he will.”

To add another twist to an already bizarre story, The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey reported that Fultz “participated in light shooting with teammates” on Tuesday, though the team did not hold a formal practice. 

The last Fultz-related question Brown answered was about whether he sometimes wishes he could just walk into work and have a normal day.

“Our definition of normal in this building and with our program is probably different than most,” he said. “I’m personally fine with it. You just roll. You have to absorb things and move. ... I think that we’re pretty steady and consistent around here. I hope we are. 

"I’m the head coach, so I hope that is generated, as much as anybody, by me. And we’ll deal with this thing with Markelle accordingly.” 

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Sixers' Markelle Fultz to miss time, see shoulder specialist

Sixers' Markelle Fultz to miss time, see shoulder specialist

Updated: 2:07 p.m.

The Markelle Fultz shoulder saga just took a strange and troubling turn.

At his agent's recommendation, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick is scheduled to see a shoulder specialist Monday in New York and will not participate in practices or games until the evaluation is completed, Sixers general manager Elton Brand confirmed Tuesday.

The news was first reported by The Athletic's David Aldridge.

This is not good.

Drama surrounding Fultz's right shoulder gained serious steam Nov. 12 when the 20-year-old guard had a bizarre hitch in a free throw attempt during the Sixers' 124-114 win over the Heat. Fultz, who put up a concerning jumper a week prior against the Nets, said the ball slipped out of his hand on the inadvertent pump-fake foul shot.

Fultz's routine at the charity stripe then changed last week as he started juggling the ball between his hands, all the way up into his release, starting Friday vs. the Jazz.

Now, at the direction of his agent Raymond Brothers, Fultz will have to miss time as he seeks clarity on his shooting shoulder.

On Nov. 6, Fultz said “everything feels good.”

"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.”

The Sixers play Wednesday (vs. Pelicans), Friday (vs. Cavaliers) and Sunday (at Nets), then have two days off before a home game next Wednesday against the Knicks.

Fultz played just 14 games his rookie season, which was marred by injuries and the mysterious shoulder issue. Before the 2017-18 campaign, he suffered a left ankle injury and dealt with soreness in his right knee. Then came the scapular muscle imbalance in his right shoulder during October 2017, forcing him to miss 68 games.

After some early positives with his shooting stroke this season, Fultz has attempted just one three-pointer (which was nearly a full-court heave) over his last 11 games and free throws have become a hurdle of sorts.

Another hurdle Fultz and the Sixers are trying to clear.

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