Markelle Fultz has spent the start of his NBA career battling through a shoulder injury and shooting his free throws like someone throwing laundry into a hamper. He hasn’t played well, but that’s not much of a concern at all, since he is 19 and rookie point guards tend to be bad. What is concerning is that Fultz’s struggles appear to be the result of him playing through a moderately debilitating injury. Just four games into his career, he would seem to have little to gain from it and a ton to lose.
Fultz has all but abandoned his jump shot, taking only nine field goal attempts on the season from 8-16 feet and none from further than 16, according to NBA.com. Watch him play and this is even more glaring than the numbers make it look; Fultz has been hesitant to pull up and doesn’t seem to trust his shoulder at all. Were he a 35-year-old vet with a couple of All-Star appearances trying desperately to keep his team in the playoff hunt, there might be a case for pushing through this kind of game-warping pain. But Fultz is not there and neither are the Sixers. This doesn’t make any sense.
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski spoke with Fultz’s agent Raymond Brothers, who revealed that Fultz had his shoulder drained right before the season started and will see a specialist soon. Brothers said Fultz can’t raise his arm above his head, which many observers believe is an important thing for the playing of NBA basketball:
“Markelle had a shoulder injury and fluid drained out of the back of his shoulder,” agent Raymond Brothers told ESPN. “He literally cannot raise up his arms to shoot the basketball. He decided to try and fight through the pain to help the team. He has a great attitude. We are committed to finding a solution to get Markelle back to 100 percent.”
That’s a little dramatic; Fultz has, if we’re being literal about it, put his arms above his head this season. The same can be said of the spin that Woj seems to have let in his report as a little thank you to Brothers:
“From a basketball perspective, it’s been encouraging to see that Markelle can get any shot he wants during the games, but he has been unable to shoot the ball,” Brothers told ESPN.
The only way any of this makes sense would be if Fultz’s confidence were more at risk than his shoulder, and if the Sixers felt that getting him on the court and keeping him an active part of the team was more important than letting him heal all the way up from his shoulder injury.
Update (8:54 p.m. ET): Brothers has amended his comments, saying now that Fultz’s shoulder wasn’t drained, but that he got a cortisone shot into his shoulder. From ESPN:
“He had a cortisone shot on Oct. 5, which means fluid was put into his shoulder — not taken out,” agent Raymond Brothers told ESPN on Tuesday night. “My intention earlier was to let people know that he’s been experiencing discomfort. We will continue to work with (Sixers general manager) Bryan Colangelo and the medical staff.”