By Peter Gleason
Sixers guard Markelle Fultz has rejoined the Sixers to continue therapy on a shoulder condition, pushing for a return to the lineup this season.
There’s no timetable yet on Fultz playing again this year, ESPN is reporting, and he was on the team’s bench yesterday during the Sixers-Thunder game..
Fultz flew on a red-eye flight from Los Angeles and arrived yesterday in Philly, where he met with Sixers officials before the team’s 117-115 loss to Oklahoma City, sources said.
“First, it’s great to see him. It seems like he’s been away a long time,” Sixers coach Brett Brown said. “And, you know, there’s been a lot of water that’s gone under the bridge since he has passed … I don’t even know the quantity of games. That’s the first thing — it’s good to have him back.
“Secondly, to try to assess what type of shape is he in? Where is he at basketball-wise? He’s been doing a lot of physical therapy and that type of thing, but as far as, like, endurance and cardio and basketball shape, I don’t know. I think once we can assess that judgment, to try to get him back on track to where he can come on an NBA court and play again. But I don’t know how far away that is. I think that’s the next step physically, to assess where is he at conditioning-wise.”
Fultz, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft, left the Sixers to meet with medical specialists on Nov. 21 and hasn’t played a game since. He was diagnosed with a condition called thoracic outlet syndrome and has been working with therapists in Los Angeles since Dec. 6, but he did return east for a short visit at Christmas.
Fultz’s agent, Raymond Brothers, told ESPN three weeks ago that his client is progressing well in rehabilitation on his right shoulder and expects Fultz to return to the team this season. “We want to make sure he’s 100 percent and healthy when he does come back,” Brothers said at Christmas.
Brothers said that Fultz has been regaining strength and mobility in his right shoulder, which the agent believes will improve a jump-shot form that has failed him thus far in the league.
On the advice of Brothers, Fultz visited with multiple specialists in late November and early December. Brothers told ESPN in early December that thoracic outlet syndrome “affects nerves between the neck and shoulder, resulting in abnormal functional movement and range of motion, thus severely limiting Markelle’s ability to shoot a basketball.”
Fultz has lost the ability to carry out and follow through on long jump shots, and there’s been internal and external debate about how much of this perplexing circumstance is physical versus mental.
“People were saying it was a mental problem, and it is not,” Brothers told ESPN in early December. “There’s no way you’re the No. 1 pick in the world and all of a sudden you aren’t able to consistently raise your arms to shoot a basketball. Something is physically wrong. Now we have the answer to that problem.”