By Steve Kelly

So, is Sixers No. 1 overall draft pick Markelle Fultz buried on the bench for the remainder of this Eastern semi series with the Celtics?

Not really, says coach Brett Brown, who has used T. J. McConnell as a back-up point guard to Ben Simmons.

Brown said late yesterday that the decision to play McConnell over Fultz in Game 1 on Monday — and for most of the postseason so far — shouldn’t “shock anybody, given how we arrived and where we’ve arrived.”

“There are times where you for sure think about [playing Fultz],” Brown said. “… But I got a decision to make, and I’ve made a decision. That doesn’t mean it’s etched in stone. It’s always something that you review and think about. And the care for Markelle Fultz and his future is always on my mind.”

Fultz returned in late March after a 68-game absence for a shoulder injury. He played well in the final 10 games of the regular season, averaging 7.6 points, 4.6 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1 steal in 17.7 minutes per game. He recorded a triple-double in the season finale, becoming the youngest player in NBA history to do so.

“Markelle Fultz played 10 end-of-season games for the year, and T.J. played the whole year and had a helluva year and we won [16 in a row], and we were winning, we were playing good basketball,” said Brown, whose team is 4-2 in the playoffs. “… I decided to do it because there is continuation of growth of a whole year [with McConnell]. … T.J. grabbed a spot and walked it down, we won a series.

“But it’s not anything that I’m not open to always reviewing. I’ll do whatever it takes to help [Fultz] help us. ‘Us’ being the key word.”

Brown suggested that, in a perfect world, Fultz would have had more time to get acclimated to the NBA before this point in the season. Fultz played the first four games of his rookie season but then missed the next five months due to the shoulder injury. Brown credited Fultz for handling his reduced role well.

“I think he’s been unbelievable, coachable and [has had an] unbelievable spirit,” Brown said. “These questions [from media members] that we’re going through, my discussion with him is very brief and it’s a fist-bump and he moves on.”

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