Markelle Fultz is out indefinitely. What started as “shoulder soreness” - and for all intents and purposes kinda still is - is now what’s being described as soreness and “scapular muscle imbalance” in his right shoulder. One doctor (of whom I have heard conflicting reports regarding his reliability on twitter) said you shouldn’t be surprised to see Fultz in a special, brace-like shirt, and that an injury like this “takes longer to correct as his body and muscles need to be retrained.” It can be fixed with therapy, however. But that is not why I am here. I am here to - brace yourselves - defend the Sixers’ medical staff.
Let’s ignore the handling of the Sixers’ injuries on the PR front. We all know things have been wonky there in the past, but that’s just pen and paper, not stitch and scalpel. So let’s take a very brief look at the Sixers’ success with those who were “out indefinitely.”
As far as I can tell looking back at old medical releases, the Sixers may have never actually described Simmons’ injury with those two words, but he was, in fact, out indefinitely from training camp onward last season. Conspiracy theories (and just straight-up common sense, in some cases) say that Simmons was likely healthy and could have played towards the end of last year, but he didn’t for draft reasons/ROTY bonus reasons/precautionary reasons (choose one or more).
Fast forward to this season. The Ben Simmons whose broken foot had people worried about his future is averaging 17.5/7.5/9.5 (18.3/7.9/10 per 36) while flashing some serious defensive potential. His medically-repaired foot seems to be bothering him roughly 0%. Sam Hinkie talked a lot about having the “longest view in the room,” and what view is longer than sitting your star pick for a whole season in order to have him come back better than anticipated. For all of the crap the medical staff gets when it comes to preventing injuries, you have to see this as a success.
Unlike Simmons, Embiid has actually been “out indefinitely” in the past. In fact, a February medical release featuring Simmons and Jerryd Bayless described Embiid in those terms, along with Tiago Splitter. Remember when Tiago Splitter was a Sixer? Wild.
We all know Embiid’s story. Back injury in college. Navicular bone break somewhere between college and the draft. Navicular bone refusing to heal properly leads to a second missed season. Unrelated knee issue keeps Embiid capped at 31 games last season. He’s an enormous man, and enormous people tend to get hurt more than (and not heal as well as) normal sized humans. JoJo has still played in less than 40 career games, but the back injury has not resurfaced, the twice-repaired foot has not resurfaced, and the knee is so far, so good (and also surrounded by “he was actually fine” rumors).
The smack-talk will never end. Fans of other teams will never stop ragging on Embiid for missing two years, Simmons for missing one, and now Fultz for missing however long he’s going to miss. But would you trade the on-court results from Embiid and Simmons for a little less talk? Never. Would you trade the team’s super cautious approach after seeing Simmons and Embiid share the floor? Not even close.
It’s easy - like, incredibly easy - to rag on the team’s medical staff and its repeated issues. But Nerlens and Jah aside (if you think Jah’s knee is still a problem), the team and medical staff have fixed Ben Simmons’ foot with surgery and essentially saved Joel Embiid’s career when people already wrote him off for good.
Reports indicate that Fultz will not need surgery. We know that can always change. And if you cast aside the team’s handling of medical transparency, shit luck when it comes to injuries, and uncanny ability to get in their own way, the medical staff has actually done a good job in a vacuum.
Fultz’s injury (or soreness or non-injury or whatever) is the world’s least surprising bummer, and complications are sure to follow. I am not here defending the team’s handling of medical issues, but I’m saying that the results, when it comes to the two most-prized players in recent team history, cannot be denied.