I really appreciate that Markelle Fultz didn’t sail his first pitch at today’s Phillies game, because I would have been forced to irrationally defend him for the sake of the site’s brand. His throw to home wasn’t perfect, but the faux warm-up routine was a nice touch, and at least he got the ball there without bouncing.
More importantly, Fultz continued to double down on the playoff aspirations of his teammates. During a brief media availability session prior to the first pitch, he continued to emphasize that the playoffs are a universal goal for the program this year.
“My confidence is high,” he said. “It's nowhere near cockiness, it's just me having confidence. I believe in the team. I believe in what I can do, what the coaching staff can do. Everybody on the team's goal is to make it to the playoffs and everybody believes we can make it.”
While I’m hesitant to lock them into a playoff spot just yet—having two rookies as your primary playmakers is pretty terrifying—everything is trending in the right direction so far. They won 28 games with Joel Embiid playing just 31 games on a minute restriction last year, added the best players in the last two drafts, signed a great-fitting veteran to knock down threes, and watched as the Eastern Conference continued to crumble around them.
He justified his confidence by expressing faith in the people around him in Philadelphia.
“Just the talent level that was here before I even got here and just being around the coaching staff,” he said. “Seeing their visions and what they can see and what they can draw up and what they see in the new players that just came in. We're all on the same page and we're going to work hard to get there.”
Later on during the interview, Fultz was asked about being swarmed on all sides by the team’s ever-present motto, “Trust The Process,” and you guys must really be letting him have it any time you see him walking around the city.
“Anywhere you go in Philly, you're going to hear that,” he said. “Embiid started that and you have to trust the process. It's something I say, too. You won't be surprised. You can go anywhere. You can be in McDonald's. You can be walking down the street and you're going to hear that.”
While I’m beginning to question if Fultz eats anything other than fast food—I guess I didn’t when I was 19—I get the feeling he’s going to be hearing that chant a lot more starting this fall.