Markelle Fultz returned to the floor last night against the Denver Nuggets; it was his first game in action since the Sixers traveled to Detroit on October 23rd. 68 games missed over 211 days.
I think I can speak for every Sixers fan when I say that the whole occurrence was a tornado of feelings and emotions. From Brett Brown’s press conference when he announced Fultz would play, to pregame shots of Markelle’s mother and sister in attendance (makes me wonder how far in advance Fultz and the Sixers knew this was the game), to Markelle checking in to a loud ovation and then running directly into a player or two, to the hesi-pull-up jimbos.
Honestly, it was one of the most joyful experiences I’ve had watching basketball this season, which says a lot considering how much this Sixers team has done this year. It truly felt like a weight was lifted off the shoulders of every fan in Philadelphia. And only part of it was, “Okay we can breathe now, our valuable asset still remembers how to play basketball.” It was so much more than that. You felt for this kid, and you wanted to see him put the past behind him. Markelle saw just 14 minutes of play, but it was cathartic and put the past behind himself (and Sixers fans) he did. It just added to a formula that makes this team have a very special feel to it.
It wasn’t perfect by any stretch of the imagination. Early on, Fultz seemed to forget that tall people play basketball. When he wasn’t getting to the rim, he settled for jumpers. But first, he emailed the Nuggets bigs to let them know. And so, we saw quite a few heavily contested shots. And there were typical hiccups you’d expect between turnovers and communicating with his teammates.
Yet, with every passing minute, Markelle’s confidence seemed to grow. Before long, he was demanding the basketball to bring it up the floor and initiate the offense. Fultz had something he wanted to prove. Then, he broke out the hesi-pull-ups and I’m quite sure a baby or two was made in Philadelphia last night.
It was just fun. Joyous. Breathtaking...? Eh, I don’t if it was breathtaking. But there is this, and I’ve said it earlier: this team is special. With an elite starting 5, bench shooting and now possibly a dynamic scorer at guard off the bench, the Sixers are a straight-up problem. Even removing the potential to make playoff noise, there’s just a feel to this squad that I can’t say I’ve felt since Allen Iverson was stepping over Tyronn Lue and doing Hulk Hogan hand to the ear calls at the crowd in the First Union Center. And having ‘Kelle back makes it all the more enjoyable.
Philadelphia welcoming Markelle Fultz to the floor as he checks in:
Markelle Fultz gets a standing ovation from the Wells Fargo Center crowd as he checks in pic.twitter.com/X0YAwhym0Q— Yahoo Sports NBA (@YahooSportsNBA) March 26, 2018
Markelle’s first bucket, a layup, accompanied by Celine Dion:
Had to do it.— TITANIC HOOPS (@TitanicHoops) March 27, 2018
Markelle Fultz's first bucket since October is even better with Titanic music!!! Good to see him back.
His first jumper, a miss:
Fultz's first jumper that no one will overreact to at all pic.twitter.com/HgOVnhlxl1— Dime on UPROXX (@DimeUPROXX) March 26, 2018
About the jumper, a few things: it airballed because first, his feet weren’t set. So he hesitated to shoot, and probably thought it wasn’t a very good idea and took it anyway. His arms/shoulders/wrist looked fine. Which leads to a greater point: his jumper is fine. 100% fine. People will critique because everyone is a shot doctor nowadays. Would Ray Allen say his shot mirrors Markelle’s? Hell no. It’s not perfect. But I don’t see any reason ‘Kelle can’t be a successful jump shooter in the NBA.
He showed the touch around the rim we saw at Washington:
• 10 points— Sporting News (@sportingnews) March 27, 2018
• 8 assists
• 4 rebounds
• 1 acrobatic finish
In his first action since Oct. 23, Markelle Fultz did not disappointpic.twitter.com/NXAIngBmVp
And of course, the hesi pull-up jimbo:
HESI PULL UP JIMBO FROM FULTZ pic.twitter.com/oOt5dzJdJM— Drew Corrigan (@Dcorrigan50) March 27, 2018
Fultz finished with 10 points, 8 assists and 4 rebounds with just 1 turnover in 14 minutes. He shot just 5-13, but again, he saw more success later than earlier as he felt himself out. The entire performance was confidence-instilling regardless. He was aggressive and he’s exactly what this Sixers team could use in the playoffs.
Full Markelle highlights: