After weeks of silence on the real status or progress of former-Sixer Markelle Fultz, the Sixers have started the year 2019 by putting the 2017 #1 overall pick behind them with a big but relatively quiet trade. The trade is relatively quiet so to speak only because Philly overshadowed it by stepping up with another big trade giving themselves a legitimate BIG 4 All star level core. Its also quiet because up until now after the trade Fultz himself has been almost silent and kept out of the media sightline.
Add to that the general trade deadline activity and the NBA All Star break and you get a big trade that flies somewhat under the radar. Now however quietly some details on Fultz's perspective and his new teams view of the situation is getting to the public. The new team has been talking and Fultz himself has been talking much more than before.
So given the continuing storyline, I'm compelled to add another chapter to the Rational Fultz series.
RATIONAL FULTZ POST SERIES
- The Fultz draft trade, a rational look (Part 1)
- The Philly Fultz Factor
- Define "Yips" please.
- Ruh, roh! Fultz shoulder not 100% ?
- Rational Fultz - What to do now? Part 2
- From Process to Burners
- Patience will pay off for Magic and Fultz
Magic/Sixers post Fultz trade details and musings
Magic President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman has been pretty open on answering questions around the trade, unlike the Sixers who seemed to have all their staff on virtual silence mode regarding anything Fultz related. He gave some good insights on this podcast with the Orlando Magic Pod Squad. Here's a link direct to the Fultz trade discussion.
Podcast Interview Points Worth Highlighting
- Magic feel they are in the playoff hunt this season which normally would make a trade hard with a team like Philly in the playoffs. It was the Sixers "win-now" mode along with Markelle's unusual situation that made this even possible for them.
- Weltman says all reports they have found on Markelles character are that he is very high character from high school forward.
- Magic Director of Pro personnel tracks other teams players after the draft including a player like Markelle.
- The Magic watched Fultz's Sixer film and felt the TOS didn't really affect the rest of his game, only his shot, so they could see the rest of the talent in place.
- Markelle Fultz feels he's towards the end of his progression now through rehab in LA. That would fit with why his agent said earlier in January that he expected Markelle to return this season.
- The Magic are "hoping" the solution can be found with the rehab. By comparison though, Fultz feels like the solution has already been found now with his TOS diagnosis and that he will be able to get back to his old self.
- Magic are not in hurry because they look at their young player as Jonathan Issac at 21 years, Fultz at 20 and Mo Bamba at 20. Issac,Fultz, Mamba, that's 21,20,20, an NBA baby nucleus that they could conceivably keep together.
- Podcast crew thought with Ben at PG, Sixers running very little PnR the fit was also bad in Philly from the start.
- They also took note of Weltman's report that Markelle feels he has found the real injury problem now.
- Someone on the podcast team also thought coach Sixer Brett Brown seemed to show some remorse over the Fultz trade in his remarks.
I'm not sure what Brett Brown really thought of the Fultz trade although he made it clear some time ago that after the Butler trade both he and Elton Brand were all in on winning and winning now.
There are stories that at least a few other teams were interested in Fultz but clearly the Sixers felt the best offer was from the Magic who they will play against right in their own conference.
Brand indicated that they were getting a player they think is still in the process of bouncing back from injury himself and can help them now in Jonathan Simmons while at the same time replenishing a bit of the draft pick stock they used up to form their current Super Team. Without knowing what other teams might have offered this seems like a good deal if they felt they had to deal Fultz now.
Despite Elton Brand and the Sixer team doing a great job overall by putting together what is no their version of a super team, this still feels like it quite possibly could end being the first major Brand Blunder for the young GM.
Despite the Salary cap implications, if Fultz shows his shooting stroke to be repaired late this season or even going into next season his value even as a future trade piece is going to go up almost overnight. Significantly up. If we assume the 2 sides were going to divorce eventually either way, the Sixers would have had ZERO problems unloading a healthier Markelle Fultz with his cost controlled rookie contract at a much higher value as soon as next season.
Who knows to what conversations did happen between he Suns and Sixers, and whether or not Phoenix had any interest in Fultz.
Feux general manager James Jones noted in a radio interview following the deadline that he spoke with all of the other 29 teams in the league (that is believable, but inconsequential), and one would presume that in the moments leading up to the trade with Orlando coming to fruition, Sixers GM Elton Brand probably called Jones and laid out what Orlando was prepared to offer seeing if Phoenix wanted to either match or surpass the deal laid before him (one would have to imagine that Brand would have preferred to move Fultz to the Western Conference rather than in division in case Fultz does develop and bites Philadelphia in the butt).
While the story in the general media and in Philly seems to be more of a surprise that Elton Brand was able to get as much as he did back in trade for the "biggest bust" pick the Magic view is obviously different. Beauty is still in the eye of the beholder. After the interview the Orlando crew feels the Magic may well have a home run hit here getting a talent like Fultz that rarely comes available in the NBA with the bonus of getting him at a big bargain price if it turns out that Fultz is right about the injury being the main issue with his game the whole time.
I tend to agree.
Fultz himself is also more talkative in public it than it seems he ever was during his troubled time as a Sixer.
The picture was of a young Fultz wearing a Magic basketball jersey. Years back, Ebony Fultz said she bought her son a few kids’ jerseys of the teams that she liked at the time, so actually there was no significant meaning to Markelle owning Orlando gear.
To Markelle, however, the image meant much more, especially after the way he had struggled to find his footing in the NBA over the first 1½ years of his career. To him, the picture signified fate finally being on his side and that things in his life – both personally and professionally in terms of basketball – were about to turn around for the better.
``It’s crazy because I was talking to my mom about it, but I always have like little visions, every once in a while, and when I seen that picture, I was like, `Maybe it was meant to be,’’’ Fultz said of being a member of the Magic. ``It was pretty dope.’’
Fultz's clear implication here is that the Sixers were no longer willing to give Fultz the full time he needed for rehab.
In other words Fultz and his camp felt the Sixers were rushing them back to the court without respect to whether he was physically ready or not. This certainly seems to be the case at the start of his NBA career when he had no business playing any NBA games with the clearly broken free throw and shooting stroke he displayed in his first 4 NBA games.
Few firm details about the timetable of Fultz’s return to on-court action were revealed on Thursday, but the point guard said there’s relief in knowing that the Magic are willing to give him the time and support needed to properly recover from the injury that has sidetracked his career.
Markelle stresses here that now his rehab has him doing the right things the right way, clearly implying that up until now whatever was being done was not the right things or the right way for his condition.
``Rehab’s going great. We’re doing stuff the right way,’’ said Fultz, who accompanied on Thursday by his mother, sister and agent, Raymond Brothers. ``I have a great group in LA and the (Magic) staff here is going to be coming out to help me with that. But, right now, everything is going perfectly.
``We’re just worried about doing stuff the right way,’’ he added after being asked about a specific timetable for his return to basketball. ``Right now, it’s just about getting to where we’re all on the same page and we’re all doing the right things.’’
Just a little bit of reading between the lines and the comments speak volumes about the situation Kelle' felt he was in with Philly, not on the same page regarding the injury therefore not doing the right things.
On Thursday, Fultz gave some insight into the injury that has unknowingly affected him for the better part of two seasons. He has played just 33 NBA games, averaging 7.1 points, 3.8 assists and 3.1 rebounds in 18.1 minutes a night as a rookie and 8.2 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 22.5 minutes over 15 games this season.
Because the nature of the injury is often difficult to detect, the symptoms hidden from the naked eye and the occurrence uncommon in basketball players, Fultz’s struggles seemed mysterious to some. He admitted on Thursday that there was a distinct in relief in getting the diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome on Dec. 4.
``It’s hard to lift up your arm and you lose feeling in your fingers. It’s not like you can tell when it’s going to happen and it’s not like (it happens when) you do the same motion every time. But you get tingling in your fingers, numbness and stuff like that,’’ Fultz said. `
`It was tough because you hear all the stuff about this, that and the third (with rumors), but you’re trying to figure it out yourself and it’s so hard to describe. If you’ve never been through it, you’re not going to know. But if you talk to anybody who has, they’ll tell you that it changes your life drastically.’’
What it did change was the shooting motion that Fultz used at the NBA level. In college at Washington, Fultz was often seen as an unstoppable force because of his rare blend of size, speed and ball-handling skill while averaging 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.9 assists and 1.6 steals in one season with the Huskies.
With the Sixers, however, Fultz’s wrist and shoulder issues might have played a major role in him elongating his release and creating a noticeable hitch shooting motion. In his two NBA seasons, he has shot just 26.7 percent from 3-point range and he’s mostly shied away from even taking shots from range. What he didn’t lose, he insisted, was his confidence as a basketball player.
``I had an injury and I was out there trying to play through that. I never lost confidence,’’ he said with conviction. ``I love this game dearly and I’ve worked so hard to get here. I didn’t lose confidence and I’m just working hard to be back healthy.’’
Added Fultz’s mother, Ebony, ``To see him hurt…that was very hard because ‘Kelle is a very good kid. He’ll give you the shirt off his back."
Ebony said she talks regularly with the doctors and therapists who are caring for her son and she has noticed steady improvement to Markelle’s outlook on his recovery.
``We talk about the progress, how he feels better and the things that he does on a day-to-day basis with Judy (Seto),’’ said Ebony, who plans to move from Philadelphia to Orlando to assist her son in his transition to a new city and a new team. ``I talked to Judy (Seto) when she recently came out to Philly when he was there for a few games. She was with the Lakers and Kobe for years. So, we talk a lot about he’s feeling.’’
The Story Continues
With this trade, especially because it leaves Fultz right in conference with the Sixers, the Fultz story will continue as the Sixers will play the Magic 3 or 4 times a year without counting the playoffs and I could imagine the schedule maker kicking it to 4 given the circumstances.
The Sixers didn't trade Fultz to the Suns or anyone in the Western conference so the future Fultz story now has a very interesting potential twist where the Sixers could actually be facing their former #1 pick as part of a team that actually matters and stands in their way in the NBA playoffs at some point! This season that doesn't sound like much of an issue, although its not impossible, but as early as next season a young hungry Magic team led by Fultz could be a real opponent that matters to the new Sixer Super Team along with the Celtics, Bucks, Raptors and not to be left out Pacers and Nets.
It'll be interesting to see how the Orlando offseason plays out. The way he Magic are showing signs of life right now without even being a healthy team, they probably shouldn't be dismissed.
Listening to the press conference, I don't think Markelle was particularly trying to throw shade at the Sixers or his former team as much as he is still in a mindset to show the world and his many "haters" that he has been as he said "trying to play through" a real physical injury.
The two primary accusations that run through the media and much of the fan world have been that A) His problem is mostly or all mental and B) He doesn't really want to play the game. You can hear in his responses that he's totally on defense against those accusations as anyone who has a history of being an elite level competitor should be.