Lost in the dazzling glow of a T.J. McConnell TRIPLE-DOUBLE was a post-game Joel Embiid interview featuring an interesting tidbit about Markelle Fultz.
Embiid went on NBA TV after Monday’s night’s win and was asked about the situation surrounding the injured rookie guard. The relevant passage begins around the 5:01 mark:
— NBA TV (@NBATV) February 13, 2018
“I feel like we’ve been really close since he got to Philly, and I feel like I’m the guy who can help him the most because I went through it. I missed two years, you know, going through all of those injuries, and that’s what he’s going through right now. All I’ve been trying to tell him is to take his time. Everybody’s going to criticize you, especially when you’re the number one pick. Everyone’s going to criticize you, call you a bust, I was called all of that during my first two years. But I don’t exactly know what the origin of the problems are. I’m still trying to figure that out. But I don’t feel like a lot of people around him have had his back. He’s only 19 years old and that can be hard. The people around you that are supposed to support you, that aren’t supporting you, it’s hard. I was in that situational especially after my first year when I needed a second surgery and I lost my brother. I just wanted to quit, wanted to get away and go home and literally leave everything behind but I’m glad I stuck with it and kept pushing and worked really hard. That’s a tough situation, but the main thing I always thing I tell him is just to stay patient and keep working hard.”
Obviously the takeaway there is the part about “people around” Fultz not having his back.
We know the Sixers have not been on the same page with Markelle’s camp for some time now, going back to October, when his agent, Raymond Brothers, spilled the beans on the shoulder injury (the ‘drained shoulder’ which was corrected to explain that he instead received a cortisone shot). Similarly, Kyle Neubeck over at Voice reported yesterday that Fultz has been working with his personal trainer outside of Sixers control. Bryan Colangelo claimed Friday that he still doesn’t know how the shoulder injury happened.
I’ve always felt like the Sixers are partially falling on the sword to protect their young player while also being annoyed that both parties are not at all on the same wavelength. The injury reportedly took place in August, when Fultz was not with the team, which lends to the theory that he did something on his own to cause this entire mess. The Sixers are taking the brunt of the bullshit but could have done much more to help themselves, such as sit down with Fultz’s people and craft a false narrative to protect the player, or simply removed him from practice sessions and the public spotlight entirely.
And Joel is not wrong when he compares his situation to Markelle’s, though Embiid’s injury status was much more straightforward. At least we knew what was wrong with him. But reporters shot Embiid pregame video for two years before he got on the floor and became the player he is today. People forget how fragile that situation used to be.
So that’s the silver lining, I think. Best case scenario, Fultz is back on the floor by March. Worst case scenario, you shut him down and get him ready for a top four run next season.