Markelle Fultz has not played NBA basketball since the fall when he was a member of the Philadelphia 76ers.
The first pick in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Sixers, the 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, Fultz was selected before the Los Angeles Lakers’ Lonzo Ball and the Utah Jazz’s Donovan Mitchell.
Fultz struggled to find any sense of normalcy while in the City of Brotherly Love.
On October 23, after Fultz went 1-for-4 from the field in 16 minutes against the Detroit Pistons, Raymond Brothers, Fultz’s agent, told ESPN that his client “had a shoulder injury and fluid drained out of the back of his shoulder. He literally cannot raise up his arms to shoot the basketball. He decided to try and fight through the pain to help the team. He has a great attitude. We are committed to finding a solution to get Markelle back to 100 percent.”
In December, Fultz’s agent, Raymond Brothers announced the former 76ers guard was been diagnosed with Neurogenic Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS).
Brothers described it as a physical injury that “affects nerves between the neck and shoulder resulting in abnormal functional movement and range of motion, thus severely limiting Markelle’s ability to shoot a basketball. TOS is treatable by physical therapy.”
According to the MayoClinic, common causes of TOS include “physical trauma from a car accident and repetitive injuries from job- or sports-related activities.
Philly traded Fultz at the trade deadline in February, shipping him to the Orlando Magic in exchange for Jonathon Simmons, a top-20 protected first-round pick in 2020 and a second-round pick in 2019.
Fultz has a fresh start, BUT he has not played a minute of hoops for the Orlando Magic this season.
“The Markelle Fultz situation is interesting to me because I want to see the kid do well,” HoopsHype’s Alex Kennedy told me on the Scoop B Radio Podcast.
“It’s really unfortunate to see what’s happened to him. He’s obviously been through the ringer, I do think that there obviously are mental aspects to this injury, he gets frustrated when people talk it being a non-physical thing. I think it started as a physical thing, and now there’s also the mental part, that’s how I look at it, so I think, as long as he’s in denial about that, it’s going to be really difficult to really address this and really mature into the player that we know he can be. I think, right now, you see there’s a lot of stigma with mental health, and I think the NBA’s doing a good job trying to battle that, you see guys like DeMar Derozan and Kevin Love and other players talking about anxiety and depression and things like that, but this is something that we’ve seen in sports for many, many years, and we see in baseball, all of a sudden the guy can’t throw the ball from the pitcher’s mound to the catcher, we’ve seen guys in golf, all of a sudden, just lose the ability to put.”
Orlando Magic head coach, Steve Clifford noted in March that it would be “very difficult” for Fultz to return this season.
“He’s still rehabbing his shoulder and he’s not even able to really do much on the floor yet,” Clifford said, per ESPN. “It’s a pretty significant shoulder injury. I would say he’s starting to do a little bit, but it would be very difficult for him to get back this year.”
Fultz has been seen on the bench at games. Fultz sounded optimistic that he can resurrect his career with the Magic.
“I think the biggest thing that we’ve talked about is just doing stuff the right way, just building me up as a man and on the court,” Fultz explained to the Orlando Sentinel. “I think that’s music to my ears. Two things that I really want to do is be the best player I can be and be the best young man I can be. They do a great job of doing that as you can see with the team they have now.”
“I do think that TOS rehab could be good for him,” Alex Kennedy told Scoop B Radio.
“Maybe going through this and getting a fresh start in Orlando, I think the combination of those things could help him, I think in Orlando, he’s not going to be under a microscope as much, in Philly, everyone wanted to see him step up and be a star there and be that guy who pushes them over the edge, and make them the contenders.
“In Orlando, there’s not going to be a lot of eyes on him, there’s not high expectations, the goal is to compete two or three years from now, to be completely honest. They are still kind of young players like Jonathan Issac, like Aaron Gordon, like Mo Bamba, they’re bringing these guys that are solid project players and the goal, obviously, to make the playoffs.”
“No one expects them to make it to the Eastern Conference for quite some time, they’re being very patient and that’s kind of the way that they’re continuing. But Orlando, I love the feel that they’re a low-risk, high-reward group, they have so much going for them, if it doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out, at the end of the day, you tried.”
“I think it makes sense and I’m hoping they’re going to stick with him in Orlando. But yeah, there’s much less pressure on him and maybe that could be good for him. I honestly want to see him build his confidence back up.”