Markelle Fultz was supposed to be the yin to Ben Simmons’ yang. Instead, the crazy talented point guard barely saw the floor in Philadelphia.
Some blame the Sixers for not nurturing him and developing him as a player after the team invested the No. 1 overall pick in Fultz. The Maryland native played in just 33 games in two bizarre seasons in Philadelphia, some of the missed time due to a legitimate right shoulder injury and part because of a mysterious mental block that affected his shooting stroke.
He was later diagnosed with “thoracic outlet syndrome,” a neurogenic type of disorder affecting nerves between the neck and shoulder resulting in abnormal functional movement and range of motion.
In the end, the Sixers couldn’t rely on their promising young guard and sent him packing to the Magic. The team made the best of a bad situation and netted themselves what they thought was a decent haul in return for Fultz. The change of scenery has done wonders for Fultz who has blossomed into a solid player in Orlando.
The 21-year-old is averaging 11.9 points and 4.6 assists in 27.3 minutes per game this season. Fultz made headlines last week when he broke out for a triple-double in a 119-118 win over the Lakers in a game where he tallied 21 points, 10 assists and 11 rebounds. The performance was so impressive that LeBron James took notice. So did Fultz’s former coach in Philadelphia.
“You’re happy for him, you really are,” Sixers coach Brett Brown told The Athletic’s Rich Hofmann. “You look at what he’s been doing, I reached out to his agents right after the Laker game and said it’s a great story. He’s good people. So from a human standpoint, with complete sincerity, you’re happy for him. It’s a journey that none of us could have imagined and good on him. Like he didn’t blink, he kept moving forward and I wish him well.”
LeBron James Praises Fultz’s Development in Orlando
When the King reaches out, you answer the call. That’s exactly what Markelle Fultz has done during his career rebirth in Orlando.
The former Sixers No. 1 draft pick explained last week that LeBron James has been in contact with him multiple times to offer words of encouragement. James recently reached out after Fultz’s 25-point outburst against the Nets on Jan. 6. Fultz said, per NBA.com, that James has been “like a mentor” to Fultz.
“He’s reached out to me multiple times, he’s been a mentor to me and he’s always told me that I could reach out to him for anything,” Fultz told NBA.com on Jan. 14. “Recently, when I scored 25, he reached out to me and showed love. He’s like a mentor for me, and it’s so cool.”
Four games later, Fultz gave James an up-close look when he went he recorded a triple-double against James’ Lakers. The accomplishment was not lost on the King who heaped gush-worthy praise on Fultz after the contest and admitted that he’s been keeping tabs on Fultz since high school.
“They’re confident in him, he’s confident in himself,” James said, via ESPN. “He’s given an opportunity to go out and play the game how he grew up playing. Everything else takes care of itself. I’ve been supportive of him ever since he was in high school when he was a rookie in Philly. Been supportive of his situation and still [am] to this day. I’m happy as hell for him.”