Southeast Notes: Fultz, Heat, Bridges, Lee

Free agency is quickly approaching for Magic guard Markelle Fultz, who is hoping to re-sign with Orlando, writes Jason Beede of The Orlando Sentinel. Fultz battled through recurring problems with his left knee that limited him to 43 games this season. He began the season as a starter, but only remained in that role for 18 games and saw his numbers drop across the board as he struggled to stay on the court.

“I had my ups and downs,” Fultz said. “I had my little bumps and bruises on my knee and arms. I’m just glad I was able to finish the season out healthy. Of course, I missed some games during the season but being able to finish the year off with my brothers, have that experience of the playoffs and make it to a Game 7 was huge for me. I’m just grateful.”

After a rocky start to his NBA career, the top pick in the 2017 draft appeared to have established himself with the Magic during the 2022/23 season. He started all 60 games he played, set career highs with 14.0 points, 3.9 rebounds and 5.7 assists per game and had career-best shooting marks of 51.4% from the field and 31% from three-point range. But his future seems less certain now at age 26 and coming off an injury-riddled season.

“I understand it’s a business,” Fultz said at the team’s exit interviews. “I understand some guys are going to be gone [and] some coaches might be gone. You never know. You obviously hope for the best, but understand that you can only control what you can control, and in my eyes, I always try to do that.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Head coach Erik Spoelstra will focus on fixing the Heat‘s offense this summer, per Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Injuries made it difficult for Miami to establish any continuity as Spoelstra was forced to use 35 different starting lineups. Beyond that, Chiang points out that the Heat had difficulty with inside scoring — attempting just 28.5% of their shots around the rim, which was the third fewest in the league, and shooing 63.4% in the restricted area, which ranked seventh worst.
  • Miles Bridges‘ decision in free agency will set the tone for the rest of the Hornets‘ summer, observes Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. The team would love to re-sign Bridges, but he figures to have plenty of options on the open market after posting a career season while playing on a $7.9MM qualifying offer. Boone notes that Bridges’ $15MM cap hold and the $7.5MM salary slotted for the No. 6 pick will take up most of Charlotte’s projected cap space, so the team is limited in the moves it can make until Bridges’ situation is resolved.
  • In a separate story, Boone examines the type of head coach the Hornets are getting in Boston assistant Charles Lee, who won’t be with the team full-time until after the end of the NBA Finals.
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