It’s unclear how long it will be until Markelle Fultz suits up in a game for the Sixers. Earlier today, it was reported that Fultz would see a specialist for his shoulder and the former No. 1 pick would not play until that happens.
Philadelphia didn’t have a formal practice on Tuesday, but Fultz participated in some light shooting, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. The participation came after Fultz’ agent and attorney, Raymond Brothers, delivered the news of the outside appointment to GM Elton Brand earlier in the day. Brand seemed a bit surprised by Fultz’s need to seek an additional medical opinion.
Prior to Fultz working out, Brand told reporters, including Pompey (video link), that the team isn’t pushing Fultz hard as the second-year guard looks to recover. He did add that there was nothing the Sixers “saw medically that didn’t allow him to play.”
Fultz’s appointment with the specialist will come on Monday, according to Brand (video link via Pompey). Brand was told by Brothers that Monday was the earliest they could get an appointment. It’s not typical that a player’s agent would establish the parameters for a player’s absence.
Fultz has the right, under the CBA, to seek an opinion on an injury from a non-team doctor, and Sports Illustrated’s law expert Michael McCann wonders if the Fitness-to-Play Panel portion of the CBA might eventually come into play here. That article, which is the same that Chris Bosh invoked as he fought with the Heat about his blood clotting issues, instructs independent physicians to address disputes over players’ health conditions.
McCann admits that it’s too early in the process to suggest this kind of a panel is forthcoming. He also notes that NBA.com’s David Aldridge specifically used the wording “at the direction of his attorney” when he reported the news that Fultz would miss time, something which could ostensibly signal that Fultz’s camp is preparing for the day where the law enters this unique situation.
Tiptoe down the branches on the tree of speculation and you can find scenarios in which legalities could come into play. Perhaps Fultz’s camp has reason to believe the Sixers will view his upcoming absence as unauthorized or maybe Fultz could also have concerns about how the team will depict his situation in the media while he’s away.
It’s unclear whether Fultz sought medical treatment from team doctors for his latest concerns but if he did, perhaps he was unhappy with the treatment. McCann notes that if Fultz found the medical care to be substandard, he may have grounds for legal action.
There have been unconfirmed reports that Fultz suffered the shoulder injury while in a motorcycle accident sometime in 2017. If the speculation is true and it happened after the former No. 1 pick officially inked his deal, the Sixers would have a path to suspend him or void his contract, McCann writes. NBA players are not allowed to drive or ride motorcycles or mopeds of any kind without consent from the team (s/o Monta Ellis).
Fultz is still on his rookie contract, a deal that pays him a guaranteed salary of roughly $8.3MM this season and $9.7MM next year. The Sixers hold a team option for the 2020/21 campaign worth approximately $12.3MM. The deal isn’t near an albatross by NBA standards and the Sixers are void of mid-level salaries for trade purposes, so I’d speculate that the situation never gets to the point where Philadelphia’s front office looks to legally get out from Fultz’s deal.
Coach Brett Brown touched on Fultz’s situation, calling the latest update “real red-flag type news,” Pompey relays in a separate tweet. Brown also said he believes Fultz is having a “good year,” adding that the team supports the point guard as he looks to get healthy.
Fultz was moved to the bench once Jimmy Butler made his debut. During the first three games of Butler’s tenure, Fultz played slightly over 18 minutes per game off the pine. Yet, on Monday against the Suns, Fultz saw just seven minutes of action after Brown decided to give T.J. McConnell those backup minutes instead.