Markelle Fultz

Injury Updates: LeBron, Cousins, Paul, Gordon, Fultz

Lakers superstar LeBron James did some shooting but little else during practice on Tuesday, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN. He will miss his fourth straight game on Wednesday due to a groin strain suffered on Christmas Day. It remains uncertain how much more time he’ll need to return. “He’s working on his body, his game, himself all the time. But that’s the first time I’ve seen him shoot [since the injury],” coach Luke Walton said. The Lakers are 1-2 without James.

We have more injury news from around the league:

  • DeMarcus Cousins is still uncertain when he’ll make his debut with the Warriors, Marc J. Spears of ESPN writes. Cousins has practiced with the G League Santa Cruz Warriors and was involved in private 5-on-5 scrimmages with Warriors teammates last week, Spears notes. “It will mean everything when I get back,” Cousins said. “All the hard work. The dedication. Good and bad days. Tears, cramps and pain. Everything.”
  • Rockets guard Chris Paul has “no clue’ when he’ll return from his left hamstring strain, according to Hunter Atkins of the Houston Chronicle. Paul has missed the team’s last eight games.
  • Rockets guard Eric Gordon is hopeful his bruised right knee will heal fast enough to allow him to play against Golden State on Thursday, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports. Gordon, who suffered the injury on Saturday, is waiting for the swelling to go down. “I can’t really do a whole lot,” Gordon said. “They didn’t tell me an actual time frame. I know if I’m able to run. I don’t care how much pain I have, I’m going to play.”
  • Sixers second-year guard Markelle Fultz will be re-evaluated early next week for his thoracic outlet syndrome condition, Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer tweets. The top pick in the 2017 draft hasn’t played since November 19th. Philadelphia remains hopeful that Fultz can return this season.
  • Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. is expected to return to the lineup on Wednesday after missing the last 10 games with a quad strain, Candace Buckner of the Washington Post writes.

Dinwiddie Extension Good News For Rozier, Russell?

League executives at last week’s G League Showcase in Las Vegas were “raving” about the Nets‘ deal to lock up Spencer Dinwiddie to a three-year, $34.3MM extension, comparing it to the Clippers‘ three-year, $24MM agreement with Lou Williams, writes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider-only link).

According to Marks, two teams he spoke to in Vegas had Dinwiddie ranked as the third-best point guard in the 2019 free agent class before he signed his extension, placing him behind only Kyrie Irving and Kemba Walker. That would have put Dinwiddie ahead of younger players like Terry Rozier (Celtics) and D’Angelo Russell (Nets), both of whom are on track for restricted free agency.

Rozier and Russell should benefit from Dinwiddie’s deal, since it takes one of 2019’s top FA point guards off the board and could create additional competition for their services. According to Marks, league execs in Vegas last week identified the Magic and Suns as probable suitors for Rozier and Russell, though the Celtics and Nets will have the upper hand until an offer sheet is on the table.

Here’s more from Marks:

  • Teams are monitoring Markelle Fultz, not just to keep an eye on his health and future, but also to see how Fultz’s status will impact Sixers teammate T.J. McConnell, according to Marks. McConnell is headed for unrestricted free agency and is unlikely to get an in-season extension if Philadelphia intends to maximize its 2019 cap room. McConnell could command a salary in the $5-7MM range, Marks notes.
  • Teams around the NBA believe there could be a strong group of buyout candidates available later this season. According to Marks, the veteran players that clubs are keeping an eye on include Carmelo Anthony, Robin Lopez, Zach Randolph, Anthony Tolliver, Enes Kanter, Kenneth Faried, Jerryd Bayless, Iman Shumpert, Kosta Koufos, Alec Burks, J.R. Smith, and Jabari Parker. Some of those vets may be traded and some figure to remain with their current teams, but I could definitely see several of them ending up on the buyout market.

With ‘Improvement’ To Range Of Motion, Markelle Fultz Eyes Return This Season

While the Sixers‘ front office was supposedly uncertain whether or not Markelle Fultz would be available to return to their lineup this season, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the second-year guard does plan to suit up in 2018/19.

Fultz has joined the Sixers for their Christmas Day game against the Celtics today, accompanying his teammates for the first time in three weeks.

Wojnarowski reports that Fultz does plan to leave the squad again in order to continue his rehabilitation in Los Angeles but has, per his agent Raymond Brothers, seen an improvement in his range of motion since beginning to work to address his Thoracic Outlet Syndrome diagnosis.

Not surprisingly, Fultz and Brothers intend to let the former first overall pick work his way back to 100%  before being thrust back into the lineup but they do expect that milestone to come before the end of the 2018/19 campaign.

Wojnarowski notes that the club has fielded trade offers for the 20-year-old but that they are interested in seeing how he fares throughout the course of his rehabilitation.

Sixers Notes: Fultz, Z. Smith, Roster Depth, Embiid

With Markelle Fultz‘s status as uncertain as ever, Sixers GM Elton Brand admitted Saturday he’s not sure if the second-year guard will play again this season, writes Sarah Todd of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Fultz, who hasn’t seen game action since November 19, has been diagnosed with neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome. He is doing rehab work away from the team, and there’s no timetable for a possible return.

“He’s in L.A. with Judy Seto, … who Kobe [Bryant] swears by, progressing well,” Brand said. “He’ll be with us on Christmas, with his family. … Our staff, or someone from the organization has been in touch with him daily, or someone in his camp daily.”

Brand added that another update is expected after the holidays as team doctors re-evaluate his condition. The top pick in last year’s draft, Fultz had started 15 of 19 games and was averaging 8.2 PPG before being sidelined by the injury.

There’s more this morning out of Philadelphia:

  • Brand has more definite news about this year’s first-rounder, Zhaire Smith, who hasn’t played yet this season, Todd relays in the same story. Smith had surgery on his left foot in August, then had his rehab interrupted by complications from a peanut allergy, but Brand said the organization expects him to be ready before the season ends. “Zhaire is in the gym every morning, early in the morning, sometimes 5 a.m. He’s in good spirits,” Brand said. “He’ll have another test on his foot after the holiday and we expect to see him back this season. Not this year, but this season.” Smith will likely be sent to the Sixers’ G League team in Delaware when he is ready to return.
  • Brand expects to make at least one more move to add roster depth before the February 7 trade deadline, Todd adds. Philadelphia gave up some depth when it sent Robert Covington and Dario Saric to Minnesota to acquire Jimmy Butler. Brand agrees with coach Brett Brown that the team could use another perimeter defender. “We’re not a finished product right now,” he stated. We’re going to get better.”
  • Since the Butler deal, the Sixers have relied on Joel Embiid to provide more 3-point shooting, but the center wants to make that a smaller part of his offensive game, relays ESPN’s Tim Bontemps“I don’t like shooting 3s,” Embiid said. “I only do it because of the spacing that we have, and sometimes I have to take them.”

Magic Rumors: Fultz, Rozier, Russell, Ross, Simmons

As they cling to a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, the Magic are said to be exploring the trade market in search of possible deals, writes Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders.

According to Kyler, an ideal trade for Orlando would involve a starting-caliber point guard. While D.J. Augustin is having another solid season for the Magic, averaging 10.3 PPG and 5.0 APG with a shooting line of .450/.439/.875, the 31-year-old is almost certainly not the long-term solution at the position for the franchise.

Here’s more on the Magic’s hunt for a point guard, along with a couple other rumors out of Orlando:

  • While the Magic have been named as a team with interest in former No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, team sources have downplayed the seriousness of any talks they’ve had with the Sixers, Kyler reports.
  • The Magic have begun to do due diligence on some of 2019’s free agent point guards, with Terry Rozier and D’Angelo Russell among the players on their radar, sources tell Kyler. Rozier is considered Orlando’s top potential target, Kyler adds. However, he’ll be a restricted free agent and figures to attract interest from several other teams too.
  • Although many teams believe the Magic are “open for business,” the front office won’t be willing to make any deals that compromise their long-term outlook, says Kyler. In other words, players on expiring or short-term contracts are Orlando’s most likely trade candidates.
  • Marc Stein of The New York Times suggested on Tuesday that the Magic are more inclined to move Jonathon Simmons than Terrence Ross, but league sources have repeatedly told Kyler that Ross would have more value on the trade market, even though he’s on track to reach unrestricted free agency in 2019. Ross’s name is the one that comes up most frequently from teams that have been “poking around” Orlando’s roster, per Kyler.

Atlantic Notes: Dinwiddie, Butler, Embiid, Fultz

The Nets made news last week when they agreed to a contract extension with point guard Spencer Dinwiddie. The three-year deal totals $34MM+ and includes a player option on the final year, which would allow Dinwiddie to re-enter the free agency market at age 28 to secure another contract.

The decision to give Dinwiddie the extension might have appeared simple on the surface, but Michael Scotto of The Athletic analyzes how it may impact the decisions the Nets have to make on upcoming restricted free agents D’Angelo Russell and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

Russell will very likely be looking for more money on his next contract, while the Nets also have 2019 free agency aspirations as they look to make the next step and become a playoff team. For now, they have locked up a quality point guard for the foreseeable future on a very reasonable contract as they look to navigate the waters without Caris LeVert moving forward this season.

There’s more from the Atlantic division:

  • In his running column on the Sixers for The Athletic, Derek Bodner explored the fit between Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid, especially in light of the comments Embiid made about the questionable fit and role he has had since the trade.
  • The Sixers have struggled recently as a result of Butler’s injury, which, as Tim Bontemps writes for ESPN, exposes the team’s lack of depth on a nightly basis. Bontemps also discusses the notion that subsequent roster moves that would help solve the 76ers’ depth issues moving forward.
  • According to Marc Spears of The Undefeated, Ben Uzoh, a former point guard that also dealt with thoracic outlet syndrome during his playing career, has reached out to Markelle Fultz to provide him with advice on how to navigate the diagnosis and properly recover as the Sixers‘ young point guard looks to get his career back on track.

Sixers’ Management Split On What To Do With Fultz

The Sixers’ front office is divided over whether to trade Markelle Fultz and would expect a quality first-rounder in return if he does get moved, according to Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Fultz, currently sidelined while dealing with neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome, has improved his numbers slightly after a disappointing rookie season. He is averaging 8.2 PPG in 19 games, 15 of them starts, but continues to struggle with his shot, hitting just .419 from the field and .286 from 3-point range.

The Sixers entered win-now mode after the Jimmy Butler trade, Pompey notes, and don’t need the distraction of trying to develop a young player. However, they are wary of seeing him turn into a star somewhere else, knowing that former GM Bryan Colangelo will get the blame if Fultz fails in Philadelphia, but the current group will be held responsible if he is traded away cheaply.

The Sixers have already refused several offers for Fultz, which indicates that other teams aren’t willing to part with potentially high first-round picks. Pompey states that rival organizations believe Philadelphia will lessen its requirements as the February 7 trade deadline draws nearer, adding that teams remain unconvinced that Fultz will overcome his shooting problems or shoulder injury any time soon.

Fultz hasn’t played since November 19 and is working out in Los Angeles while rehabbing the shoulder. His agent, Raymond Brothers, said on December 4 that Fultz would miss three to six weeks, which could put his return as late as mid-January.

Pompey speculates only a few teams — possibly as many as 10 — might take a chance on Fultz. He lists the Pistons, Magic and Heat as potential landing spots, stating that a league source confirmed Detroit was among three teams that reached out to the Sixers. Whoever winds up with Fultz will be committed to playing him $9.7MM next season and will have to make a decision on his fourth-year option in October.

Sixers Turned Down Multiple Offers For Markelle Fultz

The Sixers have rejected multiple offers for Markelle Fultz, sources tell Candace Buckner of The Washington Post. Buckner writes that it’s not only that Philadelphia hopes it can get Fultz back on track and align him with the team’s stars — it’s also a case of the team not receiving respectable offers for the second-year guard.

The Fultz was recently diagnosed with neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome after seeking out appointments with specialists. Buckner hears from a source that the Sixers didn’t hear about the news of Fultz seeing a specialist until after it hit Twitter and went viral.

The 20-year-old’s situation fluctuates between unique and bizarre on nearly every level. Buckner, in a piece that’s worth reading in full, details how the camp around Fultz has changed since he left college.

Keith Williams, who is a prominent trainer, is no longer working with Fultz as he had been throughout Fultz’s high school and collegiate career. Williams was a friend of the Fultz family and he mentored Markelle from the age of 7-years-old, way before the guard was on the NBA’s radar.

When Williams originally starting working with Fultz, he nicknamed the kid “Bambi” because of his clumsiness and general lack of grace. “Bambi” was Fultz’s name in Williams’ phone until Fultz made the coach change it to something else.

Williams is partially responsible for transforming Fultz from a young kid with poor, funky mechanics to the dynamic player with the smooth jump shot that the Sixers and Washington Huskies coveted. Williams says he noticed a change from that form in Fultz’s jump shot during the summer before Fultz reported to his first NBA camp. According to Williams, he asked Fultz about the change and the point guard told him that “it feels like somebody’s holding my arms down.”

Williams is no longer involved as prominently in Fultz’s life after a falling out with his family. Williams tells Buckner that he believes his separation from Fultz has impacted the former No. 1 overall pick’s game.

Fultz’s mother, Ebony, has always been known as an involved parent and sources tell Buckner that she remains an imposing figure in his life. Buckner chronicles how Ebony has made efforts to protect her son in unorthodox ways.

Ebony has previously confronted coaches and staff at the AAU level. According to Buckner, Ebony cursed out Fultz’s former coach Corey McCrae when he chastised her son after he had to drag Fultz out of bed on the day of an AAU tournament game. Multiple people tell Buckner that they believe the incident forced McCrae to leave the program.

Ebony still goes to great lengths to shield her son, sources tell Buckner. She had cameras installed inside his New Jersey home (the cameras have since been removed). Several people familiar with the setup described it as unusual. His mother has also asked some who have dealt with Fultz to sign nondisclosure agreements for “reasons that are unclear to them,” Buckner writes.

“There’s definitely crazy [expletive] going on with the mom and how involved she is and how overprotective she is,” said a person with a close connection to Fultz tells Buckner. “The best possible situation is if the mom just backs off for a period of time and gives him a chance to breathe.”

Ebony was asked about these claims and didn’t wish to address the allegations of her over-involvement. “I’m not concerned about what other people are saying. I’m concerned about my son’s health right now. That’s my No. 1 priority,” she said. “At this time, I don’t have a comment. We just found out what’s going on with my son and I want to put all of my energy on him and what he needs, the support he needs right now to get healthy.”

No one on the Sixers is blatantly calling the Fultz’s situation a distraction. His teammates are saying the right things as they wait to see him on the court again.

“This is hard,” teammate Wilson Chandler said. “We’ve seen this a few times when players have injuries and you can’t find out what it is and you’ve got people saying it’s not an injury, it’s mental and it’s all these other things. But you know, everybody knows their own body. I’m glad he finally found something. Now he can be at peace with that at least and work to get back on the court.”

Joel Embiid understands what it feels like to miss significant time due to injury. “I can see myself  [in Fultz’s situation] and I know he’s going to put in the work and come back and prove them wrong — just like I did,” Embiid said while maintaining that he didn’t want to comment on Fultz’s personal life.

“That’s none of my business,” he said. “I just know that he’s a great person. He comes in every day, does his job and tries to make the team better. He’s a great guy. Everybody around loves him. I love him personally but that’s his business. I don’t want to get into the whole family thing.”

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Finding A Markelle Fultz Trade: Pistons Edition

It’s becoming clear that Markelle Fultz isn’t in Philadelphia’s future plans, as neither side appears keen on a long-term relationship. While the former No. 1 pick doesn’t have a ton of trade value on the market, some rival teams are looking into the situation.

The Pistons are among the teams doing due diligence on Fultz, Rod Beard of the Detroit News relays, confirming a previous report that Detroit was interested in the Washington product. It was previously reported that the Suns have also expressed interest.

It’s not clear what the Sixers’ asking price is for Fultz. The injured guard played in just 19 games for Philadelphia this season, missing time without specific details on his ailment until it was announced that he was suffering from neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome.

Beard takes a look at what Detroit could offer and speculates that it’s unlikely that the Pistons move a first-round pick in a potential deal. They surrendered their 2018 first-rounder in the Blake Griffin trade.

Ish Smith ($6MM) and Reggie Bullock ($2.5MM) are each on expiring deals and could be useful to the Sixers this season. Bullock, in particular, would provide Philly with another floor spacer on the perimeter. He made 44.6% of his shots from behind the arc last season. He came back down to earth this year, making 35.0% of his attempts while battling ankle woes.

Smith served two separate stints as a Sixers’ floor general during the less glamorous periods of The Process. He’s a slightly below average shooter from downtown, but Beard argues that he could provide the team with a spark off the bench.

With Bullock slumping and Smith providing neither top shooting or defense, finding a workable trade is difficult. Short of a Detroit offering a first-rounder, it’s hard to see the incentive for the Sixers to send Fultz to Motown.

Perhaps Philadelphia looks at Detroit’s roster and narrows in on a young prospect, such as Luke Kennard or Khyri Thomas, and decide to build a package around him. No reports have surfaced relaying what exactly the team is looking for in a Fultz trade, so it’s hard to speculate on what deal would make the most sense.

Fultz is making $8.3MM this season with $9.7MM coming in next year. His deal contains a team option on the 2020/21 season worth $12.3MM.

Do the Pistons have the right assets to make a Markelle Fultz deal with the Sixers? If you were Detroit’s GM, what would you offer for the former No. 1 pick? If you were in Philadelphia’s front office, what would you accept? 

Let’s us know what you think in the comment section below. We look forward to what you have to say!

Magic, Pistons Interested In Markelle Fultz

The Magic and Pistons have expressed interest in trading for Sixers guard Markelle Fultz, who remains away from the team dealing with neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome, according to Dave Early of SB Nation’s Liberty Ballers.

Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free Press also relayed Detroit’s interest in trading for Fultz, speculating that a future first-round pick and salary filler likely wouldn’t get a deal done. Jose Calderon, Glenn Robinson III and Zaza Pachulia all become trade-eligible for the Pistons on Saturday.

The Magic have long been targeting a point guard and could offer Terrence Ross in a potential package. Ross will become a free agent on July 1, which would allow the 76ers to re-sign him on a separate deal or create cap space for a star talent. Orlando has a talented young core of Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac and Mo Bamba, with the team starting 11-year veteran D.J. Augustin in its first 27 games of the season.

The Suns have also monitored Fultz’ situation, although their interest has since cooled, according to the Liberty Ballers report. Phoenix prefers to find an established backcourt player in trade discussions to play alongside Devin Booker

Fultz would welcome a fresh start on a new team, The Athletic reported last month. He’s played in 33 games across two seasons since being drafted No. 1 overall by the Sixers in 2017, holding per-game averages of 7.7 points and 3.4 assists while shooting 41% from the field.