Markelle Fultz

Southeast Notes: Fultz, Wizards, McMillan, Hawks

Former No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, who spent much of the 2021/22 season recovering from a torn ACL, only ended up appearing in 18 games for the Magic and found himself playing alongside mostly new teammates, given that the roster has been overhauled since he suffered that ACL tear.

However, as Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel writes, Fultz acquitted himself well in his limited action this season, shooting a career-high 47.4% from the field and averaging a career-best 5.5 APG despite logging only 20.0 minutes per contest.

According to Price, in a recent appearance on FM 96.9 The Game’s Open Mike with Mike Bianchi, Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman described Fultz as “exquisitely talented in creating offense for others” and said the team believes he has a “crazy physical package of size and skills and vision.” It sounds like Orlando has big plans going forward for Fultz, who – for his part – was thrilled to feel fully healthy and comfortable during the final couple months of the season.

“I’m honestly the most excited I’ve ever been just to have a summer where I’m not really focused on rehab or recovery and I can really attack my summer head-on,” Fultz said. “I know I have a few goals I want to hit, but this is the summer I can really focus on my summer and enjoy the process.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • The Wizards will have a lottery pick this June, but they’re unlikely to use the draft to add a starting point guard, according to Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington, who says the team figures to turn to free agency or the trade market to find that player.
  • After making the Eastern Conference Finals a year ago, the Hawks were one of the first teams eliminated from this year’s playoffs. Chris Kirschner of The Athletic takes a look at what went wrong in 2021/22 for Atlanta and says that Nate McMillan‘s job security wasn’t a question as of a few days ago — it’s unclear if the way the Hawks’ season ended could change the equation at all, Kirschner writes.
  • In his offseason preview for the Hawks, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) outlines how team ownership’s willingness to pay the luxury tax could impact Danilo Gallinari‘s future and examines the case for extending forward De’Andre Hunter before he reaches restricted free agency in 2023.

Eastern Notes: Beal, Irving, Fultz, Thibodeau

Wizards star Bradley Beal isn’t opposed to receiving interest from rival teams, he said on Draymond Green‘s podcast, as relayed by James Herbert of CBS Sports. Beal will be eligible to sign a five-year, $245MM contract with Washington this summer if he turns down a $36.4MM player option and becomes a free agent.

“I’m kind of embracing everything,” Beal explained, “so I’m not upset about the rumors, I’m not upset about, you know, teams wanting me. I feel like that’s a good thing, right? We put in the work and we’re wanted by a lot of people, not just where we’re at.” 

Beal has seen his name surface in trade rumors, but the 28-year-old hasn’t requested a trade and Washington hasn’t appeared willing to deal him. Beal’s production dipped this season, but he still managed to average 23.2 points and 6.6 assists per game on 45% shooting from the floor.

“It’s kind of funny. I’ve never been a free agent,” he said. “It’s kind of reminding me of college recruiting. Like I hear every single game somebody’s recruiting me. Someone’s like tagging on me, whether it’s another player or whether it may be a coach or whoever it may be, somebody’s chit-chatting: ‘B, what you want to do this summer? What you doing this summer?'”

There’s more out of the Eastern Conference:

  • In an Insider-only story for ESPN.com, Kirk Goldsberry considers what Kyrie Irving‘s full-time availability will mean for the Nets and their title chances. As Goldsberry notes, while Irving certainly makes Brooklyn’s offensive attack more dangerous, the team’s defense remains a question mark.
  • Magic guard Markelle Fultz is starting to feel more comfortable just one month after his return, Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel writes. Fultz missed more than a year due to a torn ACL, making his debut on February 28 against the Pacers. He most recently finished with 16 points, three assists and three steals in 19 minutes against the Kings on Saturday, showing potential on both sides of the ball.
  • Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau is offended by claims that he’s stunted Obi Toppin‘s growth by not giving him enough minutes, plus that he mistreated Kemba Walker, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Thibodeau also lashed out at some social media critics and writers. “It’s a team, not an individual thing,” he exclaimed. “Can’t pick up a box score after and say, ‘How many people are watching to the end of the game’ to really know exactly what happened in the game. I see a lot of opinions, but I don’t see guys doing the work to actually study it.’’ 

Magic Notes: Rotation Changes, Ross, Fultz, M. Wagner

Magic coach Jamahl Mosley plans to experiment with different lineups for the rest of the season, writes Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel. The recent returns of R.J. Hampton and Markelle Fultz from injuries give Mosley more options to work with in juggling his rotations.

“These last [17] games are about finding different combinations that work together,” Mosley said. “We want to make sure these guys understand … different minutes and different opportunities for guys that haven’t played.”

One change that has taken place since the All-Star break, Price points out, is less reliance on the combination of Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs and Gary Harris. Mosley had them on the court together frequently after Suggs returned from a fractured thumb in mid-January, and the team was outscored by 31.4 points per 100 possessions in those minutes. Price notes that the three players haven’t been used together at all in the four games since the break, with Hampton seeing more time in three-guard lineups.

There’s more from Orlando:

  • Terrence Ross was a healthy scratch Friday night for the first time all season, Price adds. Ross was mentioned frequently in rumors ahead of last month’s trade deadline, but the Magic opted to keep him. “Terrence doesn’t get in the game because it gives another guy an opportunity,” Mosley said. “That’s one thing we’re going to continue to look at for the rest of these games: Different lineups, different rotations, certain guys will play, certain guys may not, but it’s a great way for our guys to learn and gain experiences. It’s finding out what it looks like from game to game. It’s a conversation game to game. These guys are willing and understand … they want their brothers to succeed, they want their brothers to get better. They’re very supportive in whichever way we go about it.”
  • Even though Fultz is healthy, it appears the Magic don’t plan to use him in both nights of back-to-backs. Fultz sat out Friday’s game at Toronto, but is expected to be active tonight in Memphis, the team announced (via Twitter). He has played twice since returning Monday from an ACL injury that sidelined him for more than a year, averaging 10.5 points, 2.5 rebounds and 4.0 assists in 15.5 minutes of action.
  • Moritz Wagner isn’t on tonight’s injury report, so he may play after missing the past nine games with a left rib contusion, Price tweets.

Southeast Notes: Heat Buyout Approach, Gafford, Fultz, Porzingis

The Heat have been active in the buyout market in past years and they could fill their open roster spot will a veteran in the coming weeks, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. Miami could look to add a power forward if Markieff Morris remains out or wait to see if another rotation player gets injured. Winderman doesn’t expect the Heat to fill the spot with a long-term prospect as they did with Kendrick Nunn three years ago or Omer Yurtseven last season, since they’re focused on winning a championship this season.

We have more info on the Southeast Division:

  • Daniel Gafford has long-term security after signing an extension that runs through the 2025/26 season. However, the Wizards big man had to be patient to regain a starting role, Josh Robbins of The Athletic writes. Following a bout with COVID, he replaced Thomas Bryant in the starting five on Friday and produced 17 points and six rebounds  in 29 minutes. “There was a lot of frustration, but at the end of the day, I wanted to be a good teammate. I didn’t want to wear my feelings on my sleeves,” Gafford said. “There was times where I did, but at the end of the day, I can’t bring that negative energy around the team. So I apologized to the team for that, the times that I did do it.”
  • Markelle Fultz made his season debut tonight. It’s the end of a long hard road of rehab for the Magic guard, who tore his ACL last season. “It’s been a long time coming,” Fultz told Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel. “It’s been a long time of just all the hard work I put in. All those tough days, I did it for this moment right here, just to be able to go out there and be able to compete. Just happy. Not many words I can express it.”
  • Though Kristaps Porzingis doesn’t appear to be close to making his Wizards debut, coach Wes Unseld Jr. said they’re not thinking about shutting him down for the season, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington reports. “You hope that at some point you don’t see the effects they are concerned with and we can kind of expedite the return. But until that point, we’re going to treat it day-to-day and hope that he responds well,” Unseld said. Porzingis has already been ruled out of Tuesday’s game against Detroit due to knee soreness.

Markelle Fultz To Return On Monday

Magic guard Markelle Fultz announced that he’ll return to action on Monday, the team’s PR department tweets.

Fultz will be making his season debut after rehabbing from an ACL injury to his left knee suffered early last season. He had been practicing off and on with the team since December and is finally return to step on the court again. He appeared in just eight games last season but suffering the tear in early January 2021.

Fultz’s three-year, $50MM contract extension kicked in at the beginning of this season.

The Magic already have some young pieces in the backcourt in Cole Anthony, Jalen Suggs and R.J. Hampton, so it will be interesting to see how Fultz, the top pick in the 2017 draft, will fit in for the remainder of this season. Hampton returned to action on Friday after missing 14 games due to a knee sprain.

Southeast Notes: Morris, McMillan, Hunter, Magic

Heat power forward Markieff Morris, who has been sidelined since suffering a neck injury thanks to a hard foul from Nuggets center Nikola Jokic on November 8, will have to fight to gain back rotational time he has lost, opines writes Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel.

Winderman notes that Miami opted to bring in Morris as the first backup power forward behind starter P.J. Tucker in the 10 games this season when Morris was healthy, but that the team may consider small-ball lineups with versatile reserve wings Caleb Martin or Max Strus playing nominal power forward minutes for the Heat.

There’s more out of the Southeast Division:

  • Hawks head coach Nate McMillan reflected on his time in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols and away from his players, per Sarah K. Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. McMillan recently cleared protocols and has returned to coaching the team. “I’ve never had to go through anything like that,” McMillan said. “To coach during this time with COVID, some of my guys, it’s been close to a month since I’ve seen them.” The Hawks, who had 13 players in the protocols at one point in late December, are currently 17-22, the No. 12 seed in the East.
  • Hawks small forward De’Andre Hunter is nearing his return to the team, according to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic (Twitter link), who reports that Hunter played in a full five-on-five team practice today. Trainers must green-light Hunter’s return to game action, which could happen as soon as tomorrow against the Heat, per head coach Nate McMillan. Hunter underwent surgery on his right wrist in mid-November. In 11 contests with Atlanta this season, he averaged 10.8 PPG on .450/.395/.400 shooting, along with 2.7 RPG and 0.6 SPG.
  • Young Magic point guards Jalen Suggs and Markelle Fultz have resumed practicing with the team, according to Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel. Power forward Jonathan Isaac, who has been absent since tearing his ACL in August 2020, is inching towards a return of his own, though Suggs and Fultz appear closer to rejoining their Orlando teammates on the hardwood. Fultz tore his left ACL early in the 2020/21 NBA season and has been absent ever since. Suggs continues to wear a splint for the fractured thumb on his right hand. Exact return timelines for Suggs and Fultz have not been determined.

COVID-19 Updates: Pacers, Kidd, Fultz, Tre Jones, Daigneault, A. Brooks

Justin Anderson and Torrey Craig have become the latest Pacers players to enter the league’s health and safety protocols, per James Boyd of The Indianapolis Star (via Twitter). The Pacers now have six players in protocols. Craig signed a two-year, $10MM deal with Indiana last summer, while Anderson just signed a 10-day hardship contract with the team last week.

On the bright side, Pacers assistant coach Lloyd Pierce has cleared the protocols and has returned to the team, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files.

Here are some more COVID-related updates:

  • Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd has entered the protocols, with assistant coach Sean Sweeney set to take over his duties Friday night in Houston, sources tell Marc Stein of Substack (Twitter link). Kidd is the 13th head coach to enter the protocols.
  • Markelle Fultz isn’t ready to return from his torn ACL yet, but he has exited the protocols for the Magic, according to Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel (via Twitter).
  • The Spurs‘ outbreak continues, with Tre Jones being the sixth player currently in the protocols, tweets Tom Orsborn of the San Antonio Express-News.
  • Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault has cleared the protocols and will resume his duties Friday vs. Minnesota, the team tweets.
  • Rockets guard Armoni Brooks has exited the protocols and is listed as available for Friday’s game against the Mavs, as Mark Berman of Fox 26 (KRIV) relays (Twitter link).

Southeast Notes: Hawks, Butler, Kuzma, Fultz, Okeke

It’s clear that changes are necessary to improve the Hawks‘ defense, but the team’s current personnel may not provide any quite fixes, according to Chris Kirschner of The Athletic, who suggests that it’s an area Atlanta could look to address on the trade market.

Trae Young scored 56 points with 14 assists for the Hawks on Monday night, but it wasn’t enough for a victory, since the club surrendered 136 points to a Portland team missing Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Acting coach Joe Prunty acknowledged after the game that something needs to change on defense.

“There are a lot of things that need to be addressed. A lot of things that we have to do as a team to get better at,” Prunty said, per Kirschner. “There are things we have talked about, things we have worked on, but clearly we need to continue to do it. It’s going to be hard to win a game giving up 136. We’ve done this a few times now. We have to get better across the board as a team, that’s coaches and players.”

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Jimmy Butler exited the Heat‘s game in the third quarter on Monday due to a right ankle injury and will undergo further testing today to assess the severity of the ailment, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. For his part, Butler – who has already experienced some right ankle problems this season – doesn’t seem to believe it’s a significant injury. “If you talk to Jimmy right now, he says he’s fine,” head coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We will have to evaluate it and see how he feels.”
  • Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma had a career night on Monday, putting up 36 points, 14 rebounds, and six assists in a win over Charlotte. As Ava Wallace of The Washington Post writes, Kuzma is getting more and more comfortable with his new team and believes he’s in a “great situation” in Washington. “Fit and opportunity is everything in this league,” Kuzma said on Monday.
  • Magic guard Markelle Fultz, who continues to recover from ACL surgery, is now in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, but forward Chuma Okeke has exited the protocols, tweets Khobi Price of The Orlando Sentinel. Okeke missed Monday’s game due to return to competition reconditioning, but should be nearing a return.

Southeast Notes: Heat, Hornets, Magic, Spoelstra

The Heat will be missing several players to start their four-game road trip on Monday in Cleveland, including Jimmy Butler (tailbone) and Markieff Morris (neck), Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel tweets. The club will also be without Bam Adebayo (thumb) and Caleb Martin (protocols).

All four players won’t be traveling with the team, receiving their treatment in Miami instead. In addition, veteran guard Victor Oladipo (knee) has yet to play this season, but Winderman notes that he’ll be traveling with the team and sitting on the bench.

Morris has been sidelined for the past 17 games, while Butler returned on December 6 after missing four games. Butler re-injured himself during that contest, costing him the past two games (and counting). Despite playing without several key players, Miami still holds the fourth-best record in the East at 16-11.

Here are some other notes from the Southeast Division:

  • Roderick Boone of the Charlotte Observer examines whether the Hornets should pursue Pacers big men Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner. Indiana is reportedly open to discussing the players in trades as it ponders whether to start a rebuilding phase. Both Sabonis and Turner would likely start if they were acquired by the Hornets, who currently starts Mason Plumlee at center.
  • Despite owning a 5-22 record, the Magic remain optimistic due to the impending return of guard Markelle Fultz, Khobi Price of the Orlando Sentinel writes. Fultz suffered a torn ACL last January and fully practiced with the team on Friday for the first time since sustaining the injury. “It was great to have ‘Kelle on the floor,” head coach Jamahl Mosley said of Fultz. “As long as there are no hiccups, he’s going to continue to progress in the right direction.”
  • Heat coach Erik Spoelstra questioned the league’s strategy with handling players in health and safety protocols, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes. “Why would they be held out extensively longer than if they have the flu?” he asked. “I think there’s a contradiction there.” The same couldn’t be said a year ago when vaccines weren’t widely available, but now that they are, it could raise an interesting discussion.

Southeast Notes: Fultz, Kuzma, McMillan, Reddish

Markelle Fultz took another step toward making his season debut, as he joined his Magic teammates in Los Angeles and practiced with the squad, according to Dan Savage of the team’s website.

Fultz, who has been rehabbing from an ACL injury to his left knee suffered early last season, called the practice a “great experience.” He participated in five-on-five and three-on-three scrimmages and shooting drills.

There’s still no timetable for Fultz’s return. He has practiced with the team’s G League affiliate in Lakeland and could spend more time with Lakeland, depending on the Magic’s practice, travel and game schedule.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Wizards forward Kyle Kuzma has entered the league’s health and safety protocols and won’t play on Saturday, Ava Wallace of the Washington Post tweets. Additionally, Kuzma been fined $15K by the league for making an obscene gesture to a fan, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. Kuzma made the gesture in Detroit on Wednesday.  He scored 26 points that night and made the game-winning shot.
  • Head coach Nate McMillan drew interest from two other teams after the Hawks’ surprising playoff run but was only interested in signing an extension with Atlanta, he told Marc Spears of The Undefeated“The Hawks really started talking to us probably during the Eastern Conference Finals,” McMillan said. “They were like, ‘Look, we want you to come back.’ My thing was just to stay focused on the playoffs. And at the end of the season, the conversation was had.”
  • Cam Reddish returned to action on Friday, though the Hawks forward went 0-for-6 from the field and didn’t grab a rebound in 17 minutes. Reddish hadn’t played since November 27 due to a left wrist sprain.