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.