First overall pick Markelle Fultz missed 68 games due to injury and at one point, it seemed that his entire rookie year would be lost to a phantom shoulder ailment. Instead, Fultz has returned and given a spark to the Sixers the last seven games.
Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer relays that Fultz was “hurt” with the situation because he was not able to play.
“It wasn’t anything about expectations or anything,” Fultz said. “I just felt like something I loved doing I couldn’t do anymore, and it hurt for a little while.”
The 19-year-old has now appeared in 11 games this season and posted modest numbers of 6.8 PPG and 3.4 APG. However, simply being part of the team — which sits in third place in the Eastern Conference with a 49-30 record — has Fultz excited for the remainder of the regular season and beyond.
“I feel like I can help them hopefully by picking up the energy and, when they come out and feel down, just picking them up,” Fultz said. “And for me, when I’m not feeling good, they are doing the same thing for me.”
Check out more Atlantic Division notes below:
- In a separate story, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes that having a healthy Fultz play alongside Rookie of the Year candidate Ben Simmons presents an interesting lineup scenario for the Sixers. While the duo has shared the backcourt for small increments since Fultz’s return, coach Brett Brown has liked what he has seen in a small sample.
- J.J. Redick has been part of playoff teams every season in his career but now his focus is on winning a championship, Sarah Todd of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes. The Sixers are in third place and Redick thinks the team is good enough to go far in the postseason. “I don’t want to put a ceiling on our team this year,” Redic said. “I think this group has the potential to win the Eastern Conference. Whether that’s this year or three years from now, having guys like Ben [Simmons] and Jo [Embiid], you have a chance. Those guys are that good.”
- Knicks point guard Frank Ntilikina has gained eight pounds over the course of the season and it has reflected well in his play, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes.
- Michael Scotto of The Athletic (subscription required) writes that Nets coach Kenny Atkinson sees the Sixers rebuilding model as a point of reference for the Nets. In the lengthy read, Scotto breaks down Atkinson’s view of Philadelphia and how Brooklyn views some of its young players as de facto lottery picks.