Storyline: Markelle Fultz Injury

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The organization believes Fultz has developed a hitch over time and his case of the yips is strictly mental. Sources around the NBA have said people inside the Sixers organization have been telling league colleagues the same thing since October. However, let’s not forget what led reporters to investigate the obvious poor mechanics and alterations in his foul shooting and jump shots. Once they shut him down in late October, the Sixers speculated in their subsequent media availabilities that someone could have changed Fultz’s shot when he was back home in Maryland in August.

Perhaps as a way to protect him, the Sixers never fulfilled their obligation to make Fultz available to the public within a week after announcing that he would be sidelined for an extended period in October. The team still refuses to make him available to explain the whole situation even though they made him available for a nationally televised, agent-driven interview with TNT. A grievance was even filed through the Pro Basketball Writers Association by the local media in regards to speaking to Fultz.
3 months ago via SLAM

Simmons called Fultz “an amazing young player” and admitted he hates guarding him in practice because of his impressive ability to attack the basket. Ben Simmons: It’s tough. The position he’s in. He’s so young coming into the NBA and then obviously having this injury. But he’s in a good position where he’s staying focused and working hard. I see him everyday in there trying to get back to where he was and he’s going to do that. It could be physical. It could be mental. I’m not too sure about the details, but I know he’s working hard every day. You see him trying to push back, but on the floor, even in practice, you can see he’s an amazing young player. I hate guarding him. He’s so good getting to the rim.

Markelle Fultz and his longtime trainer, confidant and family friend, Keith Williams, made significant alterations to his shooting form in the months leading up to the start of the Sixers’ season, according to multiple sources who spoke to The Athletic on the condition of anonymity. These changes were described as an effort to quicken his shot, shorten the dip in his shooting mechanics and bring his set point over to the right side of his body, according to sources with knowledge of the changes Fultz made over the summer.

Fultz and Williams returned to the gym at the conclusion of the Las Vegas Summer League in July, where they continued working to alter the former Washington guard’s jumper through the beginning of September, according to sources with knowledge of the situation. When Fultz returned to the team in the middle of September his lack of confidence in his new jump shot was immediately apparent, according to multiple sources. The team’s efforts to revert Fultz back to the shooting form he showed at Washington began almost immediately.

Over the course of the last six months, PhillyVoice has spoken to people in, around, and connected to the Sixers about what is going on with the kid who was supposed to be the final piece of their puzzle. What is most striking is the degree to which opinions on Fultz’s shot diverge depending on who it is you ask. Doctors explain how unprecedented this is for a basketball player, staffers point the finger at outside influences, and his own GM says publicly his range does not currently extend beyond the paint. All the while our subject in question remains silent, retweeting videos of what his shot used to look like as an avalanche of criticism floods his Twitter mentions. Markelle Fultz is surrounded by sound and fury. And once you begin to understand that, the disappearance of his jumper makes a lot more sense.

The Sixers, according to multiple people who spoke with PhillyVoice for this story, believe they are one of a small group of NBA teams with a setup that allows them to train players in virtual reality. It is something the organization has been toying with over the last half year or so, which they believe is primarily useful to help put players inside a game situation, like being part of an inbounds play. It is a way to keep them involved in the program when they can’t participate physically, as they’ve done with injured rookie Furkan Korkmaz.

With Fultz, there is a different motivation to get him behind the VR goggles. The Sixers, according to multiple sources, wanted him to be able to visualize the mechanics he’ll use in a game, to remember how easy it once was for him to rise up with the ball and shoot from anywhere on the court, and to be able to do so without the glare of the cameras or other people around him. With pressure coming down on him from all angles, turning part of a teenager’s job into a video game is one way to relieve the stress of the situation.

His reemergence in front of the public is also partially a product of his own desire to be out there and carrying on like normal, according to sources who spoke with PhillyVoice. Just as Joel Embiid has some autonomy in whether he suits up for a game, Fultz holds a lot of power in how his situation is handled. He does not want to be known as the kid who backed down from the challenge, knowing he has already overcome plenty to get here at all. The Sixers have currently chosen to empower that, rather than letting a teenager become consumed by inner demons away from the spotlight.

Some reports have (incorrectly) claimed or assumed this is the same thing as an imbalance. This is not the case, and in fact, a muscular imbalance can be a causative factor in dyskinesis. The Sixers already claimed the imbalance was fixed in early December, and sources who spoke to PhillyVoice confirmed the dyskinesis diagnosis Butler used as correct. We continue to see a problem that comes and goes in his shot, changing based on his distance from the hoop and whether he’s static or on the move. Dyskinesis remains, which is a small but critical detail in tying the various causes of his missing shot together.

Sources around the NBA have said that folks inside the organization have been telling league colleagues since October that it was mental. But if you needed any confirmation, it came during the Sixers’ ESPN televised game against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Jan. 28. That’s when broadcaster Mark Jones said Sixers coach Brett Brown disclosed in a production meeting that Fultz was suffering from “psychosomatic effects” with his shooting. Translation: Jones said Brown acknowledged that Fultz has a mental block and psychological conflict that prevents him from shooting correctly.

ESPN’s Mark Jones and Doris Burke served as the broadcasters for Sunday’s Sixers-Thunder matchup. During the game, the duo referenced Fultz and the No. 1 pick’s recovery from a shoulder ailment that has limited him to just four games this season. “Brett Brown was telling us prior to the game tonight, prior to tip, that he speaks with Fultz, he works with Fultz and there seems to be some psychosomatic issues involved with getting over the hump and getting back on the court,” Jones said. “Brown says he continues to improve and he would expect that he would play at some point this year.” “I’m worried about the young man,” Burke added. “Nineteen years old. He clearly seems to be shaken where that jump shot is concerned. You just hope his confidence gets back where it needs to be.”

“It was completely misquoted. There was no reference to any of that,” Brown said before Monday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks. “I’ve spoken with ESPN this morning. They’re very apologetic.” “Markelle Fultz’s injury has been well-documented. I have talked about this hundreds and hundreds of times. The story hasn’t wavered once. His shot has been affected by the injury. We’re trying to reclaim it. There are times when he rises up to shoot that he does feel a bite and it affects him. It’s really that simple.”

Brown, who calls himself “a shooting coach at heart,” vows to help Fultz rediscover his shot. He plans to spend extra time with him at practice. The team has shielded Fultz from reporters since he was sidelined. “He’s a rise-up guy. He’s a live ball, off-the-dribble, rise-up guy. A Kyle Korver type, that wasn’t who he was,” Brown said. “He was a wiggly, do-what-he-wants-to-guard. So you go back and you say, ‘How can you find that again?'”

The Sixers have given Fultz assignments during the games. He is tasked with watching numerous elements on the floor from a distance. They hold him accountable outside the arena, too. As a guard in the Sixers’ system, Fultz could be asked to run the floor, which creates an even bigger need to keep up with the schemes. “We challenge him a little bit,” Robert Covington said. “Even though he’s not playing, he still has to see what’s happening. He’s doing a good job. We ask at various times, on the bench, we catch him off guard. He handles them very well. He’s engaged even though he’s not on the court. One thing I can say is even though he’s not playing, he’s still learning a lot.”
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May 27, 2018 | 11:15 pm EDT Update