Storyline: Markelle Fultz Injury

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How is Markelle Fultz doing? Jeff Weltman: Markelle is doing very well. He’s in Los Angeles continuing his rehab. We have sent one of our performance staff to be out with him to try to understand what he’s going through from the more scientific perspective, and I have been out there to spend some time with him and watched him work out. It’s just a matter of understanding where he is and supporting him. But I can tell you confidently that he’s making significant progress and he’s feeling like he’s in a very good place. As I’ve been saying, the timetable will dictate itself. We’re not going to superimpose a timetable over what he’s experiencing and what he’s going through. So as it plays out, the next step will be for him to join his team in Orlando and all of us to get our arms around him to continue the good work that he’s been doing in L.A., and we’ll just take it from there.
3 months ago via ESPN

Markelle Fultz, the former No. 1 overall pick by the Philadelphia 76ers who was traded to the Orlando Magic in February to get a fresh start, is not likely to get it this season. Magic coach Steve Clifford said Monday that Fultz probably won’t finish rehabbing his injured shoulder in time to suit up this season. “He’s still rehabbing his shoulder and he’s not even able to really do much on the floor yet,” Clifford told SiriusXM Radio. “It’s a pretty significant shoulder injury. “I would say he’s starting to do a little bit, but it would be very difficult for him to get back this year.”

“Rehab’s going great. We’re doing stuff the right way,’’ said Fultz, who accompanied on Thursday by his mother, sister and agent, Raymond Brothers. “I have a great group in LA and the (Magic) staff here is going to be coming out to help me with that. But, right now, everything is going perfectly. We’re just worried about doing stuff the right way,’’ he added after being asked about a specific timetable for his return to basketball. “Right now, it’s just about getting to where we’re all on the same page and we’re all doing the right things.’’

He admitted on Thursday that there was a distinct in relief in getting the diagnosis of thoracic outlet syndrome on Dec. 4. “It’s hard to lift up your arm and you lose feeling in your fingers. It’s not like you can tell when it’s going to happen and it’s not like (it happens when) you do the same motion every time. But you get tingling in your fingers, numbness and stuff like that,’’ Fultz said. “It was tough because you hear all the stuff about this, that and the third (with rumors), but you’re trying to figure it out yourself and it’s so hard to describe. If you’ve never been through it, you’re not going to know. But if you talk to anybody who has, they’ll tell you that it changes your life drastically.’’

Williams has been more than a coach, knowing Fultz since he was 7 years old via a relationship with the family and treating him like a son or nephew. In the lead-up to the draft, Williams served as Fultz’s representation, connecting him with sponsorships from such brands as Nike, Tissot and JBL. But as things started to derail, Fultz’s mother, Ebony, and Brothers took control of the player’s off-court life. Williams said he backed off to avoid conflict, but he believes the forced separation might have affected Fultz.

Fultz is now a professional on a four-year contract worth $33 million, but close associates said Ebony still goes to great lengths to shield him. During Fultz’s first season in Philadelphia, Ebony had cameras installed inside his New Jersey home, according to several people familiar with the setup who described the indoor surveillance as unusual. The cameras have since been removed. Multiple people said Ebony has asked some who have dealt with Fultz to sign nondisclosure agreements for reasons that are unclear to them. “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. “The best possible situation is if the mom just backs off for a period of time and gives him a chance to breathe.”

But after being traded to G League Canton on Jan. 22, 2014, Uzoh told then-Canton coach Steve Hetzel that he had a physical issue and asked for help. The Canton doctors, however, didn’t find a remedy for Uzoh. Hetzel said in 2014 that Uzoh then “shut down mentally. He went from one of the best players in the league to us playing four on five.” Hetzel once benched Uzoh for not competing during a practice because of the injury, and the team waived him on March 21, 2014. “You can call it frustration, you can call it fear, you can call it whatever,” Uzoh said in 2014. “I was so in the dark. I was hurting not only the team but myself.”

Uzoh plans to reach out to Fultz’s representation in hopes that they can meet. He offered some advice through The Undefeated to Fultz, who is rehabbing and was unavailable for comment, although a source said Fultz is familiar with Uzoh’s story. “Listen to his body and take it a day at a time,” Uzoh said. “Therapy and his mental approach are No. 1. Stay away from things that would distract him as far as Instagram, the tweets and things like that. All of those things can negate and throw him off instead of speed him up. He probably has a timeline he has to follow. He has to stay the course in terms of what his people are telling him and with the course of action in place.

After a two-year stretch of confusion, frustration, internet conspiracies, and unpredictability, Markelle Fultz, the Philadelphia 76ers’ 2017 No. 1 draft pick who suddenly couldn’t shoot a basketball, was finally diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS). This ailment, often untraceable even by MRI, is the cause of Fultz’s inability to shoot a basketball properly from any distance, according to agent Raymond Brothers. The Sixers announced on Dec. 4 that Fultz would be out indefinitely, and his next steps included three-to-six weeks of physical therapy, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. Philly’s dealt with many fits and stops in this process, so many that I’ve timelined every single way Fultz, his coaches, his teammates, and the team itself has tried to identify what’s wrong. But TOS is a very real, frustrating, and difficult-to-describe ailment. That may explain why it took so long to diagnose.

SB NATION: What is thoracic outlet syndrome? JACQUES HACQUEBORD: You have all these nerves that come out of your cervical spine. After those surgical nerve roots leave the spine, they form this web of nerves that flow in and out together. It’s a very complex region of nerves called the brachial plexus. On one end, you have these nerves that come out of the spine. At the other end, you have the nerves that go down into your arm, and they go to specific muscles. Between the nerves that leave the spine, and nerves that go into specific muscles and provide sensation, that whole region is called the brachial plexus, where the nerves are flowing in and out together. What thoracic outlet really means, it’s where the nerves are leaving the thorax. In that outlet out of the thorax, there’s compression.

SB: Why did it take so long for Fultz to be diagnosed with TOS? JH: The diagnosis for it is notoriously difficult, and for many, you can’t find a focal area of compression because the MRI imaging or ultrasound imaging is inadequate. Or, maybe because there isn’t a focal area of compression that can be found because it doesn’t anatomically exist. TOS involves the brachial plexus, but it’s an undefined diagnosis. In reality, the region where those nerves could be potentially compressed or irritated is a large region. Most of the time, [TOS] is a diagnosis by exclusion, which means you’ve ruled everything else out, so then you fall onto thoracic outlet as a possible scenario. Patients start with vague symptoms that start with a relatively minor event or possibly no event at all. This is a vague pain, vague weakness, vague dysfunction. Thoracic outlet syndrome is often a difficult diagnosis to make because it’s difficult to find a specific spot where the problem is. Sometimes people have an accessory rib, or an extra rib that comes off pretty high, and that rib can be compressing on the brachial plexus. Or, they could have really large muscles that surround the brachial plexus.

The day that Brothers put Fultz on the shelf, I got two text messages from two different Sixers sources asking what I knew about Fultz possibly hurting himself in an ATV accident—a variation on a motorcycle-injury rumor that was already swatted down by Brothers (and, via a team source to PhillyVoice.com, the Sixers) earlier in November. While I was recently in Philly, a different team source said Fultz’s issues were “definitely the yips”—which was refuted not 15 minutes later by someone close to Fultz, who told me he’s hurt and suggested that his thumb was bothering him. (I was directed to the “It slipped” free-throw hitch for proof of the thumb theory.)

The shoulder injury was initially diagnosed as an imbalanced scapula last season, and as part of Fultz’s recovery, the second-year guard needed to relearn how to shoot the ball. Fultz, 20, has been wearing a specialized undershirt while he plays to address the scapula issue, according to sources. The genesis of the physical issues Fultz has been suffering from date back to his pre-draft training, as he attempted to increase his three-point range. According to sources close to Fultz, it is not clear exact when the wrist injury started, or whether the wrist injury is connected to the scapular imbalance.

On Monday morning Markelle Fultz’s trainer, Drew Hanlen, responded to another NBA trainer with a since-deleted tweet that caused a stir. Following practice on Tuesday in Camden, Brett Brown and Fultz did their best to walk back Hanlen’s assertion that Fultz still isn’t healthy. “He’s been playing basketball and doing well, he’s fine,” Brown said of Fultz. “Nobody is 100 percent healthy, but he’s healthy enough to play basketball like JJ [Redick] is and Joel [Embiid] is.”

You’re also working with Joel’s teammate, Markelle Fultz. Right now, every Philadelphia 76ers fan wants to know what he looks and what they can expect from him next season. What can you tell us about Fultz and what he’s doing this summer? Drew Hanlen: What I can tell you is that he’s doing very well. I think that a lot of people think that we’re hiding him and we’re not hiding him. We’re just being very strategic in what we share because, obviously, you don’t want to ever add pressure to a player when you don’t have to. Fans and the media would love to be able to witness every workout of every player that I work with, especially with guys like Markelle. All I can say is that it’s going really well and that we’re purposely doing things just to protect him right now. But I think Philly fans will be very excited.
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