There is a lot of unnecessary drama going on in Philadelphia right now.
After weeks of everyone trying to dissect just what on earth was going on with Markelle Fultz's strange new shooting form at the free throw line, the 76ers announced Wednesday that the No. 1 overall pick would be sitting out for a while due to shoulder soreness.
Unfortunately, the fact that something is wrong with Fultz's shoulder is about the only thing anyone can agree upon in Philly. In the past few days, everyone from Fultz's agent, his trainer, Sixers GM Bryan Colangelo and Sixers head coach Brett Brown have issued contradictory statements.
But first, let's go back a few weeks to where this all started.
Sept. 27: Fultz's free throw form is different
During the Sixers' preseason scrimmage, it became clear that something was up with Fultz's form at the free throw line. At this point, though, no one knew what was going on.
Oct. 2: 'We're gonna get back on track
After another Sixers scrimmage, it's clear that Fultz's jumper is off as well. Brown tells reporters that Fultz changed his motion over the summer "all by himself," and notes that they want to get him "back on track." Via the Philadelphia Inquirer:
Reporter: Are you comfortable with where his shot is at?
Brown: No, and so we're gonna get back on track. His heart is in the right place. All by himself, he pivoted out over the summer and tried to make it better and tweak it, and he's in a place right now where we're gonna try to remind him where his shot was and try to bring that back into probably more a tighter shot, bring his release point down a little bit, bring the ball closer to his body. We have a Team Markelle all around him to help him, and he's gonna be just fine.
Oct. 9: The first preseason free throws
Against the Celtics, Fultz got to the free throw line for the first time during the preseason, and it was clear his form was in no way fixed. Something was still up.
Oct. 10: Fultz comes clean, sorta
The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor talked to Fultz about what was going on, and the point guard told him that shoulder pain was the reason he had altered his form at the free throw line.
Fultz has been dealing with soreness in his right shoulder, which caused him to miss Friday's preseason game, but he "can't recall" when he first felt the pain. After Monday's game against the Celtics, he said the shoulder has been hurting "on and off." "I talk to trainers when it bothers me, and they get right to it and start working on it," Fultz said. "When it's not, I'm happy. Either way, I'm happy and I just go out and play."
After Fultz left the locker room, I asked him if the shoulder issue motivated him to revise his free throw mechanics, to minimize the pain he feels when he raises his arm. Fultz said, "Yeah, for the most part. I'm just trying other things to make free throws. At the end of the day, that's not an excuse for me. I'm just out there hooping."
Oct. 19: The regular-season debut
On opening night for the Sixers, Fultzof the regular season and still has a completely broken form.
Oct. 21: No rest
Despite the fact that Fultz was clearly not right, Brown told reporters that he would not be sitting him, saying, "It's not to the point where it's affecting other parts of his game."
Oct. 24: Agent tells all, then changes story
Fultz's agent Raymond Brothers made waves by telling ESPN that Fultz had fluid drained from his shoulder. He later recanted that quote, saying that actually, Fultz had been given a cortisone shot.
The agent for Philadelphia 76ers guard Markelle Fultz changed his explanation Tuesday night on the treatment that the No. 1 overall pick has received on his right shoulder, revising his earlier statement that fluid was drained from it during the preseason.
"He had a cortisone shot on Oct. 5, which means fluid was put into his shoulder -- not taken out," agent Raymond Brothers told ESPN on Tuesday night. "My intention earlier was to let people know that he's been experiencing discomfort. We will continue to work with (Sixers general manager) Bryan Colangelo and the medical staff."
"Markelle had a shoulder injury and fluid drained out of the back of his shoulder. He literally cannot raise up his arms to shoot the basketball. He decided to try and fight through the pain to help the team. He has a great attitude. We are committed to finding a solution to get Markelle back to 100 percent."
Oct. 25: Fultz goes out, things get weird
Late Wednesday morning, the Sixers finally announced that Fultz will be sitting out at least three games.
Weirdly, Colangelo put the blame on Fultz, saying that his own decision to tinker with his shooting motion helped cause his soreness.
Bryan Colangelo speculates that Fultz changing his shooting motion on his own could have contributed to his shoulder soreness.— Derek Bodner (@DerekBodnerNBA) October 25, 2017
That, of course, contradicts Fultz's statement on Oct. 10 that he had altered his shooting motion because of shoulder discomfort.
Fultz's trainer, Keith Williams, spoke with Sam Amick of USA Today to try to clear up some of the details in a story published Wednesday afternoon:
"The shot was never changed (before the shoulder pain)," Williams - who trained the New Orleans Pelicans' DeMarcus Cousins in his college and early pro years, among other NBA clients - said by phone. "He's a great shooting point guard. There haven't been many point guards who shot the ball as well as him coming out of college, off the dribble and off the catch. I never changed the shot. Why would I?"
Later in the day, Brown told reporters, "There is zero doubt Markelle ... tried to change his shot."
“There is zero doubt Markelle ... tried to change his shot” Sixers coach Brett Brown— Keith Pompey (@PompeyOnSixers) October 25, 2017
Not coincidentally, Williams was on with a Philadelphia radio station as those quotes came out. He immediately said that Brown's assumption was simply not true. Instead, he says, Fultz is simply compensating for pain, but has not fundamentally changed his shot mechanics.
"That's not a changed shot at all. That's something that's been altered because of the injury." -Keith Williams on Fultz's odd form— Carlin & Reese (@CarlinReeseWIP) October 25, 2017
So, that's where things stand as of now. Which leaves us with these few truths:
- Fultz's shoulder is injured in some way
- Fultz will be sitting out until at least Tuesday, when he will be reevaluated
- Fultz's shot is messed up
- The 76ers have handled this horribly
Who, exactly, is telling the truth about Fultz's form isn't clear, though it seems Fultz's original explanation of an injured shoulder forcing him to alter his release makes the most sense. Regardless, there is no reason for the Sixers not to be on the same page here. Fultz is not an enemy of the team; he's their No. 1 overall pick!
Even if he did mess up in some way, they should be doing everything possible to make sure he's healthy and comfortable with the franchise. Going to the media and placing blame on him in any way, as Colangelo did Wednesday, is the opposite of that goal, and makes no sense.
Still, while the Sixers have handled things poorly so far, it's not the end of the world. Fultz is still young and just beginning his career with the franchise. They have the time to make things right, and first, they should start by getting on the same page with their young point guard.