Joel Embiid doesn’t seem to have a better handle on the Philadelphia 76ers’ Markelle Fultz situation than any of us. And that’s left him concerned.
As the first-time All-Star and arguably Defensive Player of the Year favorite recently told NBA TV (via Philly Voice‘s Kyle Neubeck):
“I don’t know what the origin of the problems are. I’m still trying to figure that out. But I don’t feel like a lot of people around him have had his back. He’s only 19 and that can be hard. The people around you that are supposed to support you that aren’t supporting you, it’s hard.”
NBA TV posted video of his comments for those who’d like to read Embiid’s body language or something:
— NBA TV (@NBATV) February 13, 2018
Embiid’s sentiments come on the heels of a deep-dive into Fultz’s shoulder issues by Neubeck himself. The entire piece is worth a read. It takes you behind the scenes through multiple sources, both close to the Sixers and Fultz himself, ultimately painting a picture of complete and utter disharmony, replete with conflicting takes and general confusion.
The primary takeaway here isn’t anything good. The Sixers have long lacked transparency on the injury front, dating back to Nerlens Noel’s rookie-year absence. They’ve since played onset setbacks to Embiid himself, Ben Simmons and even Jahlil Okafor close to the vest. And now they’re doing the same with Fultz. He went from being fine, to playing through a shoulder injury, to being shut down for a few weeks, to missing roughly three-quarters of the season and counting.
Though maddening from an outsider’s perspective, silver linings were founded in the belief that they probably knew everything they needed to know behind the scenes and just weren’t sharing. But, as Neubeck’s piece illustrates, they don’t really have a hold on what’s going on. And so, by extension, we don’t either.
Is Fultz injured? Is he just battling a ridiculous case of the yips? Is he trying to regain his original shooting form? Is he still trying to perfect his new form? Who changed said form in the first place—the Sixers, someone close to him or Fultz himself? What was the impetus behind the shift?
Don’t expect these theatrics to end anytime soon. The Sixers aren’t even sure Fultz will play again this season. Knowing how they’ve handled injuries to rookies in the past, he probably won’t—which means our curiosity and confusion and whatever else we’re feeling will spill over into 2018-19.