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Sixers’ Markelle Fultz says facing Celtics just another game

Fultz will forever be linked to the Celtics and Boston forward Jayson Tatum.

Sixers guard Markelle Fultz tries to drive past Celtics wing Jayson Tatum during their rookie seasons.
Sixers guard Markelle Fultz tries to drive past Celtics wing Jayson Tatum during their rookie seasons.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

BOSTON – Markelle Fultz gives the impression that Tuesday night's season opener against the Boston Celtics is a routine game.

But one can argue it's actually more than that for the 76ers combination guard, who will forever be linked to the Celtics and forward Jayson Tatum.

That's because the Sixers moved up two spots to select Fultz first overall in the 2017 NBA draft. They got that pick from the Celtics for their No. 3 pick and the Sacramento Kings' 2019 first-round pick. Boston ended up taking Tatum third.

These days, folks question the Sixers for moving up to draft Fultz, who missed considerable time last season and was completely out of the rotation during the second-round playoff series vs. the Celtics. Meanwhile, Tatum is one of the NBA's elite young talents.

Fultz said the vibe surrounding playing the Celtics is no different from the vibe before facing another team, despite the trade and how differently things have played out for the two players.

"I got drafted by the Sixers," Fultz said. "So that's the team that drafted him. That's who I'm with right now. So I don't really look at it as anything really. It's just another game for me."

But does he expect the Boston fans to single him out?

"Not really," he said. "They probably will. But I'm not really worrying about it."

Fultz was sidelined for 68 straight games last season because of what the team called a right-shoulder injury. However, sources said he actually had the "yips," which hindered his outside shooting, and renowned shooting coach Drew Hanlen confirmed that in a podcast this summer. Fultz spent this summer in Los Angeles working on his shot with Hanlen. But on media day, Fultz denied he had the "yips."

However, he was heckled by Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban during the teams' Oct. 8 preseason game in Shenzhen, China. Cuban yelled for him to shoot the ball whenever Fultz had the ball on the perimeter. He did not attempt a three-pointer in the game and made just 1 of 5 combined in the four preseason games.

The Sixers expect the Celtics to back away from Fultz whenever he has the ball on the perimeter. They hope to force him to shoot from the outside by taking away his driving lanes to the basket.

"You have to know how the defense is going to play you and just be aware of it, and I'm ready," Fultz said. "Like I said, I put in a lot of work to be prepared in a game. I'm going to be ready."