Here we go again.
Another 76ers first-round pick is sidelined indefinitely. This time, it's Markelle Fultz, who was taken first overall in June's NBA draft.
He missed Wednesday's game against the Houston Rockets and will miss at least the next two games because of a sore right shoulder. Fultz will be reevaluated next Tuesday. The team is hopeful that he'll return after that.
In addition to letting his shoulder heal, the Sixers want to help Fultz regain his shooting form. With that, one would assume that missing only three games is extremely optimistic.
"I don't know the timeline, but the procedure and purpose of what we are doing, I'm all in," Sixers coach Brett Brown said before the game. "As far as how long it's going to take, number of games, I don't know.
"I think as time unfolds we are going to feel this out a little more."
The Sixers' next two games will be on the road against the Dallas Mavericks (Saturday) and the Rockets (Monday). It's anticipated that Fultz will accompany the team on the road trip.
However, it's apparent that the Sixers and Fultz's camp are not in agreement on how he suffered the injury. The team said it might have occurred in August while Fultz was working to change his shot in the D.C. area. However, Fultz's trainer, Keith Williams, denied that they changed his shot.
Sixers president Bryan Colangelo said Fultz does not have any structural damage in the shoulder. Colangelo said the 19-year-old told the team that his shoulder was bothering him at the start of training camp in late September. Fultz received a cortisone shot Oct. 5, one day after finishing with four points on 2-for-13 shooting in a preseason loss to Memphis.
Fultz sat out the Oct. 6 game against Bostons with what the team called right shoulder soreness.
"We don't necessarily report every single thing we do medically to players," Colangelo said of not disclosing the cortisone shot. "There's a lot of things that happen in a training room and doctor's office that … if you want to know, I had my knee drained and a cortisone shot put in last week. … I didn't report it because I didn't think it was necessary."
A reporter asked Colangelo if, after the perceived lack of transparency by former general manager Sam Hinkie, the organization would be more forthcoming before Fultz's agent, Raymond Brothers, gets involved again. Brothers' comments to ESPN about the state of Fultz's shoulder appeared to bring about his rest period.
"I think we have been transparent," Colangelo said. "I don't know what prompted the comment by the agent. … We did have a communication about it after that.
"But again, there's a lot of things that go into the noise that's out there. Again, we are trying to do the best for Markelle and by Markelle to put him in a position to succeed."
Brown appeared to become uneasy when asked if he knew that Fultz had received a cortisone shot. "I don't even really remember," he said.
Fultz missed two of the Sixers' five preseason games. He was sidelined for the last two with right knee soreness. But the shoulder has been a major issue.
As a result, he has been passing up open looks on the perimeter and shooting from inside the paint. An accomplished three-point shooter in his lone season at Washington, Fultz hasn't attempted any threes in his last five games — one in the preseason and four in the regular season.
He has been having a tough time raising his right arm, which is easy to notice when he shoots three-pointers and foul shots.
While it's easy to avoid shooting threes, Fultz can't get someone to shoot free throws for him. So until recently, a lot of the attention has been focused on his awkward mechanics at the line. The release point of Fultz's shot was above his head at Washington and during the Utah Jazz Summer League in July. Now, it appears he's pushing the ball more from in front of his body.
It's obvious the shoulder injury is preventing him from being the versatile offensive player he was in the summer league.
"I believe he's had a couple of scans, a couple of ultrasounds, and there are multiple tests that we continue to look at in the process of evaluating," Colangelo said. "We all feel the last opinion was [Tuesday]. Once again, we feel very good coming out of that."
The treatment plan is physical therapy.
Despite Fultz's shoulder ailment, Colangelo said "there was no medical reason not to play him" in the first four regular-season games. He said Fultz was cleared to play and wanted to play.
As for the combo guard's reluctance to shoot, Colangelo said it's obvious the mechanics are affected by whatever is going on, and vice versa.
Colangelo pointed out that Fultz might have worked on his shot in August. That "could even be the cause of the irritation and inflammation in his shoulder," he said. "Just new mechanics sometimes puts your shoulder in a new position. Whichever the case, whatever happened first, he's dealing with soreness and nothing more."
Brown was asked about Colangelo's belief that Fultz's shoulder might have been affected by his working on his shot. The coach said that he never heard of that causing an injury.
However, "there is zero doubt that Markelle, on his own, tried to readjust his shot," Brown said.
Williams, Fultz's trainer, was told about Brown's statement by WIP-FM. "Oh my God. That's false." he told the radio station. "That's not true." Williams later added, "That's not a changed shot. That's a messed-up shot."
Joel Embiid sees thing differently. "Even his shooting form, they say it changed," Embiid said. "I don't think it changed. He's just been in pain. It's just been about the pain."
Right now, everyone can agree that Fultz needs to get healthy.
Colangelo said the team is simply taking a step back to get him healthy enough to resume playing next week.
"No one is panicking inside," Colangelo said. "The sky is not falling. Markelle Fultz is going to be a great basketball player for this organization."