Markelle Fultz seemed to make a veiled dig at his former 76ers coaches during his introductory press conference with the Orlando Magic on Thursday.
Fultz, 20, was introduced to local media a week after he was dealt to the Magic at the trade deadline. He was complimentary of his impressions of the Magic organization, and said he was looking forward to growing his game under head coach Steve Clifford.
“It just excites me to know that I have a coach that’s going to push you to be better and not just going to tell you what you want to hear,” he said.
The former No. 1 draft pick hasn’t seen the court since November, and was diagnosed with a condition called thoracic outlet syndrome in December. The diagnosis and subsequent trade came after nearly two full seasons of strife for Fultz and the Sixers, so it’s no surprise the guard thinks it’s time for a “fresh start,” saying the opportunity was “just perfect for me and my family.”
Fultz didn’t elaborate on the implication that Brett Brown and other Sixers coaches weren’t being truthful with him, but he expressed confidence that Clifford and the Magic organization could help him.
“I think the biggest thing we’ve talked about is doing stuff the right way,” he said. “Just building me up both as a man and on the court, and I think that’s the music to my ears. ... Two things I really want to do is be the best player I can be and be the best young man that I can be, and [the Magic] do a great job of doing that, as you can see with the team they have.”
Fultz said that he had “a lot of ties to a lot of guys” on the team, that he had heard from a number of staff members who also hail from the Mid-Atlantic area (Fultz grew up in Maryland) and that friends around the league were complimentary of the Magic. Clifford, for his part, was optimistic about the role Fultz can play for the Magic, who are 26-32 with one game to go before the All-Star break.
“I think, you know, he can be a dynamic two-way player,” Clifford said during the press conference. “I’m not sure there’s an aspect of the game he can’t excel at.”
But still, months after Fultz’s agent said he’d be back within three to six weeks, there’s still no timetable for his return. Fultz briefly addressed it — saying, once again, that they’re going to “do things the right way" — and tried to explain how the injury has made him feel.
“It was just hard to describe to a lot of people. If you’ve never been through it, you’re not going to know,” he said. “But if you talk to anybody who has [thoracic outlet syndrome], they’ll tell you it changes your life dramatically.”
Fultz seemed positive about his time with the Sixers, saying he learned a lot playing for a team with title aspirations and said he was grateful to be surrounded by “great vets” who taught him “every practice matters” and how to take the long season “as professional as you can, but have fun with it with your teammates.
“The closer the team is, the better you’ll do.”
The team Fultz is joining, he pointed out to laughs, is 4-0 since he got traded.
“They’re headed in the right direction ...” he said. "I just feel happy, I’m happy for the team. ... I just think it’s gonna be fun.
“I feel like I’m at home already. I just can’t wait.”