Markelle Fultz has no timetable for return, but Sixers GM Elton Brand expects Zhaire Smith to return this season
“Zhaire is in the gym every morning, early in the morning, sometimes 5 a.m., he’s in good spirits," Brand said. "He’ll have another test on his foot after the holiday and we expect to see him back this season."
Markelle Futlz and Zhaire Smith will both be with the 76ers on Christmas Day in Boston, but don’t expect either to return to the court anytime soon.
Sixers general manager Elton Brand met with reporters before the team faced the Raptors on Saturday night and offered updates on Fultz, Smith, and the state of the team heading into 2019.
No timetable on Fultz
Though Brand said that Fultz is progressing and been in contact with the team, he didn’t offer any estimate for when the guard would be rejoining the Sixers.
“He’s in L.A. with Judy Seto, ... who Kobe [Bryant] swears by, progressing well," Brand said. "He’ll be with us on Christmas, with his family. ... Our staff, or someone from the organization has been in touch with him daily, or someone in his camp daily.”
Brand said that the team expected to have another update after the holidays.
The GM said Fultz would be with the team on Christmas because that’s what Fultz and the team wanted.
“He wants to be around, we want him to be around. As Coach has said, he misses him, we miss him, he’s beloved by his teammates, it’s the holidays.”
Smith expected back this season
The No. 16 overall pick from the 2018 draft has been missing all season because of surgery on his left foot and a setback in rehab after complications from a food allergy. Though Smith won’t be back in 2018, Brand did say that he expects the rookie to return to action before the season ends.
“Zhaire is in the gym every morning, early in the morning, sometimes 5 a.m. He’s in good spirits," Brand said. "He’ll have another test on his foot after the holiday and we expect to see him back this season. Not this year, but, this season.”
Smith will also be with the team on Christmas in Boston. He’s expected to make his return with the Delaware Blue Coats, the Sixers' G-League affiliate.
The glaring issue with the Sixers is that they have had trouble finding consistent production from the reserve unit. With an open roster spot, the Sixers are expected to make moves on the buyout market or before the trade deadline. Brand confirmed that the team has been working and will continue to work on adding someone.
“Very encouraged because we aren’t a finished product yet. We added Jimmy Butler in November. That was great, it’s not in February, when you have a bigger adjustment period," he said. “We have an open roster spot that we’re going to look to fill. There’s opportunity cost there, we don’t want to miss out on something from the buyout market that we might can add, and miss out on potential trades as the trade deadline comes.”
Brand added that the team has been scouring the league, including players who are not currently on a roster. Additionally, the Sixers had front-office personnel at the G League showcase in Las Vegas. The Sixers are keeping all options open. The trade deadline is Feb. 7.
Coach Brett Brown recently mentioned that a perimeter defensive player would be at the top of his wish list, and Brand echoed those sentiments.
“Front-court depth is important to me for what our team needs right now," he said. “We’re not a finished product right now. We’re going to get better.”