TORONTO – It was a question Brett Brown knew he would have to answer. After Wednesday’s shootaround, the 76ers coach was asked how Markelle Fultz’s thoracic outlet syndrome would affect the team.
Fultz will remain sidelined at least three to six weeks. He’ll spend the time working out with former Lakers physical therapist Judy Seto in Los Angeles.
Asked if Fultz’s lengthy absence will affect the team, Brown said: “I don’t think that it does. Personally, I’m happy that there has been some judgment, there’s been an assessment.”
Six weeks from Tuesday is Jan. 15. Including the six games he’s already missed as of Tuesday, Fultz will have been sidelined for at least 25 games if it goes the full six weeks. The Sixers were 5-1 with four straight wins without him entering Wednesday’s road game against the Toronto Raptors.
“Just moving forward, I think it’s still waiting to get him back with us and help him get back on the court,” said Brown, who spoke with Fultz on Tuesday. “But at the moment, we miss him. I miss his company. I miss him being around.”
Brown said Fultz could be an integral part of the Sixers' pursuit of victories. But at the moment, the coach’s thoughts are on trying to get him back as soon as possible.
Fultz is well-liked within the Sixers organization. Publicly, the team has expressed its support for him during his ordeal. However, privately, it is skeptical about the situation and how it’s been handled by Fultz’s agent, Raymond Brothers.
According to the Mayo Clinic, thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS) is a group of disorders that occurs when nerves or blood vessels in the space between the collarbone and first rib are compressed. Brothers said the condition is preventing Fultz from shooting a basketball properly.
Sources have long said his shooting woes were mental. It’s no secret that the team sent Fultz to several prominent doctors, but none found anything to prevent Fultz from shooting the ball.
Brothers blindsided the team Nov. 20 by telling general manager Elton Brand that Fultz would not practice or play until he saw a shoulder specialist. His agent’s decision came one day after Brown used T.J. McConnell, not Fultz, as the backup point guard in the second half against the Phoenix Suns.
Instead of seeing one specialist as Brothers originally said, Fultz saw 10 of them from last week into the start of this week.
Brothers told ESPN of the diagnosis before informing the team Tuesday. Sixers players, coaches, and a couple of executives were flying from Philadelphia to Toronto when the news broke.
But the Sixers (17-8 entering Wednesday’s game) say the news has not been a distraction. They were focusing on their game against Eastern Conference foe Toronto, which had the league’s best record at 20-5.
“Nor does he want it to be a distraction,” McConnell said. “He’s just not healthy. So we hope he has a speedy recovery.”