BOSTON — The 76ers knew that Markelle Fultz would be joining the team in Boston to celebrate Christmas, but the team wasn’t expecting him on Christmas Eve.
“He surprised us on the plane yesterday,” T.J. McConnell said before the Sixers took on the Celtics on Tuesday. “It was amazing to see him back and in good spirits. Though, I’ve never really seen him have a bad day, that’s just how he is.”
The Sixers boarded a plane with Futlz, Zhaire Smith, and family members of players and the coaching staff on Monday evening and came together Tuesday morning for a small brunch celebration at the Ritz Carlton in Boston before heading to TD Garden.
“It’s great to have [Fultz and Smith] on the trip,” coach Brett Brown said. “In relation to what that means as far as getting back to playing basketball I do not know."
Brown added that he’s not sure what Fultz’s schedule is going forward. When asked if Fultz could be with the team for more of its five-game road trip that started in Boston, Brown said the team and the medical staff are currently in discussions about that.
Fultz has been in Los Angeles doing physical therapy to address thoracic outlet syndrome. He has not played since Nov. 21.
Fultz’s agent Raymond Brothers, according to ESPN, said Fultz is progressing well in his rehabilitation and expects his client to return to play this season.
Sixers gift exchange
Ever wonder what a gift swap looks like between NBA players?
The Sixers held their sixth annual gift exchange on Sunday and it looked a lot like any other gift exchange. Everyone brought a gift, in random order each person opens a gift, and the next person can steal or choose a new one. Each gift can be stolen up to two times and you can’t choose the gift you brought. Pretty normal.
There was something that made this gift exchange unique — a $300 minimum and no max for the gifts. GoPros, PS4′s, a lavish spa day, an expensive bottle of wine, luxury watches worth thousands of dollars, and much more were swirling around the room.
McConnell left with the bottle of wine, a gift he stole.
“I got all I ever wanted or I’ll need,” he said as he laughed.
Mike Muscala ended up with an IWC watch worth $5,000, a gift that JJ Redick brought and that Muscala couldn’t believe no one stole after he was second to pick a gift. Meanwhile, Furkan Korkmaz ended up with a PS4, but he already has one at home so he’s not sure what he’ll do with it.
“To see sort of that side of the program grow over the years and see the players have fun with it ... to me it’s a good reminder of where we were and now where we are in relation to trying to grow that side of our program,” Brown said.
Home for the holidays
After the Sixers landed in Boston on Monday night, Brown made an 18-mile drive up the East Coast to Marblehead, Mass., and celebrated Christmas with his family.
“To come back where I was raised and went to school at Boston University and to jump in a car as our plane landed and go up to Marblehead and have a great Christmas dinner with my parents and my sister and her family," Brown said, “and then come back into the city late, just being in this part of the United States, the East Coast, I love it. it’s where I was raised.”
Brown often reminisces about growing up in the Boston area, watching Celtics games, and his New England accent is unmistakable. He said that being able to play a Christmas Day game at the TD Garden is an honor for him.