What is behind the curtain for Philadelphia 76ers Markelle Fultz?

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /
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Philadelphia 76ers
PHILADELPHIA, PA – NOVEMBER 22: Joel Embiid #21, Markelle Fultz #20, and Ben Simmons #25 of the Philadelphia 76ers react from the bench against the Portland Trail Blazers at the Wells Fargo Center on November 22, 2017 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

Scheming, always scheming

Now? Everything is choreographed.  In the NBA, there is a limit as to how much free-form any one player is allowed in game. As veterans prove their ability to “make things happen”, they are given a longer leash. But NBA rookies entering the league quickly learn that their leash is short indeed.  They have a specific role, and they must master that role before they are given more playing time or responsibilities.

I followed Markelle Fultz’s college season as a member of the Washington Huskies.  As a top-pick, and heading to the Boston Celtics, I did not pile on the praise.  In fact, my articles did not paint a glossy picture of the young man’s chances on a playoff bound team.  While the teams have changed, the opportunity to thrive on a team with post-season ambitions did not. Fultz arrived to the NBA, not from a well-coached team, but from a wealth of basketball talent so superior that he was an undeniable top pick. He only played 25 of the scheduled 31 games as a Husky. And he missed games due to sore knees, an ailment which never quite was vetted via news reports.

“You really can’t trust no one!” – Markelle Fultz

NBA ready?

The challenge for the top pick of the 2017
NBA Draft is a matter of development.  And so, just how much can he flourish in his rookie season in the NBA?  Well, so far, that answer is not much. But there is a blending of bad health versus bad shot mechanics versus a very slow and deliberate onboarding to ensure great basketball prospects get great coaching before they take the basketball court.  And amidst all of the sparse details defining the true status of Markell Fultz, there is a narrative which must include a component of each theme.

These are the Philadelphia 76ers.  This organization waited for two seasons to develop All-Star center Joel Embiid. The result?  Joel Embiid, who has completed just 96 games of combined NCAA and NBA level basketball, is an All-Star.  Then there is Ben Simmons, the player who translates the entire scheme of Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown onto the basketball court. The organization waited a full season to see him play. Two for two.  With that type of track record, who can fault the Philadelphia 76ers for entertaining the “let’s let him take his time” perspective on returning to the basketball court, can you?