Markelle Fultz is back in a Philadelphia 76ers uniform and everybody’s happy.
I think a lot of people went through a similar set of emotions Monday night. It’s hard to describe what exactly Philadelphia 76ers fans felt about Markelle Fultz‘s return, but I can tell you one thing: I’m up at 1 AM with a smile on my face writing about a 19-year-old who deserves every ounce of positive energy coming his way.
The Fultz fiasco was confusing and frustrating, among many other things. We still don’t have a concrete understanding of what happened to his shoulder and how certain events transpired, and that left most fans with a lingering sense of uncertainty surrounding Fultz’s future.
He forgot how to shoot and was taken off the basketball court under mysterious circumstances. There wasn’t much of a precendent for that.
Still, this is something Sixers fans were built for. With all this team has gone through over the past five years, waiting for a 19-year-old kid with a ton of talent to figure out his jumper was never the end of the world. Trusting the process extends well beyond Joel Embiid.
Nobody was ever chearing against Fultz, and many expected him to — in some form of fashion — return to the court and make a positive impact. We didn’t necessarily know it would be this season, but that made Monday night’s win all the more delightful.
What Fultz has gone through over the past five months would be tough on anybody, much less a teenager transitioning to the best basketball league in the world. He struggled with simple motor function in his shoulder, something that presumably makes re-learning one’s shot difficult.
That, combined with the emotional toll this journey took on him, was probably overwhelming at times. He wasn’t in the public eye too often, but I think everybody got the sense that Fultz was going through a difficult time individually.
Through that, however, this teammates and everybody in the fanbase stood firmly behind him. From J.J. Redick to Embiid, the people around Fultz praised his effort and defended him when necessary. Brett Brown was especially firm in his support of Markelle over the past few months.
The fact that he got emotional when announcing Fultz’s return to action speaks volumes about what this means, both to the team and Brown individually. This had to have been a dreadful five-month stretch for Brett, but I think that — among many other things — highlights his coaching prowess.
Now Fultz is back and he looked pretty dang good in his return. The former Washington standount put together 10 points and eight assists in just 14 minutes, all while limiting his turnovers to one. That one turnover came on his first possession.
His shot isn’t quite where it was in college, but it’s getting close. He was confident enough to seek out his own offense as well, which is a huge step forward considering the hesitancy he showed at the beginning of the year.
The only way he’s going to return to form is if he’s confident enough to get up shots. Considering his shot 13 times in his 14-minute stint Monday night, that seems to be a non-issue.
Fultz also made some plays defensively, where his length and athleticism could be a major asset. After the game, he stressed making an impact on both sides of the ball and helping his team win games.
Balancing out his offensive aggession with plenty of dimes and stellar defense is going to make him an impact player right away, which he most definitely was against Denver.
I, on behalf of everybody who follows this Sixers team, would like to welcome Markelle back to the rotation. He still needs to work through some rust, but it’s an incredible feeling to see him back on an NBA court.
He worked hard for this, and it’s already one of the better feel-good stories of this season. We’ll see how he progresses come playoff time.