The murky Markelle Fultz mystery just got a little clearer after the NBA star was diagnosed with a shoulder injury.
The Philadelphia 76ers guard — who has been under scrutiny all season because of his shooting troubles — has been ruled out of action indefinitely with thoracic outlet syndrome, according to an ESPN report.
The injury will keep the 20-year-old on the sidelines for three to six weeks as he undergoes rehabilitation on his right shoulder.
Nobody quite knew what was going on with Fultz as his shooting technique imploded. Last month he was the victim of a social media bloodbath when his shot capitulated against Miami, then a trip to the free throw line against Utah provided further material for the Twitter trolls.
Against the Heat, Fultz showed off a nervous kink at the charity stripe as his disjointed action left commentators stunned at how far the 2017 No. 1 draft pick had fallen. In the Sixers’ clash against the Jazz, he tapped the ball between his hands like a hot potato as it rose to a release point. The double-clutch was gone — but this was almost as ugly.
There was uncertainty over whether Fultz had a genuine injury preventing him from shooting properly, or whether the youngster simply had the yips. His agent Raymond Brothers recently pulled him from all further matches as he saw a range of medical specialists.
The Sixers said the specialists have identified a compression or irritation in the area between the lower neck and upper chest. Physical therapy was recommended for Fultz before returning to play.
“People were saying it was a mental problem and it is not. There’s no way you’re the No. 1 pick in the world and all of a sudden you aren’t able to consistently raise your arms to shoot,” Brothers told ESPN.
“Something is physically wrong. Now we have the answer to that problem.”
A teen sensation, big things were expected of Fultz went he went first at last year’s draft. He played just 14 games last season because of a shoulder injury that affected his shooting mechanics and made him one of the more scrutinised players in the NBA.
Fultz lost his starting spot in the rotation this season when the Sixers traded for Timberwolves star Jimmy Butler. Fultz is averaging 8.2 points, 3.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds and is shooting 42 per cent from the field.
Fultz wasn’t helped in the early part of the season when he struggled to gel with gun Aussie teammate Ben Simmons. Philly’s offensive output suffered with both men in the starting five and it looked like there wasn’t enough room on the floor for two weak outside shooters who both need the ball in hand to make an impact.
There have been rumours the Fultz-76ers relationship will come to an ugly end as reports emerge the franchise is looking to trade him, possibly to the Cleveland Cavaliers. But Simmons said he has his teammate’s back and questioned whether the Fultz naysayers were really in a position to judge if they didn’t know the full story.
“He’s a very positive person. In terms of what he’s dealing with, everyone thinks it’s just easy to come in here (the NBA) and have a great year,” Simmons told news.com.au. “People don’t understand.
“People have personal things they go through and things like that which, maybe, it’s one of the things where you just don’t know what’s going on.
“But from a teammate’s point of view, all you can really do is be positive with him and have his back and I’ve always had his back, no matter who’s talking about him. I’m always going to have my teammate’s back.”