Markelle Fultz scratched from summer-league play; his ankle injury is minor

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Philadelphia 76ers guard Markelle Fultz (7) shoots as Boston Celtics guard Demetrius Jackson (9) defends during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game Monday, July 3, 2017, in Salt Lake City.

LAS VEGAS - Markelle Fultz is fine.

The 76ers point guard was on the court Sunday, dribbling the ball between his legs while spinning around and rocking from side to side after shootaround. This came less than 15 hours after the first overall pick sprained his left ankle, giving the Sixers and the majority of their fan base a scare.

However, the injury wasn't as bad as folks thought and some media outlets reported. His sprain was a lateral one and will require one to two weeks to heal, the team said. Fultz will miss the remainder of the team's NBA Summer League games.

"My foot is not [broken] or anything like that," Fultz said. "I'm walking around. I feel good."

Fultz was hurt in the third quarter of Saturday night's 95-93 victory over the Golden State Warriors. He stepped on the back of Jabari Brown's foot while chasing the Warriors guard in an attempt to block his shot near the basket.

Fultz fell to the floor, clutching his ankle.

"I was so focused on trying to get that block," he said. "When it first happened, I didn't think or hear anything. When I came down, I didn't look at it. I was just hurting so bad."

Fultz wanted to get up but was unable to put weight on his ankle. He was helped to the locker room by Charles Jackson and Mouhammadou Jaiteh and had X-rays, which were negative. The rookie left the arena while the game was still going on to receive treatment at the team's hotel.

He said he wasn't surprised that his ankle was feeling better on Sunday because he takes care of his body. Fultz added that the Sixers have a great training staff.

"So they did everything they needed to do to make me feel better," he said. "When I first went down, I was a little worried. But at the end of the day, everything happens for a reason."

Fultz applied ice to the ankle and walked around so it did not get stiff. The 19-year-old looked good while dribbling on the court after the shootaround. He did not walk with a limp or have noticeable swelling in his ankle.

The summer league concludes on July 17 with the championship game, so there really isn't enough time for the former Washington standout to return at 100 percent. Nor would it make any sense to chance reinjuring the ankle.

Making sure Fultz is healthy for the regular season is more important than seeing him play another game or two in the summer league. The Sixers are relieved that it's just a sprain and not anything more serious.

Assistant coach Lloyd Pierce, who is coaching the summer-league team, said Fultz will serve as one of his assistants for the remainder of the games. His first assistant coaching role was Sunday night against the San Antonio Spurs.

Fultz was excited about the job. He planned to get on his teammates and point out things from the bench.

The Sixers were also without Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot against the Spurs. The shooting guard suffered a lacerated upper lip that required five stitches on the same play that Fultz was injured on. He will be evaluated on Tuesday for that night's game against the Boston Celtics.

Fultz's campaign concludes after a combined three appearances in the Utah Jazz Summer League and NBA league. He averaged 20 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.5 blocks, 5 turnovers, and 24.5 minutes in his two games in Utah. Fultz shot 46.1 percent on three-pointers.

Then Fultz had eight points on 3-for-12 shooting against the Warriors Saturday night. He also had two rebounds, one assist and two turnovers before his exit.

Despite that outing, Fultz and the Sixers are pleased with his summer-league performances. He showed leadership qualities on the court and got his teammates involved offensively. Fultz would have had many more assists if not for his teammates' missed shots.

"Defensively, I think I improved a lot," he said. "I learned a lot about how to guard the screen and get into my man."

Fultz also learned that everyone on the NBA level is going to be faster, quicker, and talented.

"I definitely learned a lot," he said.

kpompey@phillynews.com

@PompeyOnSixers

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