BOSTON — Markelle Fultz’s right shoulder seemed to bother him as he raised his arm to put on his T-shirt after Monday night’s loss to the Boston Celtics.
His shooting mechanics during the game made it obvious that the 76ers point guard was still dealing with the shoulder soreness that had forced him to sit out Friday night’s home game against the Celtics. However, he downplayed the injury after Monday’s setback. He said that it was something he has to play through and that the team was making great strides every day to get it better.
“I wouldn’t say it’s making any effects on the floor, because I’m playing through stuff like that,” he said. “Every day I come in, we just talk to the trainers and do stuff for it and just get better.”
Fultz is also dealing with right knee soreness, which made him a limited participant in Tuesday’s practice at Emerson College in Boston. He is doubtful for Wednesday’s game against the Brooklyn Nets at Nassau Coliseum on Long Island because of the knee — not his shoulder. The Sixers say they are just being precautionary.
And right now, his injuries and his shooting form are hot topics.
The release point of Fultz’s shot was above his head during his lone season at the University of Washington. Now, it appears he’s pushing the ball more from in front of his body.
The 19-year-old, who was a 41.3 percent three-pointer at Washington before becoming the first overall pick in this year’s draft, didn’t attempt a shot from beyond the arc Monday. Fultz said it didn’t have anything to do with his shoulder.
“Getting to the rim, I felt that was to my advantage,” said Fultz, who scored 12 points on 5-for-11 shooting. “I just didn’t feel like that was something I needed to do.”
He added that he felt the lane was open. So he just took advantage of that.
“If I’m open from three, I’m going to shoot it,” Fultz said. “If I got the mid-range, I’m going to pull it. So whatever play is right for me, I’m going to go do it.”
Monday’s performance was better than his going 2 for 13 – including missing all three of his three-pointers – in Wednesday’s preseason setback against the Memphis Grizzlies. However, he’s shooting 29.2 percent from the field and 40 percent (2 of 5, with all the free throws coming on Monday night) from the foul line in two preseason games.
“I think his shoulder is affecting him more than he lets on,” coach Brett Brown said. “You can tell with his free throw, you know, trying to get that ball up. It’s the follow [through] from his body.
“But he’s been working on just trying to get that thing rehabilitated.”
There were a few times that Brown thought Fultz looked good on his jump shots. But he acknowledged that you can tell the pain is bothering him by his free throws and his lack of three-point shooting.
“Maybe it’s a sign that it’s hurting a little bit more than he lets on,” Brown said.
But good luck with getting Fultz to acknowledge that. He won’t use his shoulder as an excuse. He says it’s just something he has to overcome.
“There are plenty of people out there who are hurt,” he said. “They got hurt ankles, wrists, whatever you call it – you can’t use that as an excuse. At the end of the day, I’m a basketball player. I play hard and you gotta live with it.”
Asked how long his shoulder has been bothering him, Fultz said he couldn’t recall and it’s something that’s been “on and off.” The Sixers have examined it, and say they haven’t found the cause of the soreness. Fultz is not concerned.
“Either way, I’m happy,” he said, “and I just go out there and play.”