It's time for Markelle Fultz to talk.
The 76ers' first-overall pick needs to clarify why he'll miss his 54th consecutive game Sunday due to what the team is calling "shoulder rehabilitation." However, Fultz really isn't playing because he lost his outside shot.
The longer the point guard remains silent, the more there will be speculation, which has led to source-driven stories about him circulate.
Fultz needs to answer the following questions:
How did the scapular muscle imbalance somehow affect his shot when the same condition didn't force others to change their shot?
If this is indeed a mental thing, what triggered it?
Who are the people teammate Joel Embiid referred to when he said "I don't feel like a lot of people … have had his back"?
Are the reports true that his mentor and trainer, Keith Williams, changed his shot?
Fultz tweeted out "You can't believe everything you hear" followed by a laughing emoji on Feb. 13 in response to The Athletic's report that Williams significantly altered his jump shot over the summer. Fultz also tweeted "Stop capping !!!" Capping is a slang word for lying. The Athletic, however, had multiple sources stating that his shot was worked on.
Williams denied that he's made significant changes to Fultz's jump shot. Some, within the organization, have since said they doubt that Fultz's shot was altered.
The organization believes Fultz has developed a hitch over time and his case of the yips is strictly mental. Sources around the NBA have said people inside the Sixers organization have been telling league colleagues the same thing since October. However, let's not forget what led reporters to investigate the obvious poor mechanics and alterations in his foul shooting and jump shots. Once they shut him down in late October, the Sixers speculated in their subsequent media availabilities that someone could have changed Fultz's shot when he was back home in Maryland in August.
So who and what can you believe?
Fultz could clear this all up.
Fultz is the one person who knows what happened, who knows his mental makeup, and who knows the people in his life.
However, the team still hasn't provided an opportunity for him to separate fact from fiction with the local media.
Perhaps as a way to protect him, the Sixers never fulfilled their obligation to make Fultz available to the public within a week after announcing that he would be sidelined for an extended period in October. The team still refuses to make him available to explain the whole situation even though they made him available for a nationally televised, agent-driven interview with TNT. A grievance was even filed through the Pro Basketball Writers Association by the local media in regards to speaking to Fultz.
However, the NBA has sided with the Sixers and an outside influence, who believe speaking to the media could ultimately have an adverse effect on Fultz's career, according to sources.
That in itself is a scary thought. It tells you that whatever he's dealing with is serious. It's something definitely more serious than muscle imbalance. And we need to know how and why his jump shot was altered.
Fultz is dealing with a serious problem. However, the longer he remains quiet, the longer folks will continue to ridicule him and his inner circle. The Sixers will also continue to look foolish by providing explanations that don't make sense. The outside noise could add to more stress and frustration on Fultz's part.
Yes, he tweeted out two responses. But tweeting something doesn't compare to orally addressing the situation.
Tweets don't compare to hearing the words out of his own mouth.
The truth will eventually get out. It always does.
One has wonder if all the speculations and misdirections to conceal what's really wrong are, in the long run, all worth it. One has to also wonder if there are other reasons why he hasn't been made available; is the organization just being ultra-protective of its 19-year-old prospect?
The Sixers will only say that Fultz will be made available to the media whenever he becomes a full participant in practice.