The Philadelphia 76ers, winners of six in a row, were already feeling good about themselves, but coach Brett Brown offered even more positive news Monday night.
Former No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz, who’d played just four games this season due to an ongoing shoulder injury, will be available and serve as Ben Simmons’ backup for Monday night’s game against Denver.
“It’s ridiculous what he’s been through, and he understands it, and I understand it, and that’s the scrutiny you get when somebody says ‘And with the first pick of the 2017 NBA draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select Markelle Fultz,'” Brown said pregame. “That comes with pressures and responsibilities and acknowledgements and it’s just such an atypical way anybody enters pro sports like he has, especially in the city of Philadelphia. Knowing what I know and seeing what I’ve seen and understanding how special that kid from a human being standpoint, it’s a good day.”
As recently as February, 76ers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo suggested he might not play this season. Throughout the year, Fultz’s shot form had been scrutinized and dissected, and there was tension over how the entire ordeal was handled. It didn’t help that as a 19-year-old No. 1 pick, there were immense expectations for both him and the team. But both sides were clearly eager to move past this.
Though it was a bit unexpected considering there are only 10 games left before the playoffs, Monday’s news wasn’t entirely out of nowhere.
“I think he’s quite close,” Brown said over the weekend. “It’s just something that when Markelle Fultz feels like he can go – he really feels good about himself and his health, the shoulder, and the medical people support that – he knows that he has a coaching staff and a team that will welcome him when he says go.