markelle fultz

The Process Disciples: Fultz Saga Continues, Boston’s Struggles

Since our last edition of the Process Disciples, Markelle Fultz wants to and also doesn’t want to play for the 76ers, is healthy and also isn’t healthy, has a shoulder injury and also has a wrist injury, and… did I miss anything? I’m not even sure what I’m saying at this point which is just about the perfect summary of Markelle Fultz’s career.

Other than that, Jimmy Butler cannot miss in the clutch, Kendall Jenner has started going to 76ers games, the Celtics are beating good teams and losing to bad ones, and the 76ers lost at home to a team who hadn’t won on the road. Does anything normal happen in this city?

Today’s contributors are:

1. Summarize your thoughts on this past week of Markelle Fultz drama:

Rose: I’ve been asked this a few times since the news dropped of him not returning to the court until he sees a specialist and my answer has been the same every time: I’m over it. Fultz was the only player I wanted in the 2016 draft, even before we traded up to number one. I supported the move wholeheartedly. Even once the supposed yips popped up, I still supported him because he seems like a hard worker who would do everything in his power to get through such a rough patch. It’s just getting to be too much at this point and it’s not worth the breath and optimism to think this situation can end well. The one thing that was made clearer to me through all the flip-flopping and denials that took place since the initial news dropped is that Fultz’s camp has been the catalyst of a career in free-fall and the only thing that could save him might be him ending up in Klutch – and I don’t think Rich Paul is on-board for that. Fultz showing up at shootaround after allegedly saying he isn’t going to step on the court until he saw a specialist was all I needed to know about the people around him. Fultz’s situation is not normal and his camp is just making it worse every time they open their mouth. I wish him the best of the luck and cannot in good consciousness root against someone in such a horrible situation, but I’ve exhausted all the care in the world and I’ve got nothing left.

Mangigian: To be honest, I am tired of all the confusion. No one other than Markelle Fultz knows what is really happening to him. I want clarity, and I do not think that is asking much. Fultz continues to bewilder me, and at this point, I am just tired of entertaining this stuff. The 76ers went out and got Jimmy Butler to be their third core piece because Fultz could not fulfill that role. They moved up and drafted Fultz to be the final piece of the youthful puzzle, and clearly, that is not the case. With the addition of Butler, there is absolutely no time to baby Fultz.

The most upsetting part to me about the recent news is that Fultz went from playing every night to communicating with the team through his agent. I want to hear from Markelle. At this point, I do not really care what his explanation is, I just want it to come from him directly. Will we ever really know what is going on? As the story continues to unravel, we’re left with even more questions and fewer answers.

Markelle Fultz

Markelle Fultz and Jimmy Butler talk on the bench. (Tim Tai/Philly.com)

Calpin: Frustrating. For the first time in this whole saga, I have really now started to doubt and wonder if he ever will pan out to be what we drafted him to be. Reports of nerve damage, motorcycle accidents, not wanting to be on the team. It’s all, for the first time, started to sound like Fultz now having no interest and for the first time the 76ers and Fultz not being on the same page.

2. Are the Sixers in a honeymoon period with Jimmy Butler?

Rose: I think they are but that doesn’t mean I expect everything to collapse. The 76ers are squeaking out wins that they have no business winning (cough Brooklyn cough), so things are going very well other than the Cavs game, but those Jimmy contested threes with no time on the clock will not go in every time and I would not be surprised if their constant lead-choking will come back to bite them in a stretch soon and I’m interested in seeing how the team stays together during a situation like that. Brett Brown has been very good at keeping the locker room together since he got here, so while I think things are just going extra well because it’s new, I expect this to be closer to the final product than, say, the present-day Wizards.

Mangigian: I reject that idea, and supplement another narrative: Winning cures everything. This “Honeymoon” phase will never end if the 76ers continue to have success. If Butler came in, and things did not work initially, there would be no honeymoon phase. While we do not know how Butler will react when things inevitably get tough, I believe Butler will only worry about the effort the team puts out.

It is also fair to assume at some point down the road, this core will change drastically. We all know how NBA rosters can overturn like a game of musical chairs, it is hard to look far into the future of an NBA franchise. Jimmy Butler has been the closer the 76ers needed, and that will not change in the immediate future. Butler’s attitude reflects that of the city, and I cannot see his want to win ever being held against him in Philadelphia.

Calpin: No, I don’t think so. He’s the real deal and we knew that. Are we being a little spoiled with the game-winners? Maybe. But we know what he can do on both sides of the floor, we know he can be a leader for the locker room and the younger guys, and we know he’s going to give you 110% night in and night out. This isn’t the honeymoon this is just a really good marriage.

3. The Kendall Jenner petition – yay or nay?

Rose: This might be the most embarrassing thing I’ve seen from Philly since that guy threw up on a little girl at a Phillies game and I hate everything about it. Let’s just not bully a girl for going to see her boyfriend – who by the way, is playing as well as he has all season. The Kardashian joke is funny when it’s talked about in jest but once you write up a petition to ban someone from coming to games, you are crossing the line and it’s ridiculously lame. People are scared of Ben potentially wanting to leave Philly for LA, so what better way to make sure that happens then not letting him bring a girl to his games? Big nay for me.

Kendall Jenner at the Sixers’ loss to Cleveland (Tim Tai/Philly.com)

Mangigian: I could care less about who comes to watch 76ers games. I am definitely not crazy about Kendall Jenner being involved with Ben Simmons, but who I am to pass judgment? My concerns with Ben start and end with himself. Whether he dates Jenner or not, I just want him to improve as a basketball player. If I could choose to not hear about who is attending the game to watch their significant other, I would do so. However, this is just Philadelphia being Philadelphia and giving Jenner some of that “tough love” we preach about. If a stupid petition could deter Jenner from attending home games in Philadelphia, it would probably be a good idea to avoid the city altogether. Being in the public eye in Philadelphia requires some thick skin, and I think Jenner has plenty of experience dealing with things like this.

Calpin: Nay. For any other Jenner, I’m probably saying yay. But if the 76ers coincidentally lose a few games while she’s there but the TV keeps giving me peaks of her at the game, I am A-okay with that.

4. Are you still scared of Boston?

Rose: If I was a fan of any other team but the 76ers I would say no, but the Celtics could be winless and I would still expect the 76xers to get destroyed by them. They’re definitely way less scary than they were on October 16th, where Boston looked like a juggernaut on opening night against the 76ers, though. With Butler looking like the shot-creator the Sixers sorely miss every time these two teams face-off, and the Celtics’ young guys coming down to Earth a bit, the Christmas Day game seems like it might actually be a good contest. Jaylen Brown is shooting 40% from the field and just 25% from deep, Jayson Tatum looks like he took Kobe’s advice a little too seriously, and Gordon Hayward’s contract looks … ungood. With all of that said, Terry Rozier will shoot 87% and Aron Baynes will almost certainly make four 3’s, so who really knows what to expect. It’s never a good idea to doubt Brad Stevens’ ability to make the Sixers play like a rec-league team.

Mangigian: I will expect the 76ers to lose against the Celtics until I am proven otherwise. Their recent struggles mean nothing in the long run, in my opinion. Brad Stevens will continue to game-plan more effectively than Brett Brown, and their bench will continue to give the 76ers fits. While the 76ers are definitely back in the conversation with the Celtics and Raptors, I cannot say (yet) that we have enough pieces to compete with Boston in a playoff series. The depth of the Celtics is something the 76ers simply cannot match at this point, and it will most likely take until next season for this conversation to change.

Calpin: I’m not sure if I was ever scared of them. Did I think they were the better team? Yeah, I think so. But at the end of the day, we always had great talent that could compete with them. Now with Butler and watching their early struggles trying to juggle Gordon Hayward and other young pieces it makes me feel more optimistic. I will say this – I think I am more worried about Toronto than Boston. We know Toronto always struggles in the postseason but this is a different team. They have a top-five player in Kawhi Leonard, an impressive new coach and now no LeBron shadow to try to move out of. Watch out for the Raptors.

5. Call your shot: Does Markelle Fultz play another game for the 76ers? Is he still on the roster after the trade deadline? Which team ends up with Fultz after Philly?

Markelle Fultz

Markelle Fultz brings the ball up against the Suns. (via 76ers)

Rose: Yes, Markelle will suit up again in hopes to boost his trade value. No, Elton Brand is done with this whole situation and Fultz was not his draft pick, so it won’t affect his ego. The Suns seem like the obvious fit to me, with them forcing Booker to play out of position at the one due to an extreme lack of depth with Elie Okobo as the only true point guard on the roster after cutting Isaiah Canaan on Wednesday. The Suns have to get something in return for Trevor Ariza before he dips in the offseason, and if Fultz is their best offer, I think both sides really consider the deal. Fultz is still a skilled basketball player even without the shot, and surrounding him with Booker, Bridges, and TJ Warren might be enough shooting to not have to worry about spacing issues. Ariza still has a little bit left in the tank and would be a huge upgrade to Philly’s depth which is clearly an issue at the moment. It’s possible that he ends up on the buyout market, so best case scenario would be to get him for nothing and use Fultz elsewhere, but if a bidding war for Ariza’s services ends up on the table, this might be the best possible move.

Mangigian: If I am the 76ers’ GM, I am holding onto Fultz for now. Even if I believed Fultz did not have a future in Philadelphia, I believe it is a bad time to shop Fultz. I think we can all agree that his current value since entering the NBA, has never been lower. I might not be a businessman, but drafting a player high and selling him for his lowest value, does not sound like a good way to get a return on your investment. If Fultz wants to get a second chance in the NBA with a different team, he will have to show some promise on the court. Once Fultz gets some value back, and he prefers a move, then would be a good time to do so. I think Fultz could stay the remainder of the season, due to a lack of possible trades that entice Elton Brand to deal the 20-year-old. As for possible destinations, somewhere with a much smaller market should be a top consideration. Fultz desperately needs to get out of the spotlight to get his mind right.

Calpin: It is such a tough question to answer. I do believe that he will play another game with the 76ers off the bench. But at this point, I think the 76ers will move him before the deadline. They need a shooter or a stretch-four and his value is at an all-time low, unfortunately. I can’t say where he ends up. He could end up anywhere. If I had to make a decision I would say he ends up with the Cavs.

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