Markelle Fultz will feature as part of Orlando Magic’s training camp next week, the team have confirmed. Having traded for the 2017 number one pick this February after a tumultuous stint with the Philadelphia 76ers, there is renewed optimism the 21-year-old will flourish among new surroundings following two NBA seasons which saw him play just 33 games.
The mystery surrounding Fultz and his injury status has finally reached its conclusion ahead of the 2019/20 campaign: he’s fit, available and raring to go in new surroundings for a Magic side eager to again exceed expectations after achieving the seventh seed in the postseason last term.
After opening part of their workout for the media, Magic’s president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman confirmed his status while tempering expectations once Fultz does return:
“It’s really important: Markelle just turned 21, you saw the work he’s put in and is shooting the ball freely. He’s in a really good place, I hope our fans are really excited to see this; this is why we’re doing this.
We are going to remain patient, not put expectations or timelines on his development – he hasn’t played basketball in a year. He’s played 33 games total in his career, so it’s going to unfold the way it does, as we always say with our young guys.”
Steve Clifford led them to a 42-win season, where they were level with surprise package Brooklyn Nets (6th) and finished one victory better than the Pistons – led by All-Star power forward Blake Griffin.
Despite being beaten in a five-game series by eventual NBA champions Toronto Raptors, the Magic acquitted themselves well and will hope for more development in an unpredictable Eastern Conference following Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard’s departure for Los Angeles.
So what happened to Markelle?
In his tumultuous NBA career to date, Markelle is averaging 7.7 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists with a 41% FG and 26% from three-point range.
Last season, Fultz played 19 games. His last was off the bench during the 76ers’ 119-114 win over the Phoenix Suns in mid-November, but with recurring injuries didn’t feature again for the remainder of the term before and after the consequent trade deal was finalised.
He showed brief flashes of his quality, namely with impressive efforts against the Bulls, Pistons, Atlanta Hawks, Clippers and Grizzlies. Ultimately though, inconsistency remained a persistent problem that prompted many to claim he was comfortably heading towards bust territory.
What’s next for him and the magic going forward?
There are currently no restrictions in place for Fultz as part of their training camp schedule, which will begin on October 1. His new ball club released a brief but nonetheless effective hype video showcasing his on-court return, though shooting unopposed in the gym and looking impressive while doing so doesn’t always translate infront of thousands at various arenas across the country. Just ask Carmelo Anthony.
So it’s understandable to be cynical and equally patient with Markelle’s return, as he and his new team are aware there will be rough patches as they look to acclimatise him into their setup. It would have helped matters that he joined seven months ago and has observed from the sidelines, assessing where he fits into their side – between the SG and PG positions.
Fultz revealed as much when questioned, saying: “I’m basically still a rookie, but at the same time, my mental [approach], body and willingness to be coachable is more than enough. So I think that’s going to do its job.
I was the no. 1 pick so I think that says enough [about] that. I don’t really have to talk too much about it, but am just going to work hard. I know, my coach and teammates know I’m not going to be perfect.”
DJ Augustin has entered the final year of his contract and despite consistency at 32, remains an expendable long-term option. With Mo Bamba, Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon alongside All-Star center Nikola Vucevic – who just signed a four-year $100m extension – their future is on the up.
Magic will play six pre-season games starting with Spurs on October 6th, finishing against the Heat on October 18 before their opening clash of 2019/20 against the Cavaliers six days later.
Quotes’ source: The Athletic