The Sixers fly to London tonight, so this was our last opportunity to see a bit of Markelle Fultz for the rest of the week.
And we didn’t see much, with Fultz having finished up practice by the time we got into the gym.
We got a small nugget from Joel Embiid, who said the rookie guard practiced with the Sixers second team. JJ Redick said Fultz has “looked great” since jumping into five-on-five activities.
“He was just able to do a little bit more,” head coach Brett Brown added. “I thought he looked a little bit better and he’s a little bit further along.”
Brown was asked what he and the team are looking for from Fultz in day-to-day improvement.
“It’s the stuff where he’s not feeling any resistance with shoulder discomfort as much as anything,” he replied. “That’s the area we’re all really zoomed in on and the thing that affected his shot the most. With the medical team sort of leading the way, I’m sort of more of a recipient of the news, rather than saying, ‘oh, it looks like discomfort.’ It’s not that. I learn in retrospect, after he’s done stuff, of where he’s at. But I think he’s moving forward. And, to me, the compass is going to be that, the discomfort in his shoulder as it affects his shot.”
With no video clips to share, I asked Brown what he thought about those snippets of practice video that are gobbled up on social media. Anything Fultz-related is in high demand, which is why we supply context-free footage that people hopefully understand is not totally indicative of where the player currently stands in his rehabilitation.
“I think it’s such a snap shot into Philadelphia fans, that they’re dying, they’re crying for success,” Brown explained. “They’re curious about what’s going on with Markelle. The things our fans have (had to endure), with the history of all of our high draft picks either being out for a long time or missing a year, and now what’s going on with Markelle – we understand the whole thing. And I think the excitement is just a snap-shot, in a positive way, of Philadelphia fans and the genuine interest they have in the growth of our program. Really. I see it like that, more than amazement that 10 seconds of 50% (effort) jacks up the ratings.”
Joel Embiid did return to practice today after sitting out on Sunday. The extra days off come at an ideal time, with a sore back and a bruised right hand bothering the big man.
“I wouldn’t say it goes down (with ice),” said Embiid of the swelling in his hand. “It’s complicated. I don’t know what’s going on but it’s really painful.”
That doesn’t sound great, but he did play through the pain in a double-double performance last Thursday.
He also gave a small update on his back-to-back status going forward:
.@JoelEmbiid on when he might try to play in a back-to-back (next one is Jan. 28/29):
— Marshall Harris (@mharrisNBCS) January 8, 2018
Across the pond
Ben Simmons said yesterday that he doesn’t really care about losing a home game to play in front of an international crowd in London this Thursday.
Embiid echoed that sentiment Monday, explaining that he “just wants to win” the game.
Redick had a bit more to share on that topic.
“It’s unfortunate that we don’t get to play in front of our home fans,” he said. “That’s obvious. But to be able to have an experience like this in the middle of an NBA season is special. I certainly don’t take it for granted.”
Redick says he went to London while at Duke and played a few games against the London Towers BBL team that eventually folded in 2009. Later, he went over to watch Arsenal and Fulham play a Premier League game, but this is his first time back in ten years.
The veteran guard said he understood the brand and business side of the trip, playing in front of an impressionable, international crowd. But he stressed that this was a meaningful regular season game and not a preseason exhibition.
“I don’t know how cognizant we are of that, during the NBA season, if that makes sense,” Redick admitted. “When I’ve gone on trips during the preseason – two China trips and a trip to Mexico city – that’s been discussed, even among players and the team and front office. It’s something we all sort of recognize. This is a regular season game. We’re not going over there to try and put on a show. The Celtics are not going over there to put on a show or entertain the British crowd. We’re going over there to try to beat a great team. In that sense it is a business trip, but more in a sense of wins and losses for us.”
Embiid first went to London last summer, when he took part in a soccer charity event. He enjoyed the city and the scenery.
“I just fell in love with the city in general, just walking around it was beautiful,” Embiid said. “Beautiful women. I had a great time.”
Think of the trip as a combination of brand building, on-court business, and opportunity as well.
“It’s gonna be Dario’s father’s first time that he’s seen him play in a Philadelphia uniform,” said Brown. “That’s special to me. This trip is going to be a good team experience. We’re going to make the most of it. I think the (off) time in between, maybe it’s an added benefit that you didn’t think too much about when (the schedule first came out).”
We’ll leave you with a song from one of London’s finest musical exports: