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December 10, 2018

Angelo Cataldi: Sixers' Markelle Fultz has TOS? I call B.S.

Opinion Sixers
112018_Fultz_USAT Bill Streicher/USA TODAY Sports

Philadelphia 76ers guard Markelle Fultz.

Pardon my skepticism, but I don’t believe Sixers draft bust Markelle Fultz has thoracic outlet syndrome – unless one of the symptoms is an abject fear of playing basketball in the NBA. 

Follow my logic. If you were trying to hide the phobia that has gripped Fultz since he left the University of Washington after his freshman year, how would you accomplish it with the eyes of so many fans and media watching so closely? 

First, you would declare that there was something wrong with his shoulder that required immediate attention the day after he was benched in favor of T.J. McConnell – his second benching in two weeks – even though the player himself had denied any issues for months. 

Next, you would embark on a 10-day, four-city medical odyssey seeking the advice of a veritable army of the top medical minds in America. There would be a battery of MRIs, CAT scans, x-rays – every test known to science – to find the reason why a shooting guard can no longer shoot the basketball.

Then, the diagnosis is thoracic outlet syndrome, a mysterious malady with no known cause and no known cure. It is extremely hard to identify, hence the lengthy lapse in diagnosis. It would explain the odd new shooting style, the double-pump at the free-throw line, all of the quirks in Fultz’s game since the Sixers made him the No. 1 pick in the draft two years ago.

If Fultz never regains his form – all but a certainty at this point – he has the perfect excuse. If Fultz pockets the $25 million he is guaranteed in his first contract and fades from sight, hey, it wasn’t his fault.

If he hides behind his own fear of playing in the NBA, who’s the wiser? The biggest clue that this whole thoracic outlet syndrome business is pure nonsense is the simple fact that no one will provide the name of the medical genius who came up with this diagnosis. 

The fact that Fultz is rehabbing 3,000 miles away in Los Angeles, where his agent Raymond Brothers resides, is another troubling twist. The fluid timeline for recovery is yet another hint at the real story. Markelle Fultz is afraid to play basketball in the NBA. He is haunted by the pressure of being the top pick in the draft. He is intimidated by real stars like his newest teammate, Jimmy Butler. He is a kid who was not ready for the responsibility imposed upon him. 

It happens. Not everyone has the temperament to play professional sports, especially in a demanding city like Philadelphia. What is shameful, however, is lying about it. I am no doctor. Hell, I almost flunked the only college course I ever took in biology. But I am convinced that Markelle Fultz does not have thoracic outlet syndrome. 

And if you’re looking for a second opinion, ask the Sixers. I’m pretty sure they don’t think he has it, either.

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