October 29, 2017
How banged up is Markelle Fultz's shoulder right now? That's a question that remains difficult to answer. The Sixers remain firm that he's dealing with shoulder soreness, and shoulder soreness alone, but the rookie guard is now expected to miss at least the next three weeks as a result of whatever is happening with his shoulder.
As I reported on Saturday night, Fultz was in Lexington, KY this weekend to consult with another shoulder specialist about what's ailing him. He was joined by members of the Sixers' medical team, per a source, and the team confirmed the visit in a press release they dropped shortly after the Eagles wrapped up on Sunday. The full statement follows below:
Following consultation with several shoulder specialists, including a visit with Dr. Ben Kibler, Medical Director of the Shoulder Center of Kentucky at the Lexington Clinic earlier today, 76ers guard Markelle Fultz will be out indefinitely with soreness and scapular muscle imbalance in his right shoulder. The visit further confirmed that there is no structural impairment to the shoulder, and he will continue his physiotherapy treatment. Fultz will be reevaluated by Dr. Kibler in approximately three weeks.
Here are the important pieces of information without all the extra language: Fultz isn't playing for at least three weeks, he has no structural damage to the shoulder, and now we know he's dealing with a condition called "scapular muscle imbalance." That's a lot more than we knew before today.
Per a source familiar with the situation, the team's thinking on the matter is informed by a desire to only put Fultz back out there when he is 100 percent comfortable and healthy again. Fultz obviously won't be going through full basketball activities during that timeframe, but he's expected to travel with the team when it doesn't interfere with his PT program. His focus will be placed on physical therapy and the things he can master without full basketball activity — playbook mastery and film-room work, for example — with the idea being he'll hit the ground running when he's physically comfortable.
While I think people are right to be skeptical of the Sixers' decisions in the medical department, this doesn't strike me as a situation where it's worth getting up in arms at them. They have been abundantly clear in their belief that Fultz is simply dealing with a soreness issue, and this additional visit to Dr. Kibler has produced the same verdict from yet another specialist. A player wanting to see if he could play through the pain is fairly common, and given that the team has done their due diligence getting second and third opinions on the issue, their only real error looks to be communicating the problem and the timeline in the first place.
Is this a fun thing for Sixers fans to deal with? Absolutely not. There will be lots of chuckles and insults cast toward Philadelphia for all the reasons they have in years past. But I'll offer a gentle reminder to keep some perspective here because it appears there is no serious injury for Fultz, and the "out indefinitely" decision is them being conservative with a player who is very important to their future. Isn't that what everyone wanted in the first place?
The optics are not great, but all that matters is that the Sixers get Fultz back to 100 percent physically and mentally. If all Fultz needs is some R&R to get back into his groove, this will be water under the bridge before the calendar year closes. Let's just make sure he returns with his jump shot, whenever he does make it back to the court.