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February 08, 2019

Orlando Magic teammates embrace Markelle Fultz as Sixers drama ends

NBA Sixers
101918-MarkelleFultz-USAToday Bill Streicher/USA Today

Philadelphia 76ers guard Markelle Fultz.

The Philadelphia 76ers cut their losses with Markelle Fultz before Thursday's NBA trade deadline, shipping the polarizing former first overall pick to the Orlando Magic.

Given everything the Sixers invested into drafting Fultz — and the extended nightmare that followed — the trade return of Jonathan Simmons and two draft picks (including a first-rounder) seemed palatable and cleansing for both sides.

Fultz didn't have much to say in an Instagram post beyond offering thanks to the Sixers and Philadelphia as their pursuit of a title heats up. The 20-year-old was always, if nothing else, well-liked by his teammates.

Orlando, at best a fringe playoff team in the Eastern Conference, appears to be a good place for Fultz to work through his physical and mental roadblocks.

Several Magic players spoke positively of Fultz's arrival on Friday, according to NBA.com.

Forward Jonathan Isaac, who was drafted five spots behind Fultz in 2017, also struggled with injuries during his rookie season. He remembered going up against Fultz as a teenager, calling him a "really tough guard" and a player who could shoot the ball well.

"I think it's a great get for us," Isaac said.

Fultz's long and winding definitive timeline with the Sixers can be read here, if you have the stomach. His final status in Philly had him rehabbing from thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS), the nerve condition doctors concluded was impacting his shoulder and neck. 

Fans and doubters often questioned whether Fultz was simply derailed by pressure and mental struggles. 

Isaac was asked about the mental side of the game on Friday.

"You know, you spend one year in college. We're paid very well for what we do, you know," Isaac said. "There's so much [that] goes along with that and it's hard to play a good basketball game, believe it or not, when you have a lot of things going on in the background."

For Fultz, Isaac believes Orlando can help get him back on track.

"I feel for Markelle and the situation that he's been in, but I'm glad that he's out of it," Isaac said. "I'm glad he has a fresh start, can clear his head and just get to playing ball again."

Team leader Aaron Gordon said he's willing to help Fultz in any way he can.

"With Markelle, I’m extremely excited to talk to him and it’s a fresh start for him in Orlando,’’ said Gordon "This game is mentally grueling being in the NBA. I’m glad that he’s a part of our team now and hopefully I can talk to him and help him with whatever he’s been going through."

It's unclear whether we'll see Fultz suit up for the Magic before the end of the season. For those in Philadelphia who grew weary of the medical mystery and indeterminate sunk cost, it's nice to see he'll have a team that can support him restarting a healthy NBA career in earnest.

Maybe it will take a little magic to vindicate the tweet pinned atop Joel Embiid's timeline since Fultz's return last season. 


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