PHILADELPHIA — Markelle Fultz, the top overall pick in last year’s NBA draft, may not play again this season as he deals with a right shoulder injury and works on his shot.
Fultz played the 76ers’ first four games of the season but has been sidelined since.
Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said Friday before the team’s game against the New Orleans Pelicans that Fultz is progressing in his recovery — but with uncertainty.
"There’s always a chance that he’s going to be out there soon, and there’s a chance that he’s not going to play this year," Colangelo said. "I can’t answer that question because we don’t know the answer to that. Markelle’s doing great. He’s progressing well."
The hedging around Fultz’s status comes as a surprise given that he appeared on track to return soon.
Colangelo says the team will play Fultz when he’s ready, but don’t have a timeline right now.
Fultz was ruled out indefinitely in October with soreness and a scapular muscle imbalance in the shoulder. The team announced Dec. 9 the soreness was gone, the imbalance had been resolved, and he was going to participate in "elevated on-court basketball activities." Then on Jan. 2, the team announced Fultz had been cleared to begin the final stage of his "return-to-play program."
As he recovers, Fultz’ jumper has become an issue as videos of him struggling with his shot made rounds on social networks. He didn’t appear to have problems during summer league, but at some point his shooting technique changed.
Colangelo said the injury led to a lack of muscle control and co-ordination.
"That’s the part of this that is a little bit of an unknown for us and our medical team," said Colangelo, who added that while the cause of the injury is still unknown, it could have been due to overuse or an irregular motion.
"We don’t know if it was working on the shot that led to the soreness or the soreness that led to working on the shot," Colengelo said.
Colangelo said Fultz is "literally retraining his shooting mechanics right now" but is performing well in other areas besides perimeter shooting.
Fultz averaged 6 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists in his four games this season.
"We are talking about a situation where someone’s relearning how to shoot a basketball, and that was one of his elite skill sets," Colangelo said. "That’s got to be frustrating."