Last year the Orlando Magic shocked NBA fans across the world by sneaking into the playoffs. This year they are primed to make even more noise in the Eastern Conference. Much of their potential and aspirations rest on the (finally/hopefully) 100% healthy shoulders of Markelle Fultz.
Over the last 2 years there have been many unusual stories in the NBA, but nothing has confounded and confused fans more than the story of Markelle Fultz. Taken Number One in the 2017 Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers, Fultz has appeared in just 33 games over his first two seasons.
A Quick Primer
Most people already know the story but here is the quick version:
After two years of speculation and various rumors and diagnoses, Fultz was finally diagnosed with Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, a degenerative nerve disorder that makes it excruciatingly painful and close to impossible to life your arms above your head consistently, something that is obviously a problem when your career involves shooting a basketball 25+ times a night for a minimum of 82 games a year.
These mysterious injuries plagued his rookie and sophomore seasons and while there were flashes of the natural talent he displayed, the 76ers decided they couldn’t wait on his development any longer and needed to make a move.
Enter the Orlando Magic
Ostensibly sent there to rehab in the shadows and away from the spotlight, the Magic organization stayed relatively quiet as Fultz continued to grind away from prying eyes and most media. A few days before Orlando’s Media Day, they dropped a Markelle Fultz hype video showing off a smooth jump shot from all over the court as well as smooth handles and vicious attacks to the basket. They announced that Fultz was completely healthy and would be fully participating in the team’s training camp and preseason in an effort to get ready for a season where he is fighting for the team’s starting point guard spot.
Now, After Two Games
Two exhibition games don’t make a season but in his brief preseason stints so far, he’s looked almost every bit like the natural talent the NBA world was tantalized by just three summers ago.
Take a look at a few of his highlights from his second preseason game against the Pistons:
Through 2 preseason games he has shot 38% from the field and turned the ball over 8 times but that is to be expected as he works his way back. What’s got people around Orlando and throughout the league so excited is his activity. In the above highlights Fultz is all over the place. If he can continue to have a nose for stealing the ball, then the length and agility of this team is going to be a defensive nightmare for almost every team. He’s also averaging 5.5 assists a game and showcasing great vision and an ability to drive into the paint and kick it out to shooters.
Again, it’s the preseason so expectations and excitement need to be tempered accordingly but still. After two years of questions and constant jokes, it’s just good to see him out on the court and having fun. Fultz himself even said as much after his first game back:
“It was huge. It was really just a blessing. I give a lot of praise to the man up top, God. It’s all I can say. It was my first time out there in a long time and I’m just happy I was able to step out on the floor and compete.”– Markelle Fultz
As he continues to shake off the rust, Magic fans and NBA fans the world over are going to be just as happy to see him back.
Dustin Brewer is a freelance writer and Co-Editor of HefferBrew. He has a Markelle Fultz jersey hanging in his closet and is likely to order a Magic one in the near future. You can follow him on Twitter and stay tuned to HefferBrew for all the latest heading into the 19-20 NBA Season.