Don’t call off the search for Markelle Fultz’s shooting form.
The 76ers’ No. 1 pick surfaced on the court Thursday for the first time in months, since he was sidelined with a muscular imbalance in his right shoulder, throwing up fadeaway shots during warmups that didn’t offer much relief for 76ers nation. Fultz had hinted at a comeback for Philadelphia’s Thursday night game against the Celtics in London, a 114-103 loss, but the only action he saw came before the game.
The drill called for Fultz to drive against teammate Ben Simmons, decelerate, pivot to his left and shoot over Simmons’ outstretched hand. The progression flowed smoothly until Fultz pulled up for the shot, pausing briefly with the ball in his hands before pushing it at the basket. He missed each attempt caught on camera, with the first one clanging off the backboard.
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A scout from an Eastern Conference team said he noted some issues with Fultz’s shot during his freshman season at Washington, in which he averaged 23.2 points per game on 48 percent shooting, but he never imagined those flaws would snowball once he entered the NBA.
“It wasn’t great, but he could score,” the scout told NJ.com. “He was a poor free throw shooter, but he had instincts, which is something Ben doesn’t have.
“I saw him shoot three different ways,” the scout added. “One was last year (at Washington), one was at the beginning of the season, then he changed it again and I’m like, what the f–k is going on? It was better before, and he wasn’t great. When I saw him air-ball two free throws in a row, I’m like, what is he doing?”
76ers coach Brett Brown, whose team has gotten off to a 19-20 start, sounded hopeful when discussing Fultz’s return to practice, but didn’t mention how his shot fit into that evaluation.
“He didn’t go through the full practice today, but he went through the large majority of it,” Brown told reporters earlier this week. “So anything that had transition defense or play calls or slides or passing drills, like he went through the whole thing in relation to me having the ability to do whatever I want.
“I thought he looked good for not having done much obviously in the past few months.”
Fultz, 19, drew concern in just four games played this season, averaging six points on 33 percent shooting. He didn’t attempt a single 3 pointer after averaging 41 percent from beyond the arc with the Huskies.