Markelle Fultz returned to action for the first time since October as he scored 10 points in the Philadelphia 76ers’ 123-104 win over the Denver Nuggets on Monday night.
The No. 1 overall pick for the Philadelphia side has not featured since the 97-86 win over the Detroit Pistons on Oct. 23 as he was dealing with a shoulder issue.
Despite the few rough moments such as losing the ball in his first possession since his injury, Fultz had an overall successful return to the court as he finished the game with 10 points, having gone 5-for-13 in his shooting, eight assists and four rebounds in a 14-minute cameo.
Sixers fans gave the 19-year-old a standing ovation when he entered in the first quarter and even chanted “We Want Fultz” when there were just a few minutes left in the game with head coach Brett Brown responding by reinserting him in. Fultz, however, thought they were chanting for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles at first.
“It was kind of cool,” Fultz told reporters after the game. “I mean at first, I thought they were saying Nick Foles and then I realized it and it was pretty dope. Like I said, these fans are great and I love them so it’s good.”
Fultz’s return was a surprise for many as his shoulder issues meant he had no immediate return date but Brown revealed the news prior to the game, stating that it was the rookie’s decision to come back.
“It was his decision,” Brown told reporters, as quoted on ABS CBN News. “It has been fluid. I get goosebumps telling you all that, I’m so proud of him. The people around him have done great things. I give that kid credit.”
On top of a right shoulder injury, Fultz was notably also diagnosed with scapular imbalance. According to ESPN, he was unable to shoot from beyond 15 feet “with sound mechanics or a well-tuned rhythm” as recently as February, which resulted in him intensifying his workouts.
With the Sixers now qualified for the NBA playoffs for the first time since 2012, Fultz has a chance of playing a role for the current No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference.
But while Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo and Brown were hesitant about his chances of playing a key role, the latter believes a comeback is a good first step, especially after the criticism Fultz received in just 76 minutes of regular season action back in October.
“Just look at what he’s been through,” Brown said. “It’s ridiculous what he’s been through. He understands it. I understand it. That’s the scrutiny you get when somebody says, ‘And with the first pick in the 2017 NBA draft, the Philadelphia 76ers select Markelle Fultz.'”
“That comes with pressures and responsibilities and acknowledgments. It’s just such an atypical way anybody enters pro sports. Knowing what I know and seeing what I’ve seen, and understanding how special that kid is from a human being standpoint, it’s a good day,” he said.