ABOVE PHOTO: Philadelphia 76ers guard Markelle Fultz (7) drives around Utah Jazz guard Dante Exum during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game in Salt Lake City. Fultz needed to be helped off the court with an injury to his left ankle in the 76ers’ summer league game Saturday, July 8, against Golden State. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)
Or, how Markelle Fultz’s ankle caused a meltdown in Sixersville…
By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun.
Last Saturday, Philadelphia 76ers fans went into a deep panic when they saw No. 1 draft pick Markelle Fultz collapse on the court with what appeared to be a devastating foot injury in the third quarter of the Sixers Summer League game.
Another first-round draft pick hurt before the start of the season?! Holy Feets, don’t fail me now, Batman!!!
You could hear a colleactive “Oh, woe is us” from Sixers fans as Fultz struggled to get off the floor. The Ghosts of First Round Draft Picks Past ran through their brains as they remembered the Conga line of people with foot or leg injuries that have walked through the doors.
You can’t blame these fans for feeling like their squad is cursed.
As it turned out, this collective panic was much ado about nothing. Fultz has a left-ankle sprain that’s going to heal in the next two weeks. In fact, he was back at shoot around with his team, bouncing the ball around the court.
You can back away from the Ben Franklin (or Walt Whitman) Bridge now.
But I can see why everyone freaked out and also why Sixers management decided to shut the former University of Washington star down for the rest of the summer.
When it comes to busted ankles, messed up feet and other orthopedic nightmares, no team has had the string of misfortunes that the Philadelphia 76ers have had over the last few years.
It seems like yesterday when Andrew Bynum made that grand entrance in front of packed house at the National Constitution Center back in 2012. Sixers fans had dreams of championships dancing in their heads.
Unfortunately, Bynum’s leg problems were so severe that they never got to cheer for him. He never played an official game for the team.
Of course, you know the rest of the story. Three of the team’s last first round picks came to the City of Brotherly Love with some sort of leg or foot ailment. Joel Embiid has only now gotten himself together enough to play limited minutes.
So you can’t really blame the fans for how Fultz’s ankle sprain made them feel. It was as if “the Curse of Jeff Ruland” had struck again.
(For my Millennial friends who don’t know who Jeff Ruland was, he was a center who was traded to the Sixers from the Washington Bullets, but didn’t play much because of knee injuries.)
If there is one thing that I hope comes out of Fultz’s injury, it’s a slow down of all this talk about the Sixers making playoffs next season.
Now will they be better than the 28 games they won last season? Probably. On paper, they’re certainly capable of it.
But to me, they have to crawl before they walk and in this case, crawling means having a full compliment of players for 60 games or more during the season.
For all of his social media exploits, Joel Embiid’s NBA career is exactly 31 games long. While he’s played in the Summer League, Simmons has yet to suit up for the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center and take on guys like LeBron James or a defensive specialist like Andre Iguodala.
One on hand, you can’t knock Sixers fans for entertaining a glimmer of hope and going nuts when something like injuries happen to their future star players.
At the same time, Fultz’s injury scare is a reminder that we can’t heap too many expectations upon this team. We have to let go through the ups and downs of being a young team. They have to learn how to overcome adversity to win games.
More importantly, they have to stay healthy.
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