CLEVELAND — Markelle Fultz basically got the clearance to ramp up his workload.
The 76ers announced Saturday in a statement that the first-overall pick in June’s NBA draft is no longer experiencing soreness in his right shoulder and the scapular muscle imbalance is resolved. As a result, he’ll be involved at practice. Then after “approximately” three weeks, the Sixers medical staff in conjunction with surgeon Ben Kibler “will gauge his readiness” to play in a game.
So there’s an unlikely return before Christmas. Three weeks from Saturday is Dec. 30. The Sixers will play the Denver Nuggets that night in the second to last game of a five-game road trip. The trip concludes on Dec. 31 against the Suns in Phoenix.
Fultz recently had his shoulder reevaluated in by Kibler at the Shoulder Center at Kentucky in Lexington.
Kibler first diagnosed scapular muscle imbalance in Fultz’s initial visit to the Shoulder Center on Oct. 29. Then a second examination with the doctor on Nov. 19 revealed that the muscle balance in the rookie’s shoulder has improved and the soreness was dissipating.
Fultz had spent time last week at the center rehabilitating under Kibler’s supervision. He’s expected to have at least one more rehabilitation visit in Kentucky before being re-evaluated in three weeks.
In the meantime, the Sixers will add a shooting component to Fultz’s training. But for the most part, the next three weeks is really about getting him back into playing shape.
Before, the combo participated in non-contact drills during team setting. He was just running scripted plays. Now, Fultz will be able to progress into more on-court activity.
The Sixers and Kibler will then determine in approximately three weeks how the increased workload has affected him. They will make the decision to when he can return at that point. Coach Brett Brown has already said that Fultz will have to pass the foul shooting eye test before being cleared to play. His shooting form and accuracy took a hit while dealing with the injury.
Fultz has been sidelined since playing against the Detroit Pistons on Oct. 24. Saturday night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena will mark the 20th game he’s missed.
In other injury news, Justin Anderson will miss at least two more weeks with shin splints in his left leg. He’ll miss his 10th game on Saturday.