Markelle Fultz still a starter, but he might come off the bench in second halves

By Keith Pompey - The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Philadelphia 76ers are headed to the playoffs, and they're unexpectedly bringing No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz along for the ride. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File) -

SHENZHEN, China — Markelle Fultz will remain the 76ers’ starting shooting guard. He just might come off the bench in the second half of games.

Sixers coach Brett Brown acknowledged that Monday after a 115-112 loss to the Dallas Mavericks in an NBA China game at the Shenzhen Universaide Centre.

Fultz picked up four fouls in the first half and came off the bench at the start of the third quarter. JJ Redick replaced him in the starting lineup at shooting guard. The Sixers had a lot of success with Redick as the starter last season.

“It didn’t have anything to do with Markelle being in foul trouble,” said Brown, who experimented with rotations this preseason. “Part of my responsibility is to be able put these guys in environments with different combinations and try to figure that out as quickly as I’m able.”

Brown went on to say that he believes Fultz is best with the ball in his hands. So is starting point guard Ben Simmons, the reigning rookie of the year.

As a result, the coach said, “When you bring him off the bench in the half, you’re able to get him like four or five more minutes as a point guard.”

Starting Redick after intermission is something the Sixers will continue to look at. However, Brown said he’ll stick with Fultz to start games.

However, Fultz and Simmons are not an ideal backcourt pair, because neither is an outside shooting threat. With both of them on the court, opponents are going sag off them, basically daring the pair to take outside shots.

Simmons attempts and makes corner three-pointers in warmups. But he attempted only 11 3-pointers last season (mostly buzzer heaves from half-court and beyond), missing all of them.

Fultz was sidelined for 68 straight games with what the team called a right-shoulder injury. However, sources said he actually had the “yips,” which hindered his outside shooting, and renowned shooting coach Drew Hanlen confirmed that in a podcast this summer. But on media day, Fultz denied he had the “yips.”

On Monday, Fultz finished with six points on 3-for-7 shooting, three rebounds and two assists in 19 minutes, 18 seconds, He did not attempt a three-pointer.

Fultz was heckled by Mavs owner Mark Cuban during the game. Cuban yelled for him to shoot the ball. The 2017 first overall pick fouled out on an offensive foul with 8 minutes, 52 seconds remaining.

He made just 1 of 5 three-point attempts this preseason after attempting just one last season.

Brown said Fultz’s preseason was what he expected.

“I think that we’re all going to have to step back and be realistic/patient with a 20-year-old’s growth,” the coach said.

The Sixers, though, had the league’s best starting-lineup plus-minus with Redick in their lineup last season.

The Philadelphia 76ers are headed to the playoffs, and they’re unexpectedly bringing No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz along for the ride. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/web1_Fultz-76ers-CMYK.jpgThe Philadelphia 76ers are headed to the playoffs, and they’re unexpectedly bringing No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz along for the ride. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum, File)

By Keith Pompey

The Philadelphia Inquirer