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Last week, I was out with an old friend I hadn’t seen for a long time -- long enough that it was our first time ever discussing the Process Sixers. He said something about Markelle Fultz that, while not necessarily that outside-the-box an offering, was a perspective I don’t think I’ve quite heard before.
He was saying that for as crazy as the Fultz situation is, what really surprised him was that basketball players didn’t turn out like him *more often.* Not necessarily with his particular issues of ghastly free-throw shooting, randomly getting Monstar’d (or un-Monstar’d?) and suffering from perpetual Resting Sad Face, but just in the broad sense of a 19-year-old getting to the league, experiencing unprecedented amounts of attention and adversity, getting lost in his own head and not being able to find his way out. (“When I was that age, a girl broke up with me and I stayed in bed for a week,” he recalled.) When you take the widescreen view like that, maybe the Fultz situation is less inexplicable than it initially seems.
Not that that helps the Sixers much. Not that anything really helps the Sixers much when it comes to Markelle Fultz. They’ve been as patient, understanding and supportive as any franchise could reasonably be expected to be, but they do not have the counterspell that undoes the voodoo curse put on their top overall pick by his own body and/or brain. No one does, particularly not Fultz himself.
Yesterday, Fultz’s lawyer said a thing to Elton Brand, and then to a couple NBA reporters, who said a thing about it online. In response, Elton Brand and Brett Brown had a press conference, where they said some things about the thing that Fultz’s lawyer said. Watching from the sidelines, team beat reporters and the rest of the Process Faithful had more things to say about the things that were said about the things that were said. What do all these people have in common? None of them said anything of consequence about Markelle Fultz, because none of them have any idea what’s going on with Markelle Fultz. No one does, particularly not Fultz himself.
This has got to stop. We can’t keep doing this to Markelle Fultz, and we can’t keep doing this to ourselves. There is nothing more to be gained by analyzing his free-throw form, by drafting and developing conspiracy theories what’s really at the root of his issues, by vilifying anyone involved with Fultz’s on-court or off-court team, by asking Derek Bodner or Kyle Neubeck or any of the other people that normally have an idea of what’s going on to explain what’s going on with him. They can’t help. The Sixers can’t help. No one can help, particularly… you get the idea.
It’s tough to not be able to search for reason and understanding during strange and disturbing times. Hell, it’s why there’s been such a weird resurgence of interest in astrology in the last two years. We all want to believe there’s some higher power and/or larger principle guiding the chaotic events of the universe, and we’d love to know all about what it is. But sometimes, well, shit just fucking sucks butt, and if there’s any consistent and logical reason why, it’s far beyond our comprehension to grasp exactly what it is. The best thing we can do for all involved is to just stop trying.
With that in mind, I would like to ask for us to all stop talking about Markelle Fultz for the remainder of the calendar year. Maybe the team shuts him down. Maybe he or his people demand a trade. Maybe he goes AWOL on a walkabout and the next time we hear from him is when Process Trusters from the Australian Outback tweet a 20-second video of him splitting a bamboo shoot with a koala. Maybe he comes back tonight, scores 25 points in a win, and moons the Wells Fargo Center crowd in lieu of a Serena Winters post-game interview. Anything seems possible with Fultz, but at this point, there’s no benefit to trying to guess what it will be, or dissecting it once it happens. Just let the boy be, Avon.
Because you know what maybe the most remarkable thing of this situation is? The Sixers are fine. If you ever have any lingering doubt that Sam Hinkie was not the motherfucking daddy of them all, just remember that he left us in such good shape that the post-Hinkie Sixers traded two top-tier draft picks for a player who might never take a jump shot without tanking the national economy and we are still totally goddamn fine.
We are 12-7 and undefeated at home, against a schedule that’s turned out to be much tougher than anyone expected. We have Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler. We have J.J. and T.J. We have two first-rounders still from last June, one who looks like he’s gonna be a useful (and cheap!) contributor for a long time and one who should have as high an upside an anyone once he’s medically cleared to leave his iron lung. We have all our own draft picks, as well as that 2021 Miami pick, which is looking spicier by the day. We have enough cap space to offer Butler his own private island in the offseason and still be major players in free agency. If Markelle Fultz decides to donate his body to science today, we are still so friggin’ fine, you have to say it like foine, ‘90s-style.
So yeah. No more Fultz talk. It doesn’t help, and it’s ultimately not that important. If he does come back and starts playing again and we need to discuss his effect on the Sixers in strictly on-court basketball terms, that’s fine -- let’s just refer to him exclusively as The Backup Point Guard while doing so. ‘Coz that’s what he is right now: a backup point guard. Do you see Raptors fans taking 45-minute cold showers so they can properly fret over the progress of Delon Wright? Of course not; they have more important things to worry about. So do we.
Maybe someday, Markelle Fultz will once again establish himself as a consequential part of the Sixers’ future. And when the calendar turns to 2019, if he’s still around, we can revisit this topic and determine if it’s worth actually talking about him again. But until then, let’s actually enjoy the team that we have, the team that we’ve waited 15 years for -- maybe 35 years for some of us -- rather than spending all our time trying to get inside the head and/or shoulder blade of the guy playing 18 minutes a night off the bench. Post-Colangelo/91, we’ve become so enamored with our own detective work -- understandably -- that we think we can solve everything. But some mysteries are too big even for Sixers Twitter. This one’s not for us to figure out. Let’s let Fultz find his own way back.