Fultz's Issues Disrupt 76ers' Preparation For Pelicans

Markelle Fultz #20 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks on against Melbourne United in the preseason game at Wells Fargo Center on September 28, 2018 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Things couldn't be much more upside down for the Philadelphia 76ers right about now.

On the one hand, they've won three straight, including twice at home -- where they host visiting New Orleans on Wednesday night at at Wells Fargo Center -- while scoring at least 113 points in all three wins. For the season, the 76ers (12-7) are undefeated at home (9-0).

Yet at the same time, discord seems to be brewing with last year's top overall pick Markelle Fultz, whose agent, Raymond Brothers, confirmed to ESPN that the former coveted prospect would not participate in games or practices until his shoulder was evaluated by a specialist early next week.

For a team that appeared to have found some stability after the recent blockbuster trade for Jimmy Butler, the situation with Fultz is like a wrench in the machine. Coach Brett Brown and general manager Elton Brand told reporters that they were unaware of Fultz's health issues in recent weeks.

"There's nothing we saw medically that didn't allow him to play," Brand told reporters after practice on Tuesday. "He played last night. He played two days ago. Ever since Jimmy (Butler) came and (Fultz) wasn't starting, I thought he played pretty well. I was proud of him the way he bounced back from a lot of things."

Fultz's continued shooting woes have defined his brief NBA career, as he appeared in just 14 games last season after injuring a shoulder last October. He's shooting just 42 percent from the field this season and averaged 23 minutes with 8.2 points, 3.1 assists and 3.7 rebounds per game.

"It's kind of the first real sort of red-flag-type news," Brown told reporters after practice. "I played him 20-something minutes four days ago, and I thought he played OK. In fact, I thought he did well. I think he's having a good year.

"It's one of those things, last night the gym was flat, we needed some energy and I went with T.J. (McConnell). You all know and I know, that's what he does. It was an injection. It wasn't a result of anything Markelle did."

McConnell will see the start on Tuesday against a Hornets team that has also won three straight and six of seven. Charlotte's offense has been even better than Philadelphia's of late, with games of 129, 125 and 140 points the last three games.

In a 140-126 win over San Antonio on Monday night, which capped three straight wins at home, New Orleans shot 59 percent from the field, led by Anthony Davis' 29 points. Two weeks before that, the Spurs beat the Hornets 109-95, holding Davis to 17 points.

"We owed them," Davis said. "We're playing well at home now, and it's time to get back on the road and play against three tough teams."

Wednesday's matchup will be the first of three straight road games for the Pelicans, who are second in the Southwest Division at 10-7. New Orleans travels to New York on Friday before a quick turnaround to Washington on Saturday night.

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