Markelle Fultz trusts Magic to make him best on and off court

The Orlando Magic and newly acquired guard Markelle Fultz are eager to get to work on his future.

The Magic officially welcomed Fultz into the family on Thursday during a press conference at Amway Center to introduce their newest player. He was acquired last week in a trade with the 76ers that sent reserve forward Jonathon Simmons and two draft picks to Philadelphia.

“I think the biggest thing that we’ve talked about is just doing stuff the right way, just building me up as a man and on the court. I think that’s music to my ears,” Fultz said. “Two things that I really want to do is be the best player I can be and be the best young man I can be. They do a great job of doing that as you can see with the team they have now.”

In the 20-year-old Fultz, who was the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft, the Magic feel they have another cornerstone piece for their franchise.

“I just wanted to begin by saying again how excited we are to have Markelle Fultz part of the Orlando Magic family,” Magic president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman said. “It’s very rare that you get a chance to add a player of Markelle’s ability and character to your team. These days don’t happen very often. It’s a good day for the Magic. And now it means we begin the work of getting Markelle where he needs to be.”

Getting Fultz where he needs to be begins with getting him back on the court.

He hasn’t played since Nov. 19 due to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) in his right shoulder. The injury was diagnosed in the weeks after he played just 7 minutes and 5 seconds in that November game against the Phoenix Suns.

After completing the trade, Weltman said last week the next step was assessing Fultz’s progress and establishing a plan that was best for him and the organization. That plan did not involve a specific date for Fultz’s return.

“We’re going to do it right. We are not going to do it fast,” Weltman said last week.

Fultz, who shoots right-handed, went to Los Angeles to begin therapy and rehabilitation on his shoulder in early December.

That work continues.

“Rehab is going great. Right now, we’re focused on doing stuff the right way,” Fultz said. “I have a great group in L.A. and the staff here is going to come out there to help me with that. Right now, everything’s going perfectly well.”

When asked if there is a timetable for his return, Fultz was noncommittal.

“Worried about doing stuff the right way, so right now it’s just about getting to where we’re all on the same page and doing the right thing,” he said.

According to the Mayo Clinic, TSO occurs when blood vessels or nerves in the space between the collarbone and first rib (thoracic outlet) are compressed. It can lead to pain in the shoulders and neck, and numbness in the fingers — symptoms Fultz has experienced.

“It’s hard to lift up your arms,” he said. “You lose feeling in your fingers. You can’t tell when it’s going to happen. It’s not like you do the same motion every time. You get tingling in your fingers, numbness. Stuff like that.”

His shoulder injury aside, Fultz said he’s excited to be a member of the Magic, and he wants fans to know what kind of player they’re getting.

“All I can assure you is that you’ve got a young guy who is going to come in and work hard every day, push his teammates, love his teammates, love the organization and give his best every time he steps on the court,” he said. “That’s all I can say.”

Fultz, who will wear No. 20 for the Magic, also showed a sense of humor, pointing out with a smile his new team is “4-0 since I got traded.”

“I just think it’s going to be fun,” he said of playing in Orlando. “Like I said, these guys are amazing. I feel like I’m at home already. I just can’t wait.”

Fultz’s acquisition gives the Magic two of the top six players taken in the 2017 draft. They selected forward Jonathan Isaac sixth. The Magic can now fill key roles going forward with four players currently 23 or younger: Fultz, Isaac (21), Mohamed Bamba (20) and Aaron Gordon (23).

Bamba, the rookie center who was the team’s top draft pick in 2018, played with Fultz on USA Basketball Men’s U-18 National Team in 2016. He also worked out with Fultz last summer, and he called Fultz shortly after the trade. Bamba, who’s currently out with a stress fracture in his left leg, said he can’t wait to play alongside his former teammate.

“Markelle was the No. 1 pick for a reason. I’m just super excited to play with him because I’m familiar with him, how elusive he is on the court,” Bamba said.

Fultz played in just 33 games during two injury-filled seasons in Philadelphia, and never had the chance to show off the skills that made him a top draft pick. Fultz has averaged 20.6 minutes during those two seasons, scoring 7.7 points per game and shooting 41.4 percent.

Fultz has averaged 8.2 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists in his 19 games this season.

Weltman’s evaluation of Fultz hasn’t changed much since he first scouted him as a freshman at Washington.

“Markelle, his ability kind of fills up all the places that we look to excel in today’s NBA. His size, his IQ, his vision, his skills. There’s really not a whole lot that Markelle can’t do, and in today’s NBA where contact is called so tightly the ability to get into the paint and work from the inside-out [is important],” Weltman said.

Magic coach Steve Clifford said Fultz has the potential to become “a dynamic two-player,” and his skill set especially can pay dividends in a playoff series.

“Watching film of him in Philly and then also of him in college, like Jeff said, I’m not sure there’s an aspect of the game he can’t excel at,” Clifford said. “Particularly in playoff series, you’ve got to have guys that can play both ways.

“And the other part of it is to be really, really good, you’ve got to be able to guard your position. And I actually think he can guard 1s and 2s going across the league, which is a huge advantage because it gives you flexibility with who he can play with, which makes a big, big difference over 82 games and in a playoff series.”

rparry@orlandosentinel.com

On Twitter @osroyparry

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