Markelle Fultz aiming to be third Sixers star
A lot of fuss was made over the fact that the Philadelphia 76ers failed to add a top-tier talent over the offseason in order to complement the budding superstar duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, but the way second-year guard Markelle Fultz sees it, he is that third star.
“I kind of like when people doubt me and say 'look for another star,'” Fultz said while overseas with the Sixers for the NBA China Games, via Philly.com. "I see myself as that player. I just work every day to become better… I really don't look at other people's goals [for me], but I definitely look at it to see myself as that next player that can step up in that role."
Fultz didn’t necessarily look the part of a third star during the appearances that he made during his rookie campaign as the Washington product was hampered by a shoulder injury that derailed his shooting stroke resulted in a collapse of on-court confidence. However, after putting in serious work over the offseason, Fultz feels motivated – and confident – heading into his second season.
“This summer was one of my most hard-working summers,” Fultz said at Sixers media day in September. “Everybody knows what happened last year, so this summer was really just me working to get my mechanics back, my confidence back, my swagger back. It was a very productive summer.
"I had a lot of motivation going into the summer. Last year I had an injury that stopped me from being myself a hundred percent… I’m very confident going into the season.”
Though the adversity that he faced last season may have crumbled a mentally-weaker player, Fultz never lost sight of the fact that he had made it to where he was for a reason.
“The adversity that I went through last year, I don’t think [any] 19-year old ever went through what I went through last year,” Fultz said. “Going through something that I love, the game I love, and having the injury happen, having to deal with the media, having to deal with people saying certain stuff, and then having to deal with yourself just wanting to go in the gym and be yourself and telling your body to do something and it’s not doing it, it was tough… At the end of the day it wasn’t as tough for me because I knew I got here for a reason, and it wasn’t a mistake.”
Fultz is confident that he will ultimately be able to grow into that third star next to Embiid and Simmons in order to provide the Sixers with their own ‘big three,’ but in the short term he’s happy to be healthy, and looking to contribute in as many ways as he can.
“My goal is to come and help the team in as many ways as I can," Fultz said. "We did pretty good in making it to the playoffs, the second round… So my goal is to come in and help at both ends of the floor. Being that I'm healthy now, and able to play, I just want to contribute as many ways as I can."
Last season was tough for Fultz, but it was also last season. With a bounce-back campaign in ’18-19, Fultz could indeed establish himself as Philadelphia’s third young star and in turn propel the Sixers to another level.
Follow Michael Kaskey-Blomain on Twitter @therealmikekb.