76ers GM: 'There's a chance' Markelle Fultz 'is not going to play this year'

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Philadelphia 76ers GM Bryan Colangelo conducted a post-trade deadline media session with local reporters, and he once again dropped a devastating bombshell on a prized rookie’s debut campaign.

When asked if No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz will play again this season, Colangelo told reporters, “There’s always a chance that he’s going to be out there soon, and there’s a chance that he’s not going to play this year. I can’t answer that question, because we don’t know the answer to that.”

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This is the first time we’ve flat-out been told by the 76ers that Fultz may not return in 2017-18.

The Fultz situation is a complete mystery. Even before his rookie debut began, Fultz experienced shoulder soreness and altered his shooting mechanics. Whether the soreness altered his shot or his altered shot caused the soreness remains unsolved. It’s been a chicken-and-egg argument all year.

And things get weirder. Fultz began the season coming off the bench for the Sixers, but the questions persisted. So, Fultz’ agent came out publicly to inform us that his client had fluid drained from his shoulder, before later correcting the story to say, um, actually, he had fluid put into his shoulder.

It was all very strange, so the 76ers shut down the top pick for three games at the end of October to sort it out. Days later, he was ruled out indefinitely with scapular muscle imbalance. By early November, Fultz was shooting jumpers left-handed for reasons unknown. A month after they ruled him out for just three games, Fultz was still “weeks away” from a return. Weeks passed, and nothing.

Finally, a week into December, the 76ers announced Fultz’s shoulder soreness was “completely gone.” Good news, except for the fact it took until January for the team to issue another bizarre statement — Fultz was “cleared to begin the final stage of his return-to-play program.” Which sounded ominous.

All the while, the Sixers weirdly allowed Fultz to practice his broken jump shot in play view of the media, and coach Brett Brown kept us abreast of how bad it was: “It’s not where it needs to be. It’s not where it used to be.” Except, the team offfered no explanation for it, encouraging questions about whether this was still a health issue or merely a mental block that Fultz hasn’t been able to hurdle.

Making matters worse on Friday morning:

These are … these are not encouraging answers, nor do they clear anything up, especially: Why did the team play Fultz at the start of the season, rule him out for just three games — or was it weeks — and then said he was fine, only to now say he could miss the season — all while they allowed reporters to document his devolving jumper on video? This is not how you handle a 19-year-old No. 1 overall pick.

When Colangelo reportedly walked off without answering questions about the next possible update, the media took out their phones to once again nab video of Fultz, who, naturally, was shooting in the gym for all to see — to which Sixers guard J.J. Redick said, via the Philly Voice, “The kid’s f***ing 19.”

Redick gets it, except his issue should be with the management structure that doesn’t have Fultz off shooting elsewhere or after reporters leave, not the reporters who chronicle this strangest of stories.

If the issue is mental, the Sixers have only made it more grueling. If it’s physical, everyone would have been better served had they diagnosed it properly and ruled him out indefinitely from the start. Instead, they publicly shrug their shoulders, and we’re left to wonder if Fultz will ever be the same.

We should expect this from the 76ers by now, after they misrepresented injuries to fellow top picks Jahlil Okafor, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, among others. Okafor’s six-week knee injury turned into six-plus months. Simmons was going to return from a foot injury last year, and then didn’t. And we learned from beat reporter Derek Bodner that Embiid’s left knee contusion last season was really a season-ending torn meniscus. We thought maybe the mismanagement was all part of The Process.

Now, we don’t know what to think. Maybe they don’t, either.

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Ben Rohrbach is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at rohrbach_ben@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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