Orlando Magic don’t know when Markelle Fultz will play next, and that’s okay

Even though Markelle Fultz is generating a lot of interest and discussion, it is unclear when he will play for the Orlando Magic. (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)
Even though Markelle Fultz is generating a lot of interest and discussion, it is unclear when he will play for the Orlando Magic. (Photo by David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Orlando Magic general manager John Hammond stated he does not know when Markelle Fultz will play next. That is perfectly fine for the Magic’s outlook.

If the NBA Draft proved anything for the Orlando Magic, it is that the long-term future is most important for the team. The selection of Chuma Okeke, who will miss all or most of the 2020 season, means they were not in a position to draft for need and opted to take the best player available on their board even if he will not help them this upcoming season.

The Magic have plenty of free agent decisions looming as June 30 approaches. And guard remains the team’s biggest question mark moving forward.

One player in their plans to become the long-term answer is Markelle Fultz. The Magic acquired him at last year’s trade deadline, knowing he himself was going through rehab for an injury. There was little hope of him playing before the end of the 2019 season.

But even now, Orlando’s front office does not know the next time he will play an NBA game.

During a radio interview with 96.9 The Game, general manager John Hammond said he is not in the plans for summer league. And, as far as when Markelle Fultz might come back, he said they “have no idea when that’s going to be.”

The good news is Hammond also said Fultz is working hard, in great shape and growing in comfort with his shoulder and new surroundings in Orlando.

These comments, and a recent video of Fultz showcasing his ball handling and layup package, point to the fact Fultz is not pouting about his condition and is putting in the requisite effort to get back on the floor.

Fultz is still recovering from thoracic outlet syndrome and the timetable for him to return to full strength from this nerve issue is still unclear. While this may frustrate people who are counting on him to develop into the player that was drafted No. 1 in the loaded 2017 NBA Draft, taking his time to get to full health is part of the long-term plan for Orlando.

The Magic have the incentive and the time to be patient. And so they are more than comfortable letting Fultz recover on his schedule.

For starters, Fultz is an ultra-talented player. As a prospect, he had every offensive tool one could want in a lead guard. He has it all while standing 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan. That size with his athleticism fits the Magic’s player profile and points to an above average defender when playing.

Next, the Magic gave up little — Jonathon Simmons, a top-20 protected first-round pick in 2020 and a second-round pick that was traded to the Atlanta Hawks from the Philadelphia 76ers — to get Fultz.

Barring a massive improvement from Orlando, the team took a calculated risk on a top-tier talent for a role player and a second-round pick. Even if Fultz does not pan out, that trade was too good to pass up.

So while people are anxious to see Fultz on the court with the Magic, his timetable to be great is not in 2020. Having played just 33 games in his first two seasons, the Magic might as well treat Fultz’s first time on the court as if he is a rookie.

Rather the team’s future features him as part of the core with Jonathan Isaac, Aaron Gordon, Mohamed Bamba and Chuma Okeke. All of those players have missed (or will miss in Okeke’s case) extended periods of time.

The Magic have shown plenty of patience with their recoveries and development. So far with Aaron Gordon and Jonathan Isaac, they have reaped some major benefits.

Fultz’s injury has lingered longer than the other players’ injuries, but that is okay.

Just like Hammond said in that same interview, they are exercising patience with this situation.

It is delicate and frustrating, but it is encouraging to see front office and player mirror each other’s views in terms of not rushing the player back to the court, and waiting until he is 100 percent to jump back onto the court.

Hammond seems comfortable with how the Fultz situation is playing out despite not knowing when he will play again.

While the national media took that headline and ran with it, the statement was one more about confidence from the Magic. They do not know when that date will be but they see Fultz progressing toward it.

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Everybody supporting Fultz and the Magic should be patient and understand this is not about now, but the long-term outlook of both the player and the team.