The Orlando Magic are still giving no sign of when Markelle Fultz will return. It is not even clear where he is progressing. But we wait eagerly still.
There is a good reason, of course.
Markelle Fultz is a former number one overall pick, the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double and a player who could be the difference between this young Magic core maintaining their playoff level or rising to a higher level.
That is probably too much pressure to put on one player. Especially one who is essentially a rookie.
And the Magic are not going to expect Fultz to step into the lineup and immediately change the team or play at an All-Star level. He has played in only 33 games in his career after all.
Orlando, of course, has played coy with any sign of his progress. The team has not put a timeline for his return when asked to comment on Fultz’s return publicly.
And that position will not change. The goal is ultimately to have Fultz return when he feels completely healthy and able to play for the long term. They do not want him to return and then have to sit out again because the pain has returned or is mismanaged in some way.
It has certainly been a long and frustrating process for the public and for fans. All the information is internal.
So whenever a little bit trickles out, it gets people excited. Because even with the uncertainty of several young players growing and developing, it is Fultz that remains the biggest mystery at the Magic’s biggest position of need.
The only people who really know what is going on with Fultz are those in his circle, the Magic staff and his teammates who spent time with him throughout the end of last season. His teammates have all said nothing but good things about Fultz and his work ethic. They seem just as excited as everyone else for him to join the team on the court.
No bigger endorsement has likely come from one of his top teammates. Aaron Gordon was on the SiriusXM NBA Radio show while he was in New York City for the Fortnite World Cup last weekend and spoke about Fultz.
Aaron Gordon does not say anything super new here. He does not give any insight into how he looks on the court or what his progress might be. These players know each other personally much better.
What Gordon actually says here is a statement of Fultz’s talent and potential. Everyone knows what would happen if Fultz realized his full potential.
And the question with Fultz was never one about his talent or his ability to play basketball.
He started 15 games last year on the 76ers and, outside of his shooting, had some really strong moments. He was phased out of the lineup because of his poor shooting and then he eventually took himself off the team to deal with his pain issues.
Fultz still collected a list of highlights throughout last season — he scored 10 or more points in six of his 19 games and he played 20 or more minutes in 15 games last year.
No one has seen Fultz play since Nov. 19.
That absence has only grown the anticipation for his eventual return. Especially after the Magic acquired him. You can already hear the Sixers fans groaning to wait a few months. Their patience had clearly run out.
So it is easy to turn even an innocuous quote like the one Gordon gave into something bigger. Especially when video of Fultz on a basketball court comes out. It is never certain when these videos get posted whether they are something recent or something from a few years ago.
Then, of course, there was Caron Butler’s comments during Summer League while Markelle Fultz was in Las Vegas saying he believed Fultz would be the Magic’s starter when the season begins.
It feels like every Magic fan is in Fultz’s corner and eager to see him play. They are hungry for information too so they can get a better sense of what the team will get from him. And, of course, there is the hope that he can be a part of that core for this team moving forward.
Training camp is about two months away. There is no update whether he will be ready to play at that point. It is hard to know what to count on.
Orlando keeping the same roster means the team can survive without him. The Magic know they can trust the players on their roster and Aaron Gordon said he was excited the team added Al-Farouq Aminu too.
But having Fultz would certainly add something new to the mix. All they have to hold onto is the rumors and promise of his debut.