Orlando Magic guard may have been dealing with a more serious injury than reported

Markelle Fultz was in and out of the lineup for much of the year with what the team called left knee tendinitis. He revealed in a video that his injury may have been more serious than previously admitted.
Markelle Fultz came through injuries to have a solid showing in the Playoffs for the Orlando Magic. But his future remains in flux.
Markelle Fultz came through injuries to have a solid showing in the Playoffs for the Orlando Magic. But his future remains in flux. / Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

Markelle Fultz was set for a big 2024 season. He looked healthy and confident as he finished the 2023 season, even comfortably taking pull-up 3-pointers.

While pundits around the league called for the Orlando Magic to upgrade the point guard position last offseason, Magic fans kept their faith in Fultz telling them they missed the gains Fultz made toward the end of the season. Everyone expected big things from Fultz.

But just five games into the season, Fultz was pulled from the lineup with what the team called left knee tendinitis. He did not play in 30 of the team's next 31 games. When he returned, he did not have the same explosiveness and burst that made the end of his 2023 season so promising.

With the Magic being fairly tight-lipped about the extent of his injury and knowing Fultz's long injury history, fans began speculating about the return of his thoracic outlet syndrome with his hesitance to shoot, noticing more the hitch in his shot.

His issue during the 2024 season was always about his knees and his struggle to get lift on his shots. He never seemed completely right.

It turns out his injury may have been more serious than previously reported.

In a video Fultz released on his YouTube page two weeks ago while preparing for the Playoffs, a physical trainer working with him revealed he still had small fractures in his left knee (the knee he previously tore his ACL) and was receiving some bone stimulation treatment to help it continue to heal.

It is hard to tell if this is a normal thing — the fracture was obviously not severe enough to keep him out of the lineup — or something that was exacerbated by his early season injuries. It, unfortunately, adds to a long line of injuries for the young guard as he enters a critical offseason with free agency ahead for him.

Fultz struggled throughout the season, finishing averaging 7.8 points per game and 2.8 assists per game, both lows since his arrival in Orlando in 2019. He shot 47.2 percent from the floor, but his hesitance to take threes remained a sticking point for him as teams sank into the paint to dare him to shoot. He attempted only 18 threes across 43 games.

"I had my ups and downs and little bumps and bruises on my knee and my arms," Fultz said at exit interviews on Monday. "I'm just glad I was able to finish the season off healthy. Being able to finish the year off with my brothers and have that experience and make it to the playoffs and a Game 7 was huge for me. I'm just grateful. I'm looking forward to having another great offseason."

Fultz finally looked healthier as the season wound down, providing some hope for the Playoffs. Even this video with him working with Magic skill development coach Jeremiah Boswell shows he was making some serious gains.

Fultz stepped up in a big way during the Playoffs too, averaging 6.8 points per game and shooting 54.4 percent from the floor in the series with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He had 11 points in the Game 3 win and 12 points in the Game 4 win for Orlando and proved adept at finding pockets to score in the mid-range.

Still, his future with the team is in doubt as he enters free agency this summer. The Magic are likely shopping for some point guard help and seeking more consistent shooting to improve the team. Fultz, despite how beloved he is by teammates even being named a finalist for the Twyman-Stokes Teammate of the Year Award, may be the odd man out.

"Obviously, if it was the perfect world, I would keep everyone together," Fultz said at exit interviews Monday. "I understand it's a business. Some guys are going to be gone, some coaches might be gone. You never know, some guys might still be together. You obviously hope for the best. But understand you can only control what you can control. I always try to do that. I try to control what I can control -- be a great dude, work my [butt] off to be ready for the opportunity at hand and help my team win any way necessary. That's all I can do."

This is not the first time Fultz’s season was impacted by injuries

Fultz's health has unfortunately been the story of his career. From the knee issue that slowed him down entering the 2017 NBA Draft to the thoracic outlet syndrome that shot his confidence and ability to play at the highest level to the ACL tear that cut short his breakthrough 2021 season. This has been something that has followed him.

The Magic have stuck with him through it all. That appreciation is certainly recognized from a player like Fultz.

"I definitely want to be a part of it," Fultz said at exit interviews Monday. "They welcomed me with open arms here. They have been very supportive of me with all the ups and downs that I have had on and off the court. Of course, you want to be part of a young group doing great things. Just the culture here. They have a lot of great people here. I'm just excited for what the future holds. I'm very open for everything. Super excited."

While Fultz certainly hopes to still help grow with this Magic team, the realities of the league and the business are going to hit. Orlando has to take advantage of the opportunity to improve and go beyond where they went this year.

Fultz's future is in flux as his free agency approaches. Unfortunately, he did not get to have his strongest contract year because of injuries that continued to slow him down.