Fultz to start for 76ers as Brown eyes NBA Finals
Former number one draft pick Markelle Fultz will start the Philadelphia 76ers' NBA opener against the Boston Celtics.
Sixers head coach Brett Brown confirmed guard Fultz – selected first in the 2017 Draft – will be in the starting line-up on Tuesday, with veteran JJ Redick coming off the bench.
Fultz has endured a difficult start to his NBA career, the 20-year-old hampered by injuries and a hitch in his jump-shot through his rookie season.
He averaged 7.1 points per game and attempted a single three-pointer in just 14 regular-season appearances in 2017-18 before falling out of Philadelphia's playoff rotation – totalling just 23 minutes in three postseason appearances.
Discussing his decision on the eve of Philadelphia's season opener, Brown told reporters on Monday: "How do I grow Markelle and especially with Ben [Simmons and Joel [Embiid]? How do I win games and put us in a position to move us forward? And how do you deliver a team to the end of April and May and hopefully June that's better when it started?
"You may have to experience some pain along the way as you rotate your team.
"I'm extremely motivated by Markelle at this early stage of his career he's best with the ball as a point guard… as we study the rotations we are going to persevere. It's come with a lot of thought. It doesn't make it right but it's after a lot of thought. I want to give this an appropriate amount of time. Everyone will have their own notion of what that equals."
Fultz added: "I'm very appreciative and happy…. Almost like a pat on the back for myself for all the hard work I put in during the summer but we still have a goal and things to take care of. So back to work."
Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons was Philadelphia's primary guard throughout last season and asked about his relationship with the Australian star, Fultz said: "We play perfectly well together… It will be very exciting for people to watch."
The 76ers made a splash in 2017-18, Brown's youthful Philadelphia roster reaching the Eastern Conference semi-finals after advancing to the playoffs for the first time since 2011-12.
Brown is dreaming big in 2018-19, saying: "I've said from the start I want to play in the NBA Finals.
"Somebody asked me 'if you don't, does that make it a failure?' No. How can that not be our goal? In my eyes and head, I don't feel comfortable not owning that as a goal.
"We kind of came out of left-field last season, won 16 games in a row, beat Miami Heat 4-1… everyone looks at us differently. Our vision line has changed. In my eyes in some ways too.
"What equals success? I don't know. We will all be able to talk about it candidly at the end of the season."