Magic Teammates Confident Markelle Fultz Will Overcome This Latest Setback

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - Normally right after wins, especially one in which they led by as many as 23 and improved to 6-2, a team is cheerful and enthusiastic. That, however, was certainly not the case for the Orlando Magic on Wednesday after defeating the Cleveland Cavaliers at Amway Center.

News that Markelle Fultz had torn his left ACL was both shocking and upsetting for the 6-foot-4, 22-year-old’s Magic teammates.

“It just hurt. It really, really hurt me just to see that it happened to someone,” rookie Cole Anthony said. “A similar situation happened last year when I was at UNC, my teammate A. (Anthony) Harris had just came off an ACL injury and I saw him tear his other ACL, so it’s just really heartbreaking. You never want to see anyone injured, but especially it to be a teammate, like a big brother figure since I’ve been here that has just helped guide me and it really, really hurt me to see that happen. He’s in my prayers. I’ll be here with him. I hope he gets better fast.”

Fultz’s injury occurred with 7:35 remaining in the first quarter of the Magic’s 105-94 victory as he was driving to the basket. He crumbled to the floor in obvious pain and had to be carried off the court and into the locker room.

Injuries have hit the Magic hard over the last year. Jonathan Isaac suffered a pair of left knee injuries, including an ACL tear at the Disney bubble that is keeping him out all of this season. Al-Farouq Aminu has been out for over a year with a right knee injury. Orlando was missing a few others because of injuries in its 2020 playoff series against Milwaukee, including Aaron Gordon. Chuma Okeke, who was unable to play last year after tearing his ACL in his final college game, will be out several weeks with a bone bruise in that same knee. A COVID-19 diagnosis in June caused a conditioning setback for Mo Bamba, who made his 2020-21 season debut on Monday. James Ennis III returned Wednesday after missing Orlando’s first seven games with a hamstring injury. Evan Fournier (back spasms) and Michael Carter-Williams (foot) were both out Wednesday. Now Fultz, who had a major shoulder injury while with the 76ers, is the latest to go down.

Staying mentally strong will be key for Fultz, who was playing with supreme confidence and poise right up until this latest injury. Considering he has already proven he can overcome a major setback, teammates are confident he will do just that once again.

“If anybody can handle this, it’s ‘Kelle,” said Terrence Ross, a fellow former University of Washington Husky. “He got the heart of a lion. He’s super talented. He’s always positive. I know he’ll be able to handle this and we all got his back. We’ll all be here for him. Be a part of that family and make sure he’s good. You hate to see this, especially for a guy that already fought through so much and then came back and was balling. And now this. But, it’s just one of those things. It’s going to make you stronger. He’s going to come back from it. I have no doubt.”

It appears Fultz is in good spirits. He wrote the following on Twitter about two hours after his injury diagnosis:

“Thank you for all your thoughts and prayers during this time. God has a plan for me and I know that this adversity will only make me stronger in the end. I believe in my brothers on this team and we have so much more to prove. To all the fans, keep riding with us. I’m going to approach this recovery with all my heart and be the best teammate I can be to this organization. Faithful to the grind.”

Fultz’s absence the rest of the year means the Magic will spotlight Anthony more. The 6-foot-3, 190-pounder has shown flashes of what he can become on both ends of the floor. Although his shooting has been erratic, Anthony plays with unrelenting determination and passion, which bodes well for his future outlook.

“I feel like I’m very well prepared,” he said. “Making shots might help, but I think in terms of all the facets – defense, passing, rebounding, all that, just leading – I think I’m pretty well prepared for all that. Maybe making a shot might help.”

Jordan Bone, one of the Magic’s two-way contract players, will now likely get increased playing time as well. The 23-year-old, who played with the Pistons last year, scored seven points on 3-of-4 shooting in 12 minutes during Wednesday’s win.

Undermanned all year to this point, the Magic hope to get Fournier and Carter-Williams back soon as they get set for an extremely difficult stretch. They will fly to Texas on Thursday for a pair of games against the Rockets (Friday at 8 p.m.) and Mavs (Saturday at 8:30 p.m.) before returning home for a matchup with the mighty Bucks on Monday.

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