Markelle Fultz Expected to Make Return for Orlando Magic’s Home Game Against Indiana Pacers

Dan Savage
Director of Digital News

ORLANDO – The moment that Orlando Magic fans have been eagerly anticipating this season is finally here.

Markelle Fultz is back.

The 6-foot-4 point guard completed his rehab process from a devastating ACL injury in his left knee and has been cleared to return to action for the Magic’s home game against the Indiana Pacers on Monday at 7 p.m. ET.

“I’m just blessed just to be able to, one, be where I am today after going through an injury like this and being able to fight and just be back on the court with my brothers and friends,” said Fultz during his appearance on the Orlando Magic Pod Squad. “So, one, I’m just blessed and I’m thankful for the process and the journey that I’ve been through. I’m very excited just to get out there with my teammates and go out there and compete.”

Fultz’s injury on Jan. 6, 2021 derailed a breakout season for the University of Washington alum. The No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft was averaging career bests in points (14.3) and assists (6.1) in the seven games prior to suffering a left knee injury in the eighth contest of Orlando’s 2020-21 campaign.

Since then, the Magic have been extremely methodical and focused on bringing the 23-year-old back the right way. Rather than rush the approach or place unnecessary timelines on his recovery, Orlando carefully ramped up his activity and diligently monitored his body’s response along the way.

“Me going through injuries before, especially with my shoulder, understanding that not rushing things and understanding that it’s a process even though some days you might feel great and some days you might not,” Fultz said of his rehab. “Just understanding your body and listening to your body. I think that’s the big adjustment and advantage that I had going into this rehab this time. I knew that there isn’t any rush. You have to be patient and I had to listen to my body.”

Throughout his recovery, Fultz felt the love from the Magic faithful and was encouraged by all of the fans at games, in public, and on social media that wished him well during his rehab and eagerly anticipated his return.

“I feel the love, I feel the energy, the excitement there,” said Fultz of the fan support. “That’s what’s kind of been pushing me and helping me get through and keep me grinding every day. Keeping that in the back of my mind just knowing who I am doing it for. Not only for myself, but for the city of Orlando and the fans out there who are supporting not only myself, but our team.”

Throughout his recovery process, Fultz and the Magic’s training staff used the opportunity to not only rehab his knee but also build strength and muscle throughout his body and raise his conditioning level as much as possible.

“I feel a lot stronger this time around,” he explained. “This injury has helped me work on a lot of things. This is probably the best my body has felt in a long time. I’m talking about full body. I can feel my muscles. I can identify certain things in my body. Just all around, core, conditioning, I think this is probably the best I’ve felt coming back and being able to play basketball.”

Simultaneously, Fultz has been working on his game with Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley and his staff. Whether participating in practice and training sessions at Amway Center, on the road, or in Lakeland, the dynamic playmaker has been adding even more items to his deep bag of tricks.

“I’ve just been working on everything,” he said. “Being able to be able to use my size as an advantage in the post. Being able to get to my spots where I love to kill, the midrange. Working on going through contact, getting to the rim, trying to get free throws. Stuff like that. Playing the same game. Shooting my threes off the dribble. Just a little bit of everything,”

At various stages of his Magic tenure, Fultz has proven to be lethal finishing at the rim as well as knocking down shots from midrange. He fully expects to be able to instantly contribute in those areas within Mosley’s system.

“(I’ve been) really focusing on my kill spots where the coaches and myself feel like I can be effective not only in our offense but for myself,” said Fultz. “It’s been really exciting, again, just being able to push myself and get all these practices and utilize Lakeland and their organization. It’s been amazing, a great process and eye-opening for me.”

While scoring is certainly one element Fultz can bring to the table, his best asset is perhaps his playmaking. His passes, court vision, and ability to find open teammates has flashed in practice sessions. All of those aspects of his game should help his young teammates on the floor, including Magic rookie Franz Wagner.

The No. 8 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft is already known for making the right play with or without the ball. With a floor general like Fultz on the floor, Wagner may be rewarded even more for his consistent cuts to the rack.

“This dude is going to be an All-Star,” said Fultz, who marvels at the fact that Wagner is only 20 years old. “I think a lot of people sleep on him, but he just continues to get better and I’m super excited to play with him as well as the other guys. But I think that he has a bright future ahead of him. He’s a great young man.”

Along with officially taking the floor with the Magic’s rookies and offseason additions for the first time, Fultz will also get his first opportunity to play alongside the team’s trade-deadline acquisitions from March of 2021. One of the players who should benefit the most from the point guard’s return is Wendell Carter Jr., who arrived as part of the trade that sent Nikola Vucevic to Chicago.

“I’m super excited to play with Wendell. I’ve been watching Wendell play for a long time since he was in AAU,” said Fultz of Carter, who received a four-year contract extension from the Magic in October. “He’s super talented. I think that, at times, he doesn’t even understand how talented and gifted he is. … I don’t even think he’s shown people his dominance in the post yet. That’s one thing that I’ll be able to bring out of him, but also his pick-and-roll.”

After 13 months of rehab, Fultz is itching for the opportunity to take the floor at Amway Center in front of the home fans. Just the process of stepping on the court in his Magic jersey will be a special moment for him, and one that he'll be sure to appreciate.

“It’s going to be a lot. I love the game so much and I never took it for granted, but I appreciate it way differently now,” said Fultz. “I just want to be able to go out there and give it my all and just show people how much I appreciate the game and how much I am thankful for how much the game has done for me and my family and people it’s helped me touch.”

It’s certainly a moment Magic fans won’t want to miss.