Markelle Fultz Says Making His 1st NBA 3-Pointer 'Felt Good'

Kyle Newport@@KyleNewportFeatured ColumnistOctober 19, 2018

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 18: Markelle Fultz #20 of the Philadelphia 76ers and Antonius Cleveland #0 of the Chicago Bulls smile during the game on October 18, 2018 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/Getty Images

Philadelphia 76ers guard Markelle Fultz has been the target of criticism since entering the NBA last year, so when he made his first career three-pointer Thursday night, there was a sense of relief.

"Well, I mean, a little bit," Fultz acknowledged after Philadelphia's 127-108 victory over the Chicago Bulls, according to ESPN's Malika Andrews. "I worked hard this summer. I shot threes. I shot mid-range. I worked on my game, so I was comfortable shooting it. I believed in it, and I thought it was going in, which it did. So it felt good."

Last year's first overall pick attempted just one shot from beyond the arc as a rookie. A shoulder injury limited him to 14 regular-season games in 2017-18, but even when he was on the court, he struggled to find his jumper. He shot 40.5 percent from floor and 47.6 percent from the line, and he missed his lone triple attempt.

As a result, Fultz spent time during the summer working with basketball trainer Drew Hanlen to try to fix his shot.

In an episode of the Talking Schmidt Podcast (h/t PhillyVoice's Kyle Neubeck) during the summer, Hanlen noted the 6'4", 200-pound guard had a case of the yips:

"With Markelle, obviously he has one of the most documented cases of kind of the yips of basketball in recent years, where he completely forgot how to shoot and had multiple hitches in his shot. So for me, it was, 'Hey, listen, how can I get this kid that was No. 1 in last year's draft back rolling and get him to the point where he was before, if not better?'"

Fultz acknowledged to Stadium's Jeff Goodman this summer that he has had to overcome mental hurdles as he tried to fix his jumper:

Thursday night's game did not get off to the greatest of starts for Fultz, as he passed up a wide-open three in the opening minutes. When he did finally make a jumper in the second quarter, he received applause from the hometown crowd.

But it was nothing compared to the ovation he received when he made his first three in the fourth quarter.

Chicago hung in the game for two quarters, but as the second half went on, Philadelphia began to pull away. That gave Fultz an opportunity to let shots fly in a low-pressure environment.

Fultz, who went 2-of-7 from the floor in the season opener against the Boston Celtics on Tuesday, finished Thursday's game 5-of-15 from the floor and 1-of-3 from distance for 12 points. Although those numbers may not jump off the page, it was a step in the right direction.

"I'm never afraid," Fultz said, per Andrews. "I worked hard this summer. Tonight I didn't make a lot of them, but I'm going to keep shooting. If I see an open shot, I'm going to go shoot it. That's what I work for. Tonight it didn't fall, but eventually it will. I am going to keep working. And if I see my teammates—you know I've got great teammates—I'm going to find them."

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