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Markelle Fultz back at practice, ‘great to be around the guys again’

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Orlando’s starting point guard went through practice with his team for the first time since entering the “bubble”

Orlando Magic v Houston Rockets Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images

Markelle Fultz has entered the chat.

Orlando’s starting point guard went through practice this morning for the first time since entering the “bubble” at the Walt Disney World NBA campus just days ago. Fultz was absent (excused by the organization) as his Magic teammates entered the bubble and began practicing last week. He joined his teammates at Disney earlier this week, but per NBA rules, he was forced to quarantine for 48 hours.

“It felt great to just be around the guys again,” Fultz told reporters after practice late Friday afternoon. “I think that was the biggest part for me, just being with those guys and being able to interact with them. As far as practice, it was a pretty light day.”

“It’s huge to have him back on the court because he’s one of the floor generals (along with our other point guards),” forward Gary Clark told media members via Zoom. “But he just brings a different dynamic to our group on and off the court. It feels good to have him here.”

Fultz was attending to an undisclosed “personal matter”. All in all, his absence resulted in six missed practices (July 10th-July 14th, July 16th).

“He was able to get through it easily,” Magic head coach Steve Clifford said when asked about Fultz practicing again with the team. “It’s (just) good to have him back.”

The former first overall pick admitted that getting his “rhythm and pace back” is something that is still going to take some time. The third-year guard conceded that it may take “about a week” to get back into basketball shape, but overall - his body is in good place.

“As far as my health, I feel really good,” Fultz told reporters. “The time we had off due to COVID-19 was a blessing (in disguise) for me. It gave me a chance for my body to recover all the way, and I’m just really excited to get back to competing.”

Getting Fultz back up to speed will be one of the most critical tasks facing the Magic throughout the remainder of their “second training camp”. Orlando will play a scrimmage game against the Los Angeles Clippers in just five days (followed by two more scrimmages: against the Los Angeles Lakers on July 25th, and then against the Denver Nuggets on July 27th).

When asked about the success his team was having at the offensive end before the league suspended play, Fultz noted pace of play and sharing the basketball as two key components related to Orlando’s explosive offense in their last stretch of games.

“The best thing we can do is get back to that same pace we were at, or even better,” Fultz said. “Just sharing the ball and making everyone feel comfortable, I think that’s a big part of it (finding offensive success).”

Fultz was having himself quite the month of March, averaging 15.4 points to go along with 6.4 assists (he was shooting 55.7 percent from the floor) through five games. Going back a bit further (to February 10th), the Magic were averaging 120.7 points per game over their last twelve games - with Fultz leading the charge.

“Confidence, he knew he was healthy enough to play,” Clifford said of Fultz’s play prior to the NBA shutdown. “I think if one thing stood out, it was his pull-up jump shooting. I think he was eighth...ninth...tenth in the league in mid-range pull-up jumpers.”

“If you watch from the beginning of the year until play was stopped, he had grown tremendously,” Clifford added. “He was playing at a totally different level.”

The Orlando Magic will face numerous challenges over the course of the next month or so. navigating the rough waters of player health, safety, and general homesickness. But there’s one thing they need not worry about any longer, and that’s Fultz’s absence.

“It’s huge,” Clark added about Fultz’s return. “We feel complete (again).”