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Markelle Fultz believes Orlando Magic could be fourth seed in East

Fultz discussed the Magic’s potential, his recent injury and the advice he’s given fellow No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero

Orlando Magic Media Day Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

4th seed.

That was what Markelle Fultz tweeted during a summer night in August.

Fultz had no further explanation at the time, but the implication was obvious.

The Orlando Magic, a team that had the second-worst record in the league last season at 20-62, has the potential to be the fourth seed. In Fultz’s opinion, at least.

“I was talking to a couple of my buddies and I truly believe that we can be a four seed,” Fultz said Monday during Magic Media Day. “I just put it out there. Not saying anything, obviously I didn’t put too much in it. I didn’t want people to go crazy. Just holding myself accountable. You gotta believe, you gotta manifest in order to get to anywhere you want to go in life. So just putting it out there in the world for when that day happens, you all won’t be too shocked. I won’t be shocked at all. I believe in this team. I believe that we have a lot of young talent. I don’t think it’s going to be easy. I think it’s gonna be a lot of hard work. But I believe we have a chance to do something very special.”

Just how quickly the Magic can do something special depends on many pieces fall into place simultaneously. Nothing wrong with setting lofty goals and putting positive energy out there, but it obviously would take a miracle for the Magic to get the fourth seed this season while playing in a conference with the Boston Celtics, Philadelphia 76ers, Brooklyn Nets, Miami Heat and Milwaukee Bucks. But a half-decade’s worth of lottery picks in Orlando certainly has combined to form a tantalizing young core. Who knows what the Magic might be capable of during the 2022-2023 season if the team gels, if a key player or two take a leap and if the primary rotation players remain healthy.

That last one, however, is not off to a good start. Gary Harris had surgery in early September to repair a meniscus tear in his knee. Jonathan Isaac’s status remains an endless mystery. And it was announced just prior to Media Day that Fultz himself is sidelined himself with a fractured toe.

“I was just walking,” Fultz said of how he sustained the injury. “Just clumsy. Big feet. I stubbed my toe. Pretty sure everybody has stubbed their toe before.”

The stubbing cut short what was expected to be Fultz’s first fully-healthy NBA offseason. Fultz played in just 18 games last season while recovering from a torn ACL suffered in January 2021. He averaged 10.8 points, 5.5 assists and 2.7 rebounds in 20.0 minutes per game.

A timeframe for Fultz’s return has not been announced, which is standard operating procedure for the Magic organization when it comes to injury. Fultz, who said he wasn’t yet sure if he was allowed to run, said the temporary setback won’t offset a summer of hard work.

“My body still feels amazing,” Fultz said. “All of the work I put in this summer just to come into the season, giving myself the best chance, I still feel like that’s very effective. I still feel good. I’m still able to do a lot of things. It’s a minor setback. We don’t have a timeline on when I’ll be back but again I can say I feel really really good, physically and mentally where I’m at. I’ll be ready whenever that time comes. I feel like I wont miss a beat. My goal right now is just to do everything I can and get back on the court as soon as I can, but also just be here for my teammates and myself. As you all know, it’s not my first time sitting out, so I know how to use this time wisely and use it effectively. So again, I just want to be here for my teammates and push them in any way I can and continue to sharpen my brain.”

And strengthen his knee.

“My knee feels better than ever,” Fultz said. “My knee feels really good. I’m super excited with where that’s at. Even coming in end of last season just trying to get back into things, I wouldn’t say I wasn’t like 100 percent as far as confident in the way my knee felt. But definitely after this summer and putting in the amount of work that I put in of strengthening and running and everything, impact, I feel really comfortable with where I’m at going into the season. I feel better than ever.”

Fultz was asked if he would have been 100 percent with no limitations heading into training had it not been for the toe injury.

“Absolutely. I was full go,” he said. “I was ready to come into training cramp full blazing. I still am. There’s still plenty of things I can do to be here with my team. and that’s what I’m going to do until I’m able to get on the court and be able to get back in like I never missed a beat.”

Orlando Magic Media Day Photo by Julio Aguilar/Getty Images

Part of that is the five-year veteran providing some leadership and advice to a young team. Specifically, a player he has something in common with and the player who gives the Magic their best chance at making his “4th seed” prediction become a reality: fellow No. 1 overall pick Paolo Banchero.

“I think the biggest advice that I have for him and that I’m going to continue to give him throughout this year is that there’s no expectation for him,” Fultz said. “Only expectation that he has is the one he puts on himself and understanding that he was the number one pick for a reason. He has unbelievable talent. He’s an unbelievable person. As long as he continues to work on his game and continues to give his all to this program and his team, I think that every personal accolade that can come will come his way because, again, the talent that he is and the player that he is. I’m always going to be here for him as a brother, not only just a number one pick, but someone who has been through a lot and knows the ups and downs of the roads he’s gonna go on.”

One of those roads hopefully leads to the postseason, a much more realistic goal for the Magic to strive for than the fourth seed at the moment.

“We have the talent,” Fultz said. “Everybody puts their shorts on just like we do. So again, as long as we come to the game with the right mindset and compete at a high level, I think we’re going to give ourselves a chance to play against anybody in this league.”