Former No. 1 overall pick Markelle Fultz is expected to make his season debut for Orlando on Monday night as the Magic open a two-game home set against the new-look Indiana Pacers.
Fultz announced his return during an appearance Saturday on the Magic’s official podcast. The 6-foot-4 guard, taken by Philadelphia with the first selection in the 2017 draft, has not played in almost 14 months after suffering a left ACL injury during Orlando’s eighth game of the shortened 2020-21 season.
“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,” Fultz said during the podcast. “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 was listed as probable on Sunday’s NBA injury report. Orlando traded for Fultz in February 2019, and he had a promising start last season with a pair of 20-plus point games against Washington as the Magic started 6-2.
The former University of Washington standout is part of a crowded Orlando backcourt that includes starters Cole Anthony and rookie Jalen Suggs and reserve guards R.J. Hampton, Gary Harris and Terrence Ross.
Hampton scored 11 points in the Magic’s 119-111 comeback win over Houston on Friday, marking his return following a 14-game absence due to a knee injury.
Friday’s win — Orlando’s sixth in 27 home games — helped the Magic break a four-game slide as Chuma Okeke played his best game of the season. The former first-round pick (16th overall) from Auburn in 2019 scored a career-high 26 points, making five 3-pointers, to go with nine rebounds, four assists, three steals and one block in 31 minutes off the bench.
Wendell Carter Jr. also starred for Orlando with 24 points (9-for-11 shooting) and 12 rebounds for his team-high 26th double-double. Orlando traded for Carter in March 2021, so he has yet to play with Fultz.
Orlando overcame a 17-point third-quarter deficit en route to a 119-118 victory at Indiana on Feb. 2. But the Magic will need a new scouting report for the rematch.
Caris LeVert and Torrey Craig, who combined for 48 points in the one-point loss to Orlando, were moved at the trade deadline to Cleveland and Phoenix, respectively. Domantas Sabonis, Justin Holiday and Jeremy Lamb are also gone, dealt to Sacramento, with Buddy Hield and Tyrese Haliburton as the key pieces going to Indiana.
Hield scored 29 points and Haliburton had 14 points and 11 assists in the Pacers’ 129-125 overtime loss to visiting Oklahoma City on Friday. Malcolm Brogdon was also back in the lineup after missing 15 straight games because of a sore right Achilles, posting 15 points in 31 minutes.
Indiana has lost 12 of the past 16 games. But the host Pacers cooled off Boston 128-107 on Sunday as Oshae Brissett hit six 3-pointers and scored a season-high 27 points, and rookie Chris Duarte returned after missing three games with a toe injury to post 11 points in 26 minutes off the bench.
“There’s a lot of guys learning a lot of things out there,” Indiana head coach Rick Carlisle said after the Oklahoma City defeat. “We got guys that are being put in positions of responsibility that are really, you know, unprecedented for them.”
Orlando and Indiana conclude their season series on Wednesday.
–Field Level Media