LAS VEGAS — One day after vaunted NBA skills trainer Drew Hanlen tweeted “Sixers fans… get excited!” Philadelphia 76ers head coach Brett Brown expressed similar zeal for second-year point guard Markelle Fultz’s offseason progress. Fultz, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 NBA draft, has famously been reworking his jump shot with Hanlen in Los Angeles this summer, attempting to rehabilitate one of the more curious cases of the yips the league has ever seen. “I have tremendous optimism and confidence that he’s going to have a hell of a year next year,” Brown told a small media contingent within the Thomas & Mack Center here at NBA Summer League on Monday. “I believe that completely, and I’m just really excited to see him with us and to bring him back into our program on a full-time basis.”
Brown meets with each Sixers player within 48 hours after the team’s season ends, laying out a detailed summer development regimen Philadelphia hopes it can fully implement at a location and on a schedule the player is most comfortable with. Brown extends a documented plan to each player, which is sequentially communicated to players’ agents and their overall management team. “It’s do you have a routine? Is there a rhythm to your day?” Brown said. With Fultz, Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons especially, the Sixers are highly conscious of the massive support staff those individuals have surrounding them, even nicknaming the groups. “There’s a ‘Team Joel,’ a ‘Team Ben,’ and ‘Team Markelle,’” said Sixers majority owner Joshua Harris, who also spoke at Thomas & Mack.
“Everyone’s got a stable around them nowadays,” Brown said. When he entered the NBA as the Spurs’ director of player development in the early 2000s, this level of customized training did not exist. “Physiotherapy, strength and conditioning, an agent, someone who organizes their schedule, an actual workout trainer, a dietitian. There’s probably seven or eight people around Joel. There’s probably seven or eight people around Ben. There’s probably seven or eight people around Markelle.” Philly’s director of player development John Bryant regularly contacts each player’s entire team. “It’s way different than it was in 2002. The pieces behind it are massive,” Brown said.
The summer plan for Fultz specifically was in place three weeks before the season ended. The Sixers knew jump shooting would be the main priority, but it was not originally schemed for Fultz to work with Hanlen. Once Fultz determined he would be based in California with Hanlen, Philadelphia began scheduling which of its own development staffers and trainers would fly west to meet with its hopeful star guard. Now that Fultz has been entrenched in Hanlen’s fabled workout laboratory, Brown’s optimism seems warranted. “He has been on a very rigid routine for the past five weeks,” Brown said.
From the head coach’s own visits to Los Angeles, and word he’s heard from his staff who have also checked in with the Washington product, there is growing optimism within the Sixers that Fultz will produce a meaningful contribution in Philadelphia’s quest to win the Eastern Conference this season. “He is putting in work. That’s the first thing,” Brown said. “I have a gut feel that he feels good about himself, that he is confident. When I’m with him, he feels and looks confident. Then I start seeing the progression of his shot and I start listening to him talking about his shot, it confirms that he’s feeling good.
“And so, I feel like the path to date has been wonderful. I think the people that are around him and the coaches that we have put with him and me going back and forth and Joel’s close to him out there, I think it’s fantastic. I think it’s insulation, I think it’s productive. And I feel just so excited to see him play NBA basketball and show why he was the first player chosen in the NBA draft.”
If Hanlen does truly resuscitate Fultz’s jumper—he drained 41.3% of his triples in his lone collegiate season—the Sixers may have to enlist the trainer to ring their pregame bell sometime in 2018-19.