Fultz was upgraded to questionable on the Saturday injury report after being sidelined for the season’s start, missing the first 19 games because of a fractured left big toe.
The Magic enter 5-14 after Friday’s 107-99 home loss to the 76ers (10-9).
Fultz fractured the toe shortly before training camp started on Sept. 27.
He told the Orlando Sentinel on Nov. 9 that he was hoping to return “within the next 3-4 weeks” — a time frame of Wednesday-Dec. 7 — and reaffirmed those hopes to the Sentinel last week.
It looks like Fultz, who practiced Wednesday, could return a little earlier than he expected against his former team (6 p.m., Bally Sports Florida/Bally Sports+/FM 96.9 The Game).
“It’s tough with my competitive nature and seeing my brothers go out there and play the game, seeing where I can help at and seeing where I can go out there and be with them and not being able to do that,” Fultz told the Sentinel at the time. “That’s probably the toughest part. I’m just waiting on my opportunity and supporting them any way I can while I’m off the court. When my time comes, best believe I’ll be ready.”
Rookie forward Paolo Banchero, the Magic’s leading scorer, and Moe Wagner made their returns from injury in Friday’s loss.
Terrence Ross was listed as probable after missing Friday because of an illness while Fultz, starting big man Wendell Carter Jr. (strained right plantar fascia — soft tissue under the foot), two-way wing Kevon Harris (illness), Chuma Okeke (left knee soreness) and Jalen Suggs (right ankle soreness) were listed as questionable.
The 76ers’ top three scorers, Joel Embiid (sprained left midfoot), Tyrese Maxey (fractured left foot) and James Harden (strained right foot tendon), are out. Matisse Thybulle (left ankle inflammation) and Jaden Springer (strained right thigh) also are out.
Suggs played 19 minutes Friday and didn’t return after being subbed out with 6:26 left in the third quarter.
He’s consistently had issues with his right ankle. Suggs injured it last season and missed 13 of the final 18 games. He had surgery to address a stress fracture early in the offseason, limiting how much he could participate in basketball activities. Suggs sat for five games after spraining it in the second game of the season, a loss to the Atlanta Hawks on Oct. 21.
“He’s OK,” coach Jamahl Mosley said. “Just watching him move a little bit, I just wanted to re-evaluate where he was.”
Fultz is entering the second season of a 3-year, $50 million contract ($35 million guaranteed) he signed with the Magic in December 2020.
He has a $16.5 million salary for 2022-23 that’s fully guaranteed, while $2 million of his $17 million salary is guaranteed for the 2023-24 season. Next season’s salary will become fully guaranteed if he’s on the roster past July 1.
Fultz’s injury struggles have limited his playing time (131 games in five seasons) since being the No. 1 overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft.
“I’ve been through so much,” he said. “I understand this process, be patient and listen to your body and when that time comes, just be ready for it.”
He played in just 33 games from 2017-19 with the 76ers because of a nerve issue in his right shoulder. He was dealt to the Magic ahead of the 2019 trade deadline.
Fultz’s healthiest season came with the Magic in 2019-20, when he played 72 games (60 starts) and averaged 12.1 points (46.5% shooting) and 5.1 assists in 27.7 minutes.
He missed most of the last two seasons because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee just eight games into the 2020-21 season.
After a 14-month absence, Fultz returned in a home win over the Indiana Pacers on Feb. 28 and averaged 10.8 points (47.4% shooting), 5.5 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.1 steals in 20 minutes (18 games).
He should provide the Magic with steady on-ball playmaking and open up off-ball scoring opportunities for several of his teammates — especially Banchero and Franz Wagner.
Source: Berkshire mont