If it were up to Markelle Fultz, he’d been a more active participant in the Orlando Magic’s training camp despite recently fracturing his big left toe.
“If it was up to me, I’d play,” Fultz said during the team’s media day on Monday. “That’s me. I’m kind of crazy.”
With president of basketball operations Jeff Weltman saying Fultz will be sidelined for training camp, Fultz will have to wait at least a few more weeks before he can be back on the floor with his teammates.
Weltman and Fultz declined to publicly establish a timeline for Fultz’s return after fracturing the bone earlier in the month, but there’s optimism he won’t be sidelined for long — especially since the injury didn’t require surgery.
“The bone healing typically [takes] 3-6 weeks,” said David Lee, MD, orthopedic foot and ankle surgeon and chair of the orthopedics department at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center. “And kind of depending on that, obviously there’s going to be a little bit of rehab to get him up to speed. The range, maybe, for returning to play would be somewhere between 4-8 weeks.”
Based on when Fultz’s injury first happened, a 4-8 week timeframe for his return would be mid-October through mid-November.
The Magic opener their season against the Detroit Pistons on Oct. 19, playing seven games in October and eight games by Nov. 16 — including a seven-game homestead from Nov. 3-16.
Fultz doesn’t expect to miss a significant amount of time. An important step for his recovery will be no longer having to wear a walking boot on his left foot.
“The boot allows him to still bear weight on it and get around, which helps him not fall too far behind in terms of his muscle atrophy,” Lee said. “Even that short period of time in the boot will still definitely, especially an elite athlete at that level, it’ll still cause some muscle atrophy that’ll require some work to get back to speed.”
After the bone fully heals, the rehab will focus on building the muscles in and around his foot back up.
“The challenge would be finding the balance of trying to move and push forward with the rehab aggressively versus doing it a little too soon,” Lee said, “and as a result having a minor setback in the sense, the toe starts to hurts, gets swollen again and then he has to pull back from the rehab process.
“The big toe, there’s a more significant role than the smaller toes in terms of balance and push-off. For an elite athlete playing the sport he does, it’s something you don’t want to underestimate or take lightly. The good news is if it didn’t meet the indications that’d lead to a recommendation for surgery, there’s still a very good prognosis in terms of his ability to heal it and return back to 100%.”
Fultz, who’s missed most of the last two seasons because of a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee that he suffered in January 2021, used the offseason to build off the playing time he was able to get in 2021-22.
After a 14-month absence, he returned to the floor last season 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).
“I feel great,” Fultz said. “My body still feels amazing. All the work I put in this summer to come into the season and give myself the best chance, I still feel like that’s very effective. 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 just physically and mentally with where I’m at.
“I feel like I won’t miss a beat. My goal right now is to do everything that 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 effectively.”
Other injury updates
Harris will also be sidelined during training camp while he works his way back from having arthroscopic surgery on his left knee on Aug. 31 after tearing his meniscus.
Multiple orthopedic surgeons told the Orlando Sentinel that most players who opted for an arthroscopic meniscectomy, like Harris, return in 6-8 weeks — a timeframe for mid-to-late October.
Harris was seen during Tuesday’s practice going through catch-and-shoot drills with his teammates and individual dribbling and shooting drills.
“He’s moving through his progressions nicely and he’s worked hard,” Weltman said. “He came in in great shape and what I’ve been told is that’s actually going to allow him to move through this at a good level.”
The Magic haven’t publicly disclosed a timeline for Harris’ return.
“Rehab is going great right now,” Harris said. “Just keep taking it one day at a time.”
Bol Bol, who had right foot surgery on Jan. 18 and was officially ruled out for the 2021-22 season by the Magic in mid-March, is fully participating in training camp.
Moe Wagner, who was sidelined for World Cup Qualifiers and EuroBasket 2022 while with the German men’s national basketball team because of an ankle injury, is also a full participant.
The Magic opened training camp with two sessions on Tuesday but haven’t been able to practice since because of Hurricane Ian.
As of Thursday afternoon, it wasn’t known if they’d practice Friday — three days before playing their first preseason game against the Grizzlies in Memphis Monday.
This article first appeared on OrlandoSentinel.com. Email Khobi Price at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter at @khobi_price.