Saturday was Markelle Fultz Night for the 76ers.
Hours before Fultz’s arrival at the team’s practice site in Camden, N.J., Joel Embiid tweeted out a selfie of himself and Dario Saric standing in front of a locker with a Markelle Fultz nameplate.
An overflow crowd of reporters and photographers saw Fultz walk into the building at 7:08 p.m. wearing a black Sixers cap.
And before the end of the night, the Sixers and Boston Celtics agreed on a blockbuster deal that will make Fultz a Sixer during Thursday’s NBA draft. The trade is scheduled to become finalized on Monday.
Earlier, the team’s employees and guests watched intently as Fultz’s workout – one that weeks ago seemed nothing more than wishful thinking – took place.
That the University of Washington point guard worked out for the Sixers was an indication that the team was close to acquiring from the Celtics the only perfect fit in the NBA draft.
The Sixers’ front office executives and coach Brett Brown were not available to speak, but a league source said Saturday night that the deal will be completed Monday since the NBA office was closed over the weekend.
Fultz said it would be “crazy” to play for the Sixers.
“They have a young team, and I think the upside of it would be crazy,” the Upper Marlboro, Md., native said after the brief workout. “I’m close to home. So a lot of my family can come out and just show love, and this city has great fans.”
Before Friday, the consensus was that Fultz was bound for the Celtics, who have the first overall pick. But sources confirmed Friday night that the Sixers, who have the third pick, were in advanced talks with the Celtics for a swap.
One of the holdups to an agreement was the Sixers’ getting Fultz, considered by most to be the draft’s best player, in for a workout. The Sixers are expected to give up the No. 3 pick and some formulation of the Los Angeles Lakers’ first-rounder in 2018 and a 2019 Sacramento Kings pick with protections.
These developments could mean that Boston has assurances it will also get the player it covets – Kansas’ Josh Jackson – with the third pick. Other reports also have Boston trading that third pick to Chicago.
“I really don’t pay a lot of attention to it,” Fultz said of the trade talks. “I’m blessed. I pray every night before I go to sleep. I let God take care of that. I wake up every morning and get ready to go to the gym. I don’t really pay attention to everything that’s going on.”
Playing for the Sixers would make Fultz happy, according to a source, and he was the only draft prospect to wear Sixers gear as he entered the building during any of this month’s predraft workouts.
“I come to Philly a lot, and just showing the love for the city,” Fultz said of his hat. “I’m out here. I just want to show love. That’s all it was.”
Sources have also said that Fultz was disappointed when the Sixers weren’t awarded the first pick in the lottery last month. But he looked happy being inside the practice facility Saturday night. He even posed for pictures with Embiid and fellow Sixers Ben Simmons and Robert Covington.
Fultz wasn’t sure where he was headed after the workout. However, he did have a preference.
“I got to get a cheesesteak,” Fultz said. “I’m big on that.”
The Sixers had been trying to set up an interview with Fultz for two days. After he was informed that he would work out for them, he hopped into a car and drove to Camden on Saturday afternoon.
It was understandable that he looked tired and was pressing a bit at the workout. While he downplayed it, it had to be a tough day to travel three hours and work out at the last minute.
The team doctor examined Fultz before the workout, and Fultz said the exam went fine. He missed six of his last eight college games with a sore right knee.
The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Fultz made 41.3 percent of his shots from the college 3-point line. Finding a shooter with his 3-point ability was a priority for the Sixers. He can slide off the ball and be a solid addition next to Simmons.
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