Updated: 5:09 p.m.
Two players with two completely different paths to the NBA find themselves entrenched in a battle.
Markelle Fultz, the 2017 No. 1 overall pick, has spent the bulk of this season as the Sixers' backup point guard. It's been an up-and-down year for Fultz, who has struggled with his jumper and his confidence. Another suprising twist for Fultz came Tuesday with the news that he will have a consultation with an outside shoulder specialist on Monday and won't practice with the team or play until then (see story).
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T.J. McConnell, the undrafted player that continues to earn opportunities, is averaging just 14.7 minutes a game this season and has been a DNP six times. He gave the Sixers a spark in the playoffs against Boston last season after replacing Robert Covington in the starting lineup.
On Monday vs. the Suns, Brett Brown was looking for a similar spark and elected to use McConnell as his backup point guard in the second half instead of Fultz.
"I thought by and large the first half was flat," Brown said postgame "We needed an injection. I came in with T.J., shuffled the lineup around a little bit. I'm glad to get out of here with a win."
Fultz didn't have a great first half and the Sixers found themselves down five to a lowly Phoenix team heading into the locker room. Surely Fultz wasn't the cause of the deficit, but his seven-minute run wasn't impactful.
McConnell was a plus-six and the Sixers took over the game in the second half to hang on for the win, staying perfect at home.
For the time being, McConnell will take Fultz's minutes as the backup point guard. Brown and general manager Elton Brand didn't want to read too much into Fultz and his agent, Raymond Brothers, seeking outside consultation the day after McConnell replaced Fultz in the second half.
"Whatever Markelle wants at this time," Brand said. "This timing, it is what is. I can't say there's a direct correlation. I don't want to speculate, that's unfair to him. But I got the call this morning and I let Coach Brown know and I let my staff know."
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