Markelle Fultz Gets Another Shot

Fultz believers would surely counter that he is hardly Orlando’s only liability on the perimeter. They would likewise argue that his overall 47.1 percent shooting from the field and 78.6 percent shooting at the free-throw line are indicators that maybe developing a passable 3-point proficiency is next.

After seeing the new version of Fultz in person for the first time last week, I spoke with one of those supporters — someone who can identify with Fultz’s travails better than most.

Steve Sax was the National League Rookie of the Year for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1982. By the All-Star break of the following season, Sax had made 24 errors, suddenly spooked nearly every time he had to make the short throw from second base to first. Sax was ridiculed and constantly questioned about the supposed mental block that, without warning, cropped up and threatened to derail his career.

“My thing was not a mental block at all,” Sax said in a telephone interview. “It was just a loss of confidence. When you lose your confidence, you can’t do anything. Conversely, when you have your confidence, you can do everything. It’s the loneliest feeling in the world when you throw the ball away from 40 feet away on the throw you’ve made your whole life.”

As Sax would later explain his book, “Shift: Change Your Mindset and You Change Your World,” it was his father, John Sax — on his deathbed — who convinced Steve that the problem was a “temporary loss of confidence.” John made up a story about enduring the same throwing issues in high school and overcoming them. It helped Steve relax.

“He was absolutely right, and that sucker went away,” Sax said. “It had nothing to do with mechanics, with an injury, your approach. I figured it out by trusting that I already knew how to do it. I just had to get my confidence back.”

No two situations are the same, and baseball isn’t basketball. Another key difference here: Throughout Fultz’s stint as a Sixer, no matter how often skeptics branded him a modern-day Sax, Fultz attributed what he calls “all the trials and tribulations” to an injured right shoulder.