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Free agent Markelle Fultz wants to stay with Magic

For Markelle Fultz, the seventh season of his NBA career was a rollercoaster ride.

The Magic point guard began the year as a starter, sat out much of it due to injury, and finally finished it as a substitute for Orlando.

Fultz, who will become an unrestricted free agent this summer, has remained true to himself throughout, but his role on Jamahl Mosley's team changed over the course of a season in which he was in and out of the lineup.

“I've had my ups and downs,” he said recently. “I've had little bumps and bruises on my knees and arms. I'm just glad I was able to finish the season healthy.”

“Obviously I missed some games during the season, but being able to finish the year with my brothers, having the playoff experience and making it to a seventh game was great for me,” he added. “I'm just grateful.”

After starting all 60 games he played for the Magic during the 2022/23 season, Fultz has made 43 appearances this season, including just 18 starts.

The left knee, the same one where Fultz underwent surgery to repair a torn ACL for eight games in the 2020-21 season, kept him off the court again. He missed 39 games due to injury, including 27 games (Nov. 6, Nov. 11-Jan. 5) due to what the team described as tendinitis in his left knee.

Even when he was still able to play, there was a noticeable difference in Fultz's shooting performance from last season. After attempting 87 three-point shots in the 2022-23 season (the second-most of his career), he sank just 18 long-range shots this year.

And it wasn't just a decline in 3-shots. Fultz's mid-range percentage dropped from a career-high 42.6% to 32.2% on far fewer attempts (162 to 62).

His 7.8 points were almost half his career-high of 14.0 points from last season and his 2.8 assists were a career low.

The quick-witted Joe Ingles brought perspective to the upstart Magic

Still, he was considered one of the NBA's best teammates (one of 12 finalists for the award) and gave Orlando perspective as one of only four players in the locker room with postseason experience.

But now the Magic have to make a decision.

Knowing what type of player Fultz can be when healthy, will the franchise work to re-sign him? Or will Orlando part ways with the former No. 1 pick the team acquired in a 2019 trade from Philadelphia?

Fultz made his wishes clear during the organization's exit interviews.

“I definitely want to be a part of it,” he said when asked if he wanted to be part of Magic's future. “You [welcomed] They welcomed me here with open arms. They supported me a lot through all the ups and downs I experienced on and off the pitch.

“Of course you want to be part of a young group that is doing great things,” he added. “I have built a lot of great relationships here – not only with the staff, but also with the organization. I am very open to everything and I am really excited.”

Fultz is also realistic about the situation he finds himself in after five injury-plagued seasons in Orlando.

“I understand it's a business,” said the 26-year-old security guard. “I understand some people will be gone [and] some coaches might be gone. You never know.

“Of course you hope for the best, but you have to understand that you can only control what you can control, and I think that's what I always try to do.”

Jason Beede can be reached at jbeede@orlandosentinel.com

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