Sixers' Palestra scrimmage observations: Ben Simmons takes over; Furkan Korkmaz surprises

Sixers' Palestra scrimmage observations: Ben Simmons takes over; Furkan Korkmaz surprises

The Blue-White Scrimmage at the Palestra on Sunday didn’t count for the official record book, but it did give the Sixers — and a packed crowd of fans — a closer glimpse into what the team could look like this season.

The white squad defeated the blue squad, 124-122, in overtime off a pair of free throws by Nik Stauskas. Members of the Sixers' ownership and front office, including special advisor Jerry Colangelo, were on hand to watch the 2017-18 team. 

Here are observations on the Sixers' scrimmage: 

• The coaches alternated lineups and teams throughout the scrimmage. In doing so, Markelle Fultz and Ben Simmons were paired with and against each other. 

“It’s fun. It’s scary, though. Once he has the ball, I don’t know what he’s going to do,” Simmons said. “I try to create space and cut for him, get open. But he can do it himself, he can really get to the rim, score, and find his teammates.”

The two will be sharing the backcourt a lot this season, and when they aren’t, they amp up the competition. Simmons conceded Fultz got the best of the first quarter, but he took the fourth. 

“We’re going to make each other better,” Fultz said. “That’s what the team needs from both of us … I had fun doing that. I’m pretty sure he did too.”

• Simmons got more aggressive with the ball as the game went on. He showcased his size and strength barreling to the basket on the fast break. Brett Brown noted Simmons put his game “into another gear” in the second half. 

“People get caught up in the looks of the passes,” Simmons said. “It looks nice but at the end of the day, I know how to get to the rim and score and finish.”

• Furkan Korkmaz looked significantly more comfortable in the scrimmage than he did at summer league in July. He has been trying to get adjusted all week in camp and it started to jell Sunday. 

“Holy s---,” JJ Redick said. “He just came out of nowhere and surprised us today.”

Korkmaz was more fluid on both ends of the floor. He also brought the ball up the court multiple times. Brown praised his defensive efforts, which has been a focal point in camp. Korkmaz had an obvious chemistry with Dario Saric, his friend of three years going back to international play. 

“Every day I start to feel better and better,” Korkmaz said. “I know I have to be better and better. Everybody is trying to help me on the team … That’s pushed me.” 

• Jahlil Okafor played in front of Sixers fans for the first time since March (right knee soreness). The big man, who adopted a vegan diet and dropped 20 pounds since last training camp, moved well on the court. He rode the exercise bike behind the bench to stay loose when he wasn’t in the scrimmage. 

• Joel Embiid did not participate in the scrimmage but was very much part of the afternoon. He immediately entertained the crowd by dancing his way onto the court (and during timeouts). 

Embiid watched the scrimmage from each bench and across the court with assistant coaches. On Sunday, he went through basketball, resistance and aerobic training. 

• The Sixers scrimmaged in front of a sold-out crowd at the historic Palestra. Fans chanted “Trust the Process” when the team took the floor to stretch and stayed vocal throughout the day. The players soaked in the cheers.  

“Hearing how supportive they are already, it’s exciting,” Fultz said. “It helps us going into practice knowing we’ve got the city behind us.” 

The team appreciated the significance of the Palestra, built in 1927. That being said, Redick (in good spirit) referenced his alma mater, Duke, when discussing historic arenas. 

“Before the game, Coach (Brown) said this building is of national importance. It’s on the same level as Butler’s Fieldhouse,” Redick said. “I don’t know if that means like that Cameron is way above those, because in terms of national importance I would think that would be pretty high. Eh. But whatever.”

Joel Embiid thinks his minutes restriction is 'f---ing BS'

Joel Embiid thinks his minutes restriction is 'f---ing BS'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid is letting it be known he is unhappy about his minute restrictions to start the season.

"That's f---ing BS," he said after practice Tuesday. "I wish I was playing more minutes. I think I'm ready for more than I don't know whatever number they have."

The Sixers are eyeing 16 minutes for Embiid on opening night on Wednesday. He played nearly 15 minutes in his two preseason games and feels he can handle more, adding his previously-injured left knee and ankle "felt great." 

He has expressed his feelings to the team. 

"I always think I have a voice so I'm sure they're listening to what I have to say too," he said. "But they're making a decision based on what they think. But I think that's BS."

Embiid's desire to play more minutes likely will be an ongoing situation this season, or at least early on. He expected to be cleared for 24 minutes at this point. (In comparison, he logged 22:25 last opening night.) Embiid feels the best way to get his body in game shape is to actually be in the game, not training on a cardio machine. 

"I think the concept of minute restrictions is kind of complicated," Embiid said. "I don't think there should ever be minute restrictions. I think it should always be about how my body feels and how it's reacting." 

The Sixers, however, are continuing to proceed with caution with the injury-prone big man. After missing his first two years because of his foot, he underwent season-ending knee surgery in March. Embiid also sprained his left ankle in the preseason finale. He has not played in a regular-season game since Jan. 27. 

Add that to the fact Embiid is a centerpiece of their future after inking him to a five-year, $146.5 contract extension last week.

"They know that I'm frustrated, but once again you've got to trust the doctors," Embiid said. "They care about me. It's all about the long-term view." 

The coaching staff is faced with the tricky task of managing Embiid's allotted minutes over a 48-minute span. Brett Brown is considering using up his playing time in the first half instead of spacing it out to have him available in the fourth quarter. 

Embiid estimates if he started the third, as an example, he would be resting for 16 minutes before he got the nod late in the final quarter. He said that is "tough" on both his body and on the coaches. Brown agrees after trying to balance his playing time last season. 

"You think it's smart to save four minutes to end a game with him, but the canyons in between where he just sits there and sits there and then he's got to come in and save the day, I don't know if I like that," Brett Brown said. 

"It's on my mind, do we just spend our money and we'll get you more money the next game and so on, and just play him regularly and grow it from that base versus he sits forever and then he's just got to come in and save the day. Or oops, it goes to overtime and, 'Sorry, you can't play against Memphis in overtime.'"

The Sixers will have to balance the medical staff's minute guidelines with Embiid's intense desire to be on the court and the team's record. They are looking to make a significant push in the win column, and Embiid is the driving force behind that jump.

"I think this is a big year for the whole team and me personally," Embiid said. "I feel like I've got something to prove, too. So I want to be out there with my teammates and win some games."

If it were Embiid's call, he would play until he didn't feel like he could anymore. It's not up to him, though. And so there's just one thing left for him to do.

"Like I always say," he said, "you've got to trust the process."

Banged-up Markelle Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

Banged-up Markelle Fultz is latest chapter in Sixers' painful rookie history

CAMDEN, N.J. — Brett Brown has been here before. The scenario isn’t as drastic as in the past, but it’s familiar nonetheless: starting the season with an injured rookie for the fifth straight year.

Markelle Fultz will begin his first NBA season dealing with ongoing right shoulder and right knee soreness. The No. 1 pick is expected to play on opening night Wednesday, but will come off the bench after appearing in only two preseason games. 

Brown has learned to manage this type of situation after years of experience. Nerlens Noel missed Brown’s entire first season because of an ACL injury. Joel Embiid sat out the following two seasons with foot injuries. Ben Simmons suffered a season-ending foot fracture in last year’s training camp. 

The biggest lesson? 

“To go slow,” Brown said. “To not put them in a position where it’s going to produce some difficult times.” 

Fultz was likely to be a starter when the Sixers traded up to draft him first overall in June. The 19-year-old guard hasn’t had that much experience since then thanks to injuries in both summer league and preseason. 

The Sixers face John Wall, Kyrie Irving and Kyle Lowry in the first three games alone. That would be a tall defensive task if Fultz were to start. 

“This league is driven by men, this league is driven by veterans,” Brown said. “To just put him in that environment is just, I think, poor coaching and I’m not doing it.”

Just as Simmons took advice from Embiid during his injury, he is offering words of wisdom to Fultz.

“[You’ve] got to to take your time and you definitely have to take care of your body,” Simmons said. “Put your body first. There’s no need to rush.”

The Sixers have the backcourt depth to adjust without Fultz in the starting lineup. They have been turning to veteran Jerryd Bayless at shooting guard alongside Simmons, their intended backcourt pairing last season. 

In the meantime, Brown will balance Fultz’s health, his growth as an NBA player, and the team’s success. 

“The end game needs to be developing Markelle Fultz," Brown said.