76ers

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.”