Furkan Korkmaz

Justin Anderson emerges as leader in 'fistfight 'for rotational minutes on wing

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Justin Anderson emerges as leader in 'fistfight 'for rotational minutes on wing

UNIONDALE, N.Y. — Sixers head coach Brett Brown didn’t take it easy on the metaphors when he was asked about the state of the battle for minutes between Justin Anderson, Nik Stauskas and Furkan Korkmaz before his team’s 133-114 win over the Nets Wednesday.

Brown likened it to a fistfight and said there would probably be a “sole survivor” of the group that would receive rotational minutes to start the year. He set out clear guidelines for how he plans on evaluating the three players, who all try to add an element of offensive spacing and three-point shooting off the bench.

“It’s really simple,” Brown said. “It’s who can guard, who plays defense? The close, obvious second is: Can you make shots? The blueprint isn’t complicated. It goes in that order.”

Going by those standards, Wednesday’s contest boded well for Anderson’s prospects. The third-year player out of Virginia was the clear leader among the three in terms of meaningful minutes. Anderson spent 15:42 on the floor, much of it alongside players on the Sixers’ roster that, though reserves, have clearly-defined roles on the team, such as T.J. McConnell.

Stauskas received just 12:34 of action and did little to quell concerns about his shooting touch after he missed seven of eight shots against the Celtics on Monday. 

Wednesday, Stauskas missed five of seven shots, including his only three-point attempt. Ostensibly on the roster for his three-point shooting prowess, the fourth-year guard is struggling from distance. He has missed six of his seven shots from long range this preseason. If Stauskas’ shooting form doesn’t recover, he might not have shown enough defensively by the end of the preseason to justify a spot on the Sixers’ roster, let alone a rotational role. The Sixers were minus-12 with Stauskas on the court Wednesday and he picked up three fouls.

Meanwhile, Korkmaz was an afterthought after getting 19 minutes of run Wednesday. He was involved in just 5:10 of game action in the fourth quarter, well after the outcome had been decided. Korkmaz did hit his only shot attempt of the night, a three-pointer from the left wing.

Just a 20-year-old rookie, Korkmaz is not operating under the same kind of pressure to make the roster that Stauskas and Anderson have hanging over their heads. He can spend the bulk of 2017-18 in the G League and use the extended minutes he’d likely receive with the 87ers to tune up his defense without a second thought.

That leaves Anderson, who was probably the most impressive Wednesday night on the defensive end of the floor. The 6-foot-6 Anderson was shuffled through a host of man assignments during his run with the reserves, from 6-foot-11 forward Jarrett Allen to 6-foot-6 point guard Spencer Dinwiddie.

Anderson missed his only three-pointer but looked good contesting threes on his own end of the floor. He looked particularly solid getting a hand in Dinwiddie’s face after the guard had leaked open for a flash in the right corner late in the first quarter. The Sixers were plus-8 with Anderson on the floor.

"You’ve got to want to be a defender,” Anderson said.  "You’ve got to want to take that challenge. I took it personally tonight. I take it personally every night. I understand that I walk a very tight rope. I understand what my job is on this team."

Anderson took a step towards solidifying that job Wednesday night.

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.”

Sixers camp notes, quotes and tidbits: Markelle Fultz not changing shot

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Sixers camp notes, quotes and tidbits: Markelle Fultz not changing shot

CAMDEN, N.J. — A video of Markelle Fultz at the free throw line during training camp drew attention because of a noticeable change in form from college. Fultz, who shot 64.9 percent from the line as a freshman at Washington, clarified he does not plan on altering his shot in the NBA.

“My free throw’s going to look the same as in college,” Fultz said Thursday. “I’m just trying to look at different ways to see how the ball can go in the hoop.”

Fultz worked on his offense during his offseason training. The point guard will spend a lot of time playing off the ball when paired with Ben Simmons (see story), who will assume point responsibilities. Fultz averaged 23.2 points (47.6 percent from the field) to lead all freshmen and the entire Pac-12 in scoring. Brett Brown sees Fultz’s talents and doesn’t want him to force changes. 

“His percentages revealed that he’s a more-than-capable shooter,” Brown said. “I think right now him trying to figure out how to not overcomplicate things and maybe make over something that didn’t need to be made over as much as he might of thought is a challenge.” 

There will be plenty of other adjustments for Fultz to make. Among his areas of focus is the middle pick-and-roll. 

“Once you get to the middle of the floor, everything’s open,” Fultz said. “In this game, everyone’s good at the one spot, the two, all guards. Even the bigs, they’re good at using illegal screens that refs don’t see. So you’ve just got to be able to fight through and get through everything.” 

For all the games and practices Fultz will go through, one thing will not change: he still is a teenager competing against players 5, 10, even 15 years older than him who have been in the league since he was a kid. Fultz has been getting a small sample of that from his teammates in practice. 

“He’s 19,” Brown said. “I think there’s a physical side of it that no matter how good his head and his heart is, you get back to reality. Trying to help him navigate that first year from a physical standpoint is a real challenge.”

Korkmaz work to do on D
Brown will split his attention between multiple rookies this season. Furkan Korkmaz has a long path of development ahead of him as he transitions from the international game to the NBA. Brown is placing a heavy emphasis on the defensive end. 

“Trying to get him defensively built, like an attitude and a mindset to try to grow him as a defender,” Brown said. “He can score. He’s got a real sort of interesting body for a basketball player in his position. He’s long, he’s lanky. Years ago I coached Brent Barry and sort of that bouncy pogo-stick, can shoot, can dunk, I see he’s got some real interesting qualities. The defensive side needs work.” 

The Sixers selected Korkmaz with the 26th pick in the 2016 draft. He paid a hefty buyout from Anadolu Efes to play in the NBA this season. Korkmaz’s friend and now teammate Dario Saric offered him advice to make the most of his time with the Sixers. 

“Here, it’s all up to you,” Kormaz said. “The coaches give you opportunity, everybody shows interest in you.” 

Injury notes
Jahlil Okafor (right knee soreness) went through limited parts of 5-on-5 action. Joel Embiid (left knee surgery) and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (right knee patellar tendinitis) did not do 5-on-5 work. All three players participated in practice.