76ers

5 Sixers summer league observations: Furkan Korkmaz erupts for 40 points in loss

5 Sixers summer league observations: Furkan Korkmaz erupts for 40 points in loss

Friday night marked the start of summer league for the Sixers, but Furkan Korkmaz looked ready for 2018-19 opening night.

However, he was the only one to thoroughly impress during the team's MGM Resorts NBA Summer League opener in Las Vegas, as the Sixers fell to the Celtics, 95-89, at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Korkmaz went off for a game-high 40 points with Sixers head coach Brett Brown watching in attendance. Still, it wasn't enough as the Sixers suffered costly defensive breakdowns, proving incapable of holding a four-point lead with a little over three minutes left in regulation.

The Celtics closed the game on a 14-4 run to hand the Sixers the loss. The Sixers are back it Saturday when they face the Lakers at 11:30 p.m. on ESPN.

Let's get into five observations from Friday's action:

1. Korkmaz put on a show and certainly looked the part of an NBA player.

The 2016 draft's 26th overall pick went 8 for 14 from three-point range and lived at the charity stripe, going 12 of 15. The 6-foot 7 shooting guard, who also grabbed six rebounds, made a variety of deep and difficult trifectas. 

He drained a step-back three to give the Sixers a 78-75 lead with 5:48 left and sank a similar one at 3:53 to push the advantage to 84-80.

Korkmaz had a craftiness to his game and drew fouls with numerous head fakes. He looked strong on dribble handoffs and going off the bounce, as well.

The native of Turkey turns 21 years old later this month. This performance had to feel good after a Lisfranc injury to his left foot last season limited him to just 24 total games (15 with the Sixers and nine in the G League).

2. Jonah Bolden was active and bouncy, attacking missed shots for athletic rebounds while running the floor well.

The Sixers' 2017 second-round pick totaled six points, six rebounds and a block in 23 minutes. He shot 2 of 6 from the free throw line and 0 for 2 from deep after shooting poorly in those areas during 29 EuroLeague games. The 6-foot-10, 220-pound power forward shot 31.9 percent from three and 51.2 percent from the line last season.

"Coming from UCLA going to my first year professionally was a big difference," Bolden said last month at the Sixers' practice facility. "Coming from the American style of play to the European style was also a big difference — the physicality, the speed of the game kind of slowed down. IQ level was a lot higher. There was an adjustment phase. Once I got through that, it was kind of a smooth ride."

Bolden wants to play for the Sixers in 2018-19. He'll have more summer league time to prove himself and try to convince management the time is now.

3. Zhaire Smith showed flashes but had a mostly quiet night.

The 16th overall pick in the draft last month was a minus-21 in 29 minutes while posting seven points and two assists. The 6-foot-5 guard attempted one three-pointer in which he missed but did not commit a turnover.

During the second quarter, he exhibited his athletic ability when fellow 2018 pick Landry Shamet found him on a cut to the basket for a layup.

Less than a minute later, Smith took a steal the other way and found Shamet in the corner for a three-pointer.

4. Speaking of Shamet, who was taken 26th overall by the Sixers, he did not play in the second half after leaving with a right ankle sprain.

He played some point guard off the bench and hit a pair of three-pointers in 12 minutes before exiting and not returning.

In his final season at Wichita State, the 6-foot-4 guard hit 84 treys and shot it at a 44.2 percent clip from bonus territory. Shamet is hoping he won't be sidelined for long so he can display that skill to the Sixers.

“I was recruited as a two, which people forget about, so I honestly feel confident playing either guard spot,” Shamet said a day after the draft. “And even being a point guard, I don’t have to have the ball in my hands. I understand Ben [Simmons] is a guy that’s good at creating space, having the ball, playmaking. Getting to play with him, he’s going to make my life a lot easier finding me and being a willing passer, making plays. That’s exciting for sure. But I have confidence I can play off the ball, I honestly feel that’s a strength of mine.”

5. Take away Korkmaz's impressive 8-for-14 showing from deep and the Sixers shot 5 for 23 (21.7 percent) behind the arc. They'll need to offer more help to Korkmaz, who single-handedly kept the Sixers in the game and nearly won it for them.

Saint Joseph's product Isaiah Miles was the team's only other double-figure scorer, checking in with 11 points and eight rebounds.

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Spoiler alert: Al Horford is a better teammate than film critic

Spoiler alert: Al Horford is a better teammate than film critic

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers’ most recent bonding experience was a screening of the movie Joker.

Don’t worry, no spoilers here.

Al Horford said he was “disappointed” by the critically acclaimed filmed about the DC comic book villain, but he was pleased with the experience being around his teammates.

While this might seem silly, it’s no small thing. JJ Redick mentioned on Zach Lowe’s podcast last month that he felt like the Sixers didn’t have enough team dinners. Those dinners on the road are often looked at as team bonding experiences.

Horford is easily the team’s most seasoned player at 33 years old and a veteran of 12 NBA seasons. He’s seen his fair share of changes and roster turnover now playing for his third team.

But it’s been two of the returning Sixers that have led the way when it comes to team bonding.

“I think the willingness of everyone trying to make that happen,” Horford said after practice Thursday. “Tobias [Harris] I think has been a big influence on all of us making sure that we're all getting together. Ben [Simmons] as well has taken that leadership role. So we're doing stuff — not all the time — but we're going to watch movies together, we're doing things as a team, as a group and that has been nice. I feel like those kind of things bring teams closer.”

It was Harris and Simmons who organized the Joker screening during the road trip in Charlotte and the paintball excursion a few weeks back before camp began.

And it’s not just the players that feel the chemistry growing. Their head coach has also seen the growth from the start of training camp until now.

“That they coexist well,” Brett Brown said when asked what he’s learned about his team. “That they seem to enjoy each other's company. That they have bought in in a significant way that we are a defensive-oriented team. That we are long — we can be disruptive. And there has been an unselfishness on the offensive end that hasn't been hard to extract. It's quite actually organic. The guys sort of think like that, which makes my job a lot easier.”

The idea that the Sixers will be a defensive-oriented team started with the way GM Elton Brand constructed his roster. Bringing in Horford and Josh Richardson to create a monstrous starting five is part of it. It’s also just having a bunch of players that have that mindset.

Both Embiid and Simmons have stated their goal is to win Defensive Player of the Year. Horford and Richardson have always been praised for their two-way play. Even Harris, who has shown signs of improvement on that end, went to Brown this offseason and told him he wasn’t going to be the weak link of the team defensively.

It’s quite a change from a team that took a huge step back defensively last season. Going into opening night against Boston next week, the Sixers want to be the best defensive team in the league.

“We know we certainly have the capability, but just guys giving multiple efforts gives me the sense we can be very special,” Horford said. “But it's one of those things that we have to be consistent with that every day in order to accomplish those goals, and we've been doing a good job of that. We just have to continue to do it.”

With just one more preseason game on the docket Friday night against the Wizards, there is certainly a vibe with the team of just wanting to prepare for next Wednesday. Brown admitted that he’s already begun his prep for the Celtics.

It’s an encouraging sign that his team appears to have come together so quickly but Brown knows none of that matters if it doesn’t translate to when the games count.

“I would say yes. I feel that if you looked at just the character of the people, I'd say no,” Brown said when asked if he was surprised with the team’s bonding. “But in general — and let's call it also what it is — we really haven't played legitimate, NBA basketball yet. …

“You roll into Wells Fargo against the Celtics on opening night, the rules change in significant ways. And that's when we're all going to have more meaningful conversations about like, 'Where are we at? What have I learned? Have they come together quickly and why?' It gets far more scrutinized when it's that type of environment than it does right now.”

Hopefully Horford enjoys his team’s performance on opening night more than he did Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal as the Crown Prince of Crime.

“Oh, a lot of the guys liked it,” Horford said. “I thought it was going to be different. I thought it was going to be more action. So it was one of those things, I was a little disappointed.”

Spoiler alert: Al Horford is a better teammate and basketball player than film critic.

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NBA GM survey: Sixers seen as a better team than last year, but Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons mostly fly under radar

NBA GM survey: Sixers seen as a better team than last year, but Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons mostly fly under radar

If you’re seeking to break outside the local bubble and understand the league’s view of your team, the NBA.com GM survey is a helpful tool.

John Schuhmann had the league’s general managers respond to 50 different questions about coaches, players, teams and more. GMs were, of course, prohibited from selecting their own team or members of their organization. 

Below are a few interesting Sixers-related takeaways.

What a difference a year makes 

On opening night last season, the Sixers started Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid. In the eyes of NBA GMs, replacing Fultz, Covington and Saric with Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris and Al Horford is a substantial upgrade. 

After being picked by zero GMs to win the Eastern Conference last year, 24 percent of respondents this season think the Sixers will be conference champions, with 76 percent taking the Bucks. 

Embiid is … flying under the radar? 

Embiid’s talents are widely recognized across the league, without a doubt. He finished second in the voting for best center in the NBA, behind Nikola Jokic and ahead of Anthony Davis.

That said, there were a couple of categories in which Embiid was perhaps overlooked. Embiid was not one of the six players to receive votes as best defensive player in the league, or one of the eight picked as MVP. 

More puzzlingly, no GM selected him as the league’s best international player. Giannis Antetokounmpo was the clear, uncontroversial winner with 86 percent of the vote. It’s a bit odd, though, that reigning Rookie of the Year Luka Doncic got 7 percent while the Cameroonian Embiid, an All-Star starter the past two seasons, got none. Simmons, a native of Australia, was also passed over again.

The Sixers aren’t so ‘young’ anymore  

The Sixers aged dramatically over the past year, at least judging by these survey results. 

They dropped from receiving 47 percent of votes for most promising young core to 7 percent this season, behind the Pelicans, Nuggets, Hawks and Kings. While Embiid and Simmons are indeed merely a year older, Richardson is 26 years old and Harris 27, the perception appears to be that the Sixers are no longer a youthful team on the verge of title contention — they’ve hit the next stage, or so it seems. 

No lone star  

Embiid was the Sixers player who got the most individual attention. Simmons and Harris received no votes of any sort, while Richardson showed up in the “also receiving votes” category for the question of the most underrated player acquisition this offseason. Horford received votes for the most surprising offseason acquisition and best basketball IQ. 



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