76ers

Simmons does 'hardest thing to guard' in triple-double effort

Simmons does 'hardest thing to guard' in triple-double effort

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On Australian Heritage Night at the Wells Fargo Center, Ben Simmons showed why Brett Brown believes “he will end up the best basketball product ever out of the country.” 

The rookie made a 19-point, 17-rebound, 14-assist triple-double look effortless in the Sixers’ 115-101 win over the Bulls Wednesday (see observations).

“I think the style of game, him rebounding, it allowed him to put his thumbprint on this game in a big way early,” Brown said. 

Simmons dominated from the start, grabbing 11 rebounds and scoring eight points in the first quarter. He became the first member of the Sixers to pull down at least 11 boards in a quarter in eight years, since Samuel Dalembert did it in 2010. 

He had an 11-point, 13-rebound double-double by halftime, and reached the triple-double mark in just the third quarter.

Simmons’ stat line particularly stands out because he did it in only his 43rd career game. He joined Oscar Robertson and Alvan Adams on the top-three list of most triple-doubles through 50 games. When it comes to this season, Simmons ranks third behind only Russell Westbrook and LeBron James in triple-doubles. 

Simmons, who is averaging 7.9 rebounds per game, had not been attacking the glass as much recently. In his previous seven games played in January, Simmons had five or less rebounds in as many matchups. That includes just one against the Raptors and two against the Celtics. He made a concerted effort facing the Bulls. 

“I think just being on the boards and making it one of those things where I’m actually trying to get boards and going to the boards every time I can,” Simmons said. “I'm usually getting those rebounds. I think I went away from it the last couple weeks. It was one of those things where I was just doing it. I had to be reminded.”

Perhaps more significant than getting the rebound is what Simmons does after he’s gained possession. The 6-foot-10 point guard uses his combination of speed, strength and ball-handling to run the fast break. That unique skill set gives Brown flashbacks to Hall of Famers. 

“He can rebound and take off,” Brown said. “I still think that’s the hardest thing to guard. Back in the day, you’d see Charles Barkley do that and rebound, lead a break. It’s hard to defend that with the exception of maybe the high kickout, the high outlet, that’s maybe the second-most effective way. You’d see Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson do it all the time. 

“I thought in the first half there was a lot of what we call dribble-out backdowns where he was out there, nobody was ahead of him, he’d turn and play and find other people on the other side of the floor or spin off and finish himself.”

Joel Embiid noticed those game-changing attributes, as well as another possible push. Simmons, who finished third among fan votes for Eastern Conference guards, was not named an All-Star reserve by head coaches.

“I felt like he was just focused from the get-go,” Embiid said. “We played tough defensively, especially the first quarter, so there was a lot of rebounds to grab and he was extra aggressive offensively. Besides Australia Night, I think that he just wanted it tonight and him not making [the All-Star Game] might have had something to do with it, too.”

Simmons answered “no” when asked if he was motivated by the voting results. He was selected to the World Team for the Mtn Dew Kickstart Rising Stars game, along with Embiid and Dario Saric.

“Things happen. They happen for a reason,” Simmons said. “I wish I did make it but it’s going to be hopefully plenty more years.”

With games like this, he's on the right track. 

Robert Covington, Joel Embiid named to NBA All-Defensive teams

Robert Covington, Joel Embiid named to NBA All-Defensive teams

Robert Covington and Joel Embiid were recognized for their defensive efforts this season.

Covington was named to the All-Defensive first team, Embiid was selected to the second team.

Brett Brown has lauded Covington for his effort plays. He led the league in deflections (3.9), ahead of Paul George and Victor Oladipo. When Covington was on the court, the Sixers had a defensive rating of 99.0 compared to 107.4 when he was off. He also was first in defensive win shares compared to those who played at least 70 percent of their squad’s games. 

Covington finished with 90 points between 27 first-team and 36 second-team votes. He joined leading vote-getter Jazz center Rudy Gobert, Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, Pacers guard Oladipo and Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday on the first team. 

Embiid led the Sixers with 12.6 rebounds and 1.75 blocks per game this season. When he was the closest defender, opponents shot a league-high 7.8 percentage points worse than expected on field goal attempts. Embiid ranked first in that category, ahead of Davis and Al Horford, off a minimum 200 defended shots. 

Embiid, a Defensive Player of the Year finalist, topped the second team with a total of 90 points (four first-team votes, 82 second team). Warriors forward Draymond Green, Celtics forward/center Horford, Spurs guard Dejounte Murray and Timberwolves guard/forward Jimmy Butler also were named to the team. 

Ben Simmons received five first-team votes. 

A panel of media members voted for two guards, two forwards and one center (based on the players’ most frequent position) for each team. The players who got votes at more than one position (Davis, Horford, Butler) were designated to the position at which they received the highest amount of votes. First-team votes carried two points, second-team votes one. 

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Furkan Korkmaz

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Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Furkan Korkmaz

Furkan Korkmaz

Position: Shooting guard/Small forward

Status for 2018-19: Signed for $1,740,000

Korkmaz in 2017-18
And you thought Markelle Fultz had a roller-coaster rookie season. Korkmaz’s first professional season in the U.S. was anything but smooth. 

Despite a promising performance in summer league and the preseason, the Turkish swingman was always going to be buried on the Sixers' bench. However, it wasn’t even clear which jersey he would be wearing on a nightly basis, as Korkmaz was assigned to the Delaware 87ers (now Blue Coats) and recalled by the Sixers 10 different times during the first two months of the season.

Things got even worse in mid-December when Korkmaz suffered a Lisfranc injury to his left foot while playing in the G League.

By the time Korkmaz returned toward the end of March, his season was a wash. In all, he played 24 total games (15 with the Sixers and nine with the 87ers). While he was able to show glimpses of why he was a first-round pick in 2016 in the Gatorade League (15.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 1.3 steals in 31.9 minutes a night), his action in the NBA came mostly in garbage time (1.6 points, 0.7 rebounds, 0.2 assists and 0.1 steals in 5.7 minutes a contest).

The 2017-18 served as the ultimate learning experience for the 20-year-old Korkmaz.

Signature game
It’s hard to have a signature game when you only play in 15 total NBA games and none of your minutes actually come in meaningful moments. So we’ll go to the G League for this one. 

On Nov. 20, Korkmaz notched 27 points, eight rebounds and four assists in the 87ers’ 119-111 loss to the Wisconsin Herd (see highlights).

Looking ahead to 2018-19
Korkmaz’s proving ground for next season will start this summer when he is expected to take the court in summer league again.

The Sixers hope there he can regain the shooting touch he showed overseas that helped make him a first-rounder. The step up in defensive intensity clearly affected Korkmaz as he shot just 28.6 percent from the field and 29.4 percent from three-point range for the Sixers. He was even worse in one aspect in the G League where he connected on 35.0 percent from the field and a dismal 19.4 percent from three.

Spending another summer in the Sixers’ program will also help benefit Korkmaz’s body. He was able to add some weight to his lean frame this past season but certainly still needs work to take the physicality at this level.

If he is able to work on his shot and physique, perhaps Korkmaz can find some more minutes for Brett Brown next season other than when the games are already decided.

On Korkmaz
“The NBA’s totally different, but [when] you get used to it, it’s real fun. You really enjoy it. I’m playing with very good players, and everybody here is a good person. They try to help me every day. We are practicing hard, we are working hard, and when you try to know how to play with each other, you start to feel better and you start to play better.”

- Korkmaz on adjusting to the NBA