Furkan Korkmaz sparks sudden blaze, then leaps over logic

Furkan Korkmaz sparks sudden blaze, then leaps over logic

There came a point Friday night during Furkan Korkmaz’s career-best 24-point performance when everyone at Wells Fargo Center seemed to collectively shrug and say, “Sure. Why not?”

Korkmaz had already flashed his trademark skill, hitting four three-pointers in under two minutes during a sudden blaze at the end of the third quarter.

With a little less than seven minutes to go in the Sixers’ 100-89 win, he stared down Bulls center Cristiano Felicio. The 22-year-old then crossed Felicio over, blew past him, dunked and let out an exultant scream. 

“At that time of the game, I was really feeling it,” Korkmaz said. “I got that confidence. When I saw the open lane, I just took off. I was also not expecting that, but I just dunked it. That was a good moment.”

Korkmaz wasn’t done, though. He missed a well-earned heat check on the Sixers’ next possession, but dropped in a floater shortly after. And, just to confirm that it was indeed his night, he took a charge on Bulls star Zach LaVine. 

Which play did he enjoy more?

“It’s a tough question, but I think I would say the dunk,” Korkmaz said honestly.

This isn’t the first time Korkmaz has changed a game this season with his shotmaking. He had nine key fourth-quarter points Wednesday vs. Brooklyn, blew up the Bucks’ zone in the third quarter on Christmas and made the game-winning three on Nov. 2 in Portland.

The Sixers declined Korkmaz’s third-year option last year, then let him sit on the free-agent market until July 25. Though they billed him as a young, promising player, their actions suggested Korkmaz was not a prominent part of their plans. He appeared to be on the fringe of the rotation.

Brett Brown hasn’t passed up many chances to laud Korkmaz, and he had a great opportunity Friday.

It’s really quite a — to say it's incredible would be too dramatic — but it's a heck of a story, isn't it? Just where he was and where he is. For us to see him — and he's young, can't forget his birth certificate — for us to see him come in and do JJ [Redick]-like stuff and have that type of a bomber, that was different. … We ran probably, I don't know, five plays in a row going to him. 

“I had flashbacks of JJ. We jumped into JJ's package and he changed the game. He gave us a spark and whether it was a three ball — I don't remember JJ dunking like that … but the long shot and just like bam, bam, bam — quick points, buckets — fueled our defense.

While Korkmaz deserves credit for translating his hypothetical value as a shooter into real contributions this year — he’s made 71 threes, tied with Tobias Harris for most on the team, and converted 39 percent — he will probably not maintain Friday's euphoric high. 

He’s devoted time and energy to improving his defense, but the question of whether he’ll be able to hold his own in the playoffs remains open and valid. If he’s not sinking shots, his impact tends to not be positive. Any moves the Sixers make before the Feb. 6 trade deadline could shift his role, too.

But, for the time being, he is playing with an apparently limitless self-belief.

“As a player you just need to get that confidence,” he said. “When you start to feel good on the court and also your teammates see that, your coaching staff sees that — I think today everybody saw that I was feeling it — and I knew that I had to shoot those looks. I just take the open shots, that’s all I do.”

Brown is clearly relishing in Korkmaz’s success.

“He's quality people,” Brown said. “He's a genuine person and you're proud of that, too. Good things happen to good people ... He's put in the time and to his credit, he came in and changed the landscape of an NBA game. And he did it quite emphatically. It wasn't like it was swept under the carpet. He did it where ESPN and all of us and his teammates, probably more importantly, felt his success.”

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Jim Lynam laments Charles Barkley trade, a lesson current Sixers can learn from with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons

Jim Lynam laments Charles Barkley trade, a lesson current Sixers can learn from with Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons

June 17, 1992, is a day that will live in infamy among Sixers fans. That’s when the team traded six-time All-Star Charles Barkley to the Phoenix Suns for Jeff Hornacek, Andrew Lang and Tim Perry.

Barkley would go on to make five more All-Star teams, win a league MVP and eventually be inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. The Sixers wouldn’t win more than 30 games in a season until Allen Iverson’s second season in 1997-98.

It’s a move that still stings — especially to one of the people that had a hand in making it.

As a guest on the Sixers Talk podcast, Coach Jim Lynam expressed his regret with the deal despite Barkley wanting out.

“Charles, from his perspective, he made it known in no uncertain terms that he didn’t want to be here,” Lynam said. “And I would say in hindsight — this is just me, my own personal opinion — we made a mistake in listening to him. I tell Charles that to this day.”

Barkley was taken fifth overall in 1984, joining a Sixers team that was a year removed from a championship and featured Hall of Famers Moses Malone, Julius Erving, Maurice Cheeks and Bobby Jones, and two-time All-Star Andrew Toney. 

In 1986, the Sixers traded away Malone in another ill-fated move. Barkley has repeatedly spoken about the profound impact Malone had on not only his career but his life. Erving retired after the 1986-87 season. Cheeks was traded in 1989. Jones retired a year before Erving. Toney’s career was derailed by a foot injury and he was forced into retirement in 1988 at the age of 30.

That left Barkley with little help or guidance as he was entering the prime of his career. By the time Lynam took over as head coach in the middle of the 1987-88 season, the Sixers didn’t resemble the team Barkley had joined. Lynam would lead the team to the playoffs the next three seasons, losing to Michael Jordan and the Bulls in the second round twice.

As Lynam moved into the front office as GM in 1992, he knew Barkley was not pleased with the team’s standing after a 35-47 season. Still, he wishes he and the team handled it differently.

A letter from a fan reacting to the move still sticks in Lynam’s mind. 

I got one letter in particular that I saved over the years and it started out, ‘Dear Coach Lynam,’ and it’s the first line, ‘Never trade a super[star].’ Literally, word for word. Second line, ‘Never trade a super[star].’ The guy repeated that line like 10 times. ‘Never trade a super[star].’ It was a classic of a letter, but end of story, the fella was right. 

“You can’t trade star, star talent unless you’re getting star, star talent in return, which is rarely the case. Somehow, some way you have to figure it out and work your way around it. Hindsight, yeah, a mistake by Jim Lynam and the 76ers and all who had any part of it.

It's a lesson Lynam learned the hard way and has influenced the way he thinks about the current iteration of the team.

As an analyst on Sixers Pre- and Postgame Live, Lynam watches Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons on a nightly basis. It’s no secret the All-Star duo isn’t an ideal fit on the court, which has led some to wonder if the Sixers should explore a trade.

While he acknowledges the difficulty in getting it all to work, he also knows from his experience with Barkley that the solution is not to trade star players.

As it relates to current times, yeah, I think there is a problem here in terms of how do you best blend the talents of these two star players, Embiid and Simmons. Well, guess what, that’s what it’s about. Solving problems. There’s an old phrase, problems are meant to be solved, not rejoiced over. You can talk about them all day on talk radio and fine, that’s great for that segment of the population. 

“If you’re in the Sixers’ side of it, you got to figure this stuff out and I think these guys are doing a pretty good job of working toward that end. It’s not gonna be snap your fingers and go out and you win 70 games and two straight championships. It’s a process, no pun intended. … I have confidence that when it’s all said and done and you’re looking back on this years from now, you will see championships as a result.

You can listen to the entire Sixers Talk podcast with Lynam below.

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Jim Lynam has tales on when Moses Malone stunned him, Julius Erving’s class, relationship with Maurice Cheeks

AP Images/David Zalubowski

Jim Lynam has tales on when Moses Malone stunned him, Julius Erving’s class, relationship with Maurice Cheeks

If you’d like in-depth, entertaining insight into some of the great players and moments in Philadelphia basketball history, Jim Lynam is the right person to talk to.

Now an analyst with NBC Sports Philadelphia, Lynam played and coached at St. Joe’s, served as a head coach, assistant coach and general manager throughout the years with the Sixers, and has developed close relationships with a slew of Hall of Famers. He joined Paul Hudrick and Danny Pommells on the latest Sixers Talk podcast and had plenty of stories to tell about Moses Malone, Charles Barkley, Maurice Cheeks and Julius Erving.

Lynam's first experience with the late Malone was in 1985, when he joined the Sixers as an assistant coach after a stint with the Clippers. 

Moses, in my mind, was going through the motions,” Lynam said on the podcast. "And I personally was concerned, maybe after three or four days. … Is Moses all right? Is he hurt? Does he always start like this? They were almost, to a man, dismissive of my thoughts, from [head coach] Matty [Guokas] right up to Harold Katz, the owner. So, this went on for the entire preseason. Moses was beyond desperate. And I’m now really concerned. This guy was key to our team if we’re going to be legit. 

“Well, we open the season in New York against rookie Patrick Ewing, and all the fanfare. Moses gave Patrick Ewing 38 [points] and 24 [rebounds]. It was the first sweat that he broke. And he put Patrick Ewing in the basket probably about six times. So it was a real eye-opener for me.

The official box score says Malone had 35 points and 13 rebounds, but it must have felt like 38 and 24 to a coach getting his first exposure to Malone's Hall of Fame talent. 

“The public persona of Moses was really quite different than who the real guy was,” Lynam said. “He was really one of the best. He was genuine, no nonsense, come to do his work every day. A person of few words, yes, but when he spoke, all heads turned.”

Lynam has a vivid memory from that same year of an incident that showed him Erving’s character. He recalled a mob of fans swarming around Erving after a preseason game, eager for his autograph.

“As we’re walking down this corridor with people all over the place, a fan barges out with a pad and a pen, and obviously somewhat inebriated,” he said. “The first cop takes exception. … Doc’s trying to take care of the fan. ‘Sure, sure I’ll sign.’ And there’s this cop literally with a stick. To see Doc defuse that — he takes cares of the fan. ‘Fine, my man, ‘ he says, ‘but we’ve gotta go.’

"The fan’s ecstatic because he got the autograph. [Erving] turns to the cop, and I could see in the cop’s eyes, he’s irate. Puts his arm out to the cop and he kind of gives him a side embrace, and he says, ‘Thanks, my man, I appreciated that.’ And I went, ‘Are you kidding me?’ It was like watching somebody walk on water. He defused what could’ve been a split skull and a near-riot in a matter of seconds, that’s how good he was.” 

Erving was the first of his kind, according to Lynam.

“Playing above the rim, playing in the stratosphere — he brought the game up there,” he said. “He was the first one, because he did it with a combination of spectacular and graceful.”

From 2001-2005, Lynam coached under Cheeks, who hired him to be an assistant on his staff with the Trail Blazers. One quality Lynam admired in Cheeks as a player was “the game was never too big for him.”

“That’s a huge compliment that I would pay a player because, for a lot of good players, the game can get too big,” he said. “Charles Barkley used to tell me, ‘Coach, you’ve gotta be careful who you set that last shot up for.’ Obviously he said it one night when I didn’t set it up for him. But Charles is right. Not everyone relishes having to take, or looks forward to taking, the shot that’s going to decide the game one way or the other. In that light, Cheeks was as good as there was."

You can listen to the full podcast below, which also includes a story from August of 1989 that involves Lynam frantically searching through the city of Philadelphia, looking to tell Cheeks he’d been traded.

Subscribe and rate Sixers Talk: Apple Podcasts | Google Play | Spotify | Stitcher | Art19 | YouTube

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