76ers

Markelle Fultz's jumper overshadows dominant nights from Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid

Markelle Fultz's jumper overshadows dominant nights from Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid

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Ben Simmons had a triple-double. Joel Embiid scored 30 points. But Markelle Fultz took the most shots — including his first made regular-season three-pointer — and that’s what made his head coach the happiest.

“He ended up taking the most shots out of anybody on our team,” Brett Brown said Thursday night after the Sixers’ 127-108 home-opening win (see observations), “which, in itself, is to me a statement. … But I say that as a complete positive. I felt when he was shooting the ball, they kept going under middle pick-and-rolls. He shot it to mean it, he didn’t look afraid of anything.

“He missed the shots, but they looked good, and I think in general, we played him quite a bit of minutes, he took the most shots out of anybody on the team, I thought his defense was very good. It’s a big night for that young man.”

If you didn’t watch the game, you might think Brown was talking about a player who scored 20 points and knocked down a few clutch shots. Fultz shot 5 for 15 with 12 points.

Of course it’s not just as simple as the numbers with Fultz. As Brown said, the fact that Fultz was at least willing to take the jumpers the Bulls were giving him is important. He’s not the rookie whose rare attempted jumpers were broken, clunky ordeals that never had a real chance of going in.

On a human level, it’s easy to root for Fultz, to urge him to shoot and go crazy when he knocks one down from long range.

“Anytime you work really, really hard for something, it just makes the reward that much better,” Fultz said. “When you finally get the results you’ve been working hard for, it’s just that much better. So for me, it’s just more fire to work even harder and keep on improving.”

On a basketball level, the questions about Fultz and his jumper didn’t disappear the instant he hit that three-pointer. He made 3 of 11 jumpers (one a half-court heave at the end of the third period) against a bad defensive team who dared him to shoot, again and again. Seven of his 12 points came in the fourth quarter, after the Sixers had already sealed a win. This is nothing close to the player the Sixers thought they took with the No. 1 pick.

It will take a lot more than one made three-pointer for defenses to stop sagging off Fultz. But the Sixers believe that, over time, he’ll knock down enough jumpers that giving him space is no longer the obvious scouting report. 

“I want him to be confident,” Brown said. “I want him finding some level of swagger. I’ll try to get him the ball and put him in middle pick-and-rolls and try to find a way to help him. Tonight I thought he helped himself, he took what the game gave him. Given the incredible sort of groundswell after one game, good for him.”

Embiid, the man whose 30 points and 12 rebounds were rendered a footnote, has faith in Fultz’s growth.

“It’s like what I’ve always said, he’s going to be really good,” Embiid said. “I know it. Everybody always gets excited when he shoots a three. He’s going to make those, he’s worked on his shot the whole summer, so that’s nothing to worry about. I think the way he can help us is just being a playmaker. When I’m on the floor with him I really feel comfortable. He really knows how to find guys and understands when someone needs the ball, that’s where he’s going to help us a lot.”

At some point, maybe the fans at the Wells Fargo Center won’t go wild every time Fultz takes a three. That day doesn't seem like it will come anytime soon.

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Furkan Korkmaz's horrendous golf swing; Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic make up in the bubble

Furkan Korkmaz's horrendous golf swing; Tobias Harris, Boban Marjanovic make up in the bubble

What do Furkan Korkmaz and Charles Barkley have in common? They’ve both played for the Sixers … and they both have horrendous golf swings.

Korkmaz has become a sharpshooter off the bench, leading the team in threes made and second in percentage.

But when it comes to golf, Korkmaz doesn’t appear to be nearly as proficient.

He has a much better chance at cracking the Sixers’ playoff rotation than qualifying for the PGA Tour.

While Korkmaz's golf swing may be broken beyond repair, we did see a relationship mended inside the Disney World bubble

Wednesday was Tobias Harris’ 28th birthday. Several of his teammates helped him celebrate, including Mike Scott — whose birthday is Thursday — decorating Harris’ hotel room door.

But what about his old friend Boban Marjanovic? Marjanovic, now with the Mavericks, has been getting awfully chummy with new teammate Luka Doncic. It’s caused somewhat of a "rift" between Bobi and Tobi.

Harris had a request for his birthday in order for the best friends to bury the hatchet.

And Marjanovic came through.

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Ben Simmons seems like he may be teasing intent to shoot more jumpers

Ben Simmons seems like he may be teasing intent to shoot more jumpers

Ben Simmons appears comfortable with the public knowing that he’s been working on his jump shot during the NBA’s hiatus.

After the Sixers included Simmons making a three-pointer in a video package from a recent practice, the 23-year-old released a YouTube video on Wednesday that shows the workouts he did in Los Angeles with trainer Chris Johnson ahead of the league’s restart. LeBron James and Dwyane Wade make appearances. 

Simmons shoots plenty of jump shots in the video — turnarounds in the post, mid-range pull-ups, catch-and-shoot threes. Johnson has Simmons put on shooting gloves for some of the drills. 

There’s one exchange with the Pistons’ Tony Snell, at around the 5:18 mark of the video, that possibly teases Simmons’ intent to attempt more jumpers when play resumes.

Snell: You should be shooting way more. Your shot looks good.

Simmons: Orlando.

Snell: Orlando? I’ll be watching.

Simmons: I’m coming for it.

We don’t need to remind Sixers fans that Simmons has yet to be a remotely regular or effective NBA jump shooter. The two-time All-Star has made the first two three-pointers of his professional career this season and is 6 for 34 overall from 10 feet and out. He'd said in September, "If it's open, I'll take it" when asked about the prospect of taking threes this season, an attitude that did not materialize in games. 

This video of him sinking shots in a non-game setting is not necessarily a sign he’ll be primed to fire at Disney World, but the fact that he’s put the footage out there for all to see is at least notable. Of course, there were also plenty of videos last summer of him draining jumpers. He’s had an excellent all-around season and is one of the league’s best defenders, but the jump shot has still been miles behind the other areas of his game. 

The Sixers have been using Simmons as a power forward in their practices at Disney World, a shift he said Tuesday he’s willing to try.

“You've just gotta work with different things,” he said. “You’ve gotta try different things out, see if they work. We’re not at a stage where we can be comfortable yet. I’m still trying to figure it out myself ... what feels comfortable, what’s right for this team and how we’re gonna win. 

“If it’s this way, then I’m all for it. I’ve been having fun in that position — whatever you guys say, the four — whatever it is. But at the end of the day, when you see me I’m on the floor, I’m making plays.

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