76ers

NBA Notes: Nerlens Noel to have thumb surgery, miss several weeks

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NBA Notes: Nerlens Noel to have thumb surgery, miss several weeks

BOSTON -- Dallas Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle says forward Nerlens Noel will have surgery for a torn ligament in his left thumb.

Carlisle made the announcement Wednesday before the Mavericks game with the Boston Celtics.

Noel will undergo the procedure in Cleveland later this week. Carlisle said he is then expected to be out for several weeks, but couldn't offer a specific timetable for his return.

Noel hasn't played since Nov. 22. He's appeared in 18 games with six starts this season, averaging 4.0 points and 4.1 rebounds.

Cavaliers: Thomas plays 4-on-4 as he nears return
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Cavaliers All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas played 4-on-4 on Wednesday, a significant step in his recovery from a hip injury.

Thomas, who has yet to make his debut with Cleveland, scrimmaged along with injured forward Tristan Thompson, rookies Cedi Osman and Ante Zizic, and members of the coaching staff.

With coach Tyronn Lue and members of the team's front office watching intently from behind the basket, Thomas moved freely and didn't appear to have any restrictions during the half-court workout that took place following the team's morning shootaround.

Lue reported that Thomas "looked good" and absorbed some contact. It was the second straight day Thomas scrimmaged.

However, Lue did not provide any update on when Thomas might play in a game. Lue planned to check with the team's medical staff to find out the next step in Thomas' recovery program, which the 28-year-old has described as his "slow grind" (see full story).

Suns: Booker (groin) expected to miss 2-3 weeks
PHOENIX -- Phoenix Suns star Devin Booker is expected to be sidelined two to three weeks because of a groin injury.

The Suns said Wednesday that Booker strained his left adductor late in a 126-113 loss in Toronto on Tuesday night and would have an MRI. Booker froze in place near midcourt, and trainers came out to examine him before two teammates awkwardly carried him off the floor.

Booker had 19 points against the Raptors after scoring a season-high 46 points Monday night in a victory in Philadelphia.

The 21-year-old Booker is 10th in the NBA in scoring with a 24.3 average. In 25 games, he's also averaging 4.5 rebounds and 4.1 assists. He had a career-high 70 last season at Boston.

Coming off a six-game trip, the Suns return to play Thursday night against Washington.

Hornets: Coach Clifford out indefinitely with ‘health issue’
CHARLOTTE, N.C.  -- Hornets coach Steve Clifford will be away from the team for an undetermined period of time to deal with a "health issue."

The team made the announcement Wednesday in a release.

The 56-year-old Clifford missed Monday night's game against Orlando because he was not feeling well. Associate head coach Stephen Silas filled in for Clifford against the Magic.

Clifford has battled heart problems in the past, but a person familiar with the situation told The Associated Press the issue was not a heart-related. The person spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because the team has not released details of Clifford's health issue.

The team said there is no timetable for Clifford's return and that officials would have no further comment.

Silas will continue to coach the team with Clifford out. The Hornets host Golden State Wednesday night.

"I just want to send him my best wishes," Warriors coach Steve Kerr said. "Obviously I have been through some issues, and I don't know what his health issues are, but it's no fun. I'm wishing him well and I hope he gets back on the sideline soon. But more importantly I hope that he's healthy" (see full story).

Nets: Team keeping focus on Thunder in Mexico
MEXICO CITY -- No earthquakes or volcanos are on the back of the mind of the Brooklyn Nets players and coaches ahead of their regular-season game Thursday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder in Mexico City. At least publicly.

The game will be the 25th in NBA history South of the Border, the most for any country besides the United States and Canada. It also is the first since a 7.1 earthquake on Sept. 19 killed over 300 people, most of them in the nation's capital.

"We talked about it and we talked about precautions with the NBA security on what we should do it happens", Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. "We are affected by it because it was big news in the U.S. and we saw the pain and suffering and sympathize with the victims. It was very moving to see those images, I can't imagine going through something like that".

The quake was the deadliest in Mexico since the one on 1985 on the same date killed thousands and it came less than two weeks after another powerful quake caused 90 deaths in the country's south.

New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick expressed relief to leave the country after a regular-season game against the Oakland Raiders played in at Azteca stadium.

"I think we're fortunate there was no volcano eruptions or earthquakes, or anything else while we were down there. You have two NFL franchises in an area that I don't know how stable the geological plates that were below us, but nothing happened, so that was good", Belichick said (see full story).

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