76ers

Ryan Broekhoff did not travel with Sixers to Orlando because his wife tested positive for COVID-19

Ryan Broekhoff did not travel with Sixers to Orlando because his wife tested positive for COVID-19

Updated: Sunday, 1:27 p.m. 

The Sixers' newest addition, Ryan Broekhoff, did not travel with the team to Orlando on Thursday afternoon.

Broekhoff tweeted Sunday that he stayed home so that he could focus on his family after his wife tested positive for COVID-19.

“It hasn’t been an easy decision, by any means, to come back,” he said on July 1. “I have a wife and a one-year-old son, and my wife has an autoimmune disease, so she’s at higher risk for COVID. It’s taken a lot for us to be able to get to this point where we signed.

"We spoke to Elton Brand and we spoke to Coach, just wanted to get some more information about how the bubble is going to be down in Orlando. If anything happens, what are my options to get back and take care of my family? That was important to me.”

The Sixers signed Broekhoff to a substitute contract at the end of June, which they were able to do because they had a vacant two-way contract spot. A 40.3 percent career three-point shooter, the Sixers brought Broekhoff in as another potential option to space the floor.

Following the signing, head coach Brett Brown said he was "shocked’" Broekhoff decided to sign with the Sixers, as he was open about the limited opportunity.

“To mislead him about, ‘Hey, there’s a lot of opportunity here,’ that’s not true,” Brown said following the signing. “I told him that. You’ve got, what, six people? We all could look at each other and say, ‘What about Matisse (Thybulle)? And Glenn Robinson, and Furkan (Korkmaz) and Alec Burks?’ You could go on and on and on. ... This isn’t an opportunity where it’s clear there’s a runway and a pathway at all, and that was the flavor of my talk.”

The 29-year-old said he did have an identical offer on the table from another NBA team, as well as additional interest from others, but that his goal is to find a “steady” spot in the NBA.

"I see this as a way to sit up close and personal and get some extra time to learn (Brown’s) philosophies and how things may work, not just with the Sixers but also with the national team," he said.

Brown is also the current head coach of the Australian national team, a position he also held from 2009-2012.

The Sixers' first practice as a team in Orlando is scheduled for Saturday afternoon. The team's first seeding game is set for Aug. 1 against the Pacers. Before that, they have three scrimmages scheduled for July 24, July 26 and July 28.

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Can Furkan Korkmaz hold his own on defense vs. Celtics? Brett Brown weighs in

Can Furkan Korkmaz hold his own on defense vs. Celtics? Brett Brown weighs in

Furkan Korkmaz’s biggest weakness as a player is no great secret.

He is an improved defender but not a good one and so, with the Sixers set to face the Celtics in the first round of the postseason, it’s natural to wonder if the 23-year-old will be playable against skilled wings like All-Star Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Gordon Hayward.

I do (have confidence). I think he’s made great progress this year,” Brett Brown said. “He understood well and truly that it was going to influence, clearly, how much he was going to play. Because we experienced some different things this year with lots of injuries, it opened up a door for him to take advantage of.

"He’s a great story, as we all know. This route from where he was to where he is needs to be told — I suspect that it will. And I think that his defense has improved enough to where you feel confident he can come in and play in an NBA rotation. 

That’s certainly an endorsement of Korkmaz’s defense. 

It’s not, however, as if Brown called Korkmaz a shutdown defender. “Play in an NBA rotation” isn't the same as “be on the floor in crunch time of a playoff game” or “take on the opposition’s top scorers,” or anything close to it. And, given Brown’s tendency to focus on the positive, it’s not stunning that he gave an affirmative response to a question about whether he had confidence in one of his players.

The formula for Korkmaz making the Sixers a better team has typically been high-efficiency shotmaking and passable defense. As Brown said, Korkmaz’s path — from having his third-year option declined last season, to signing with the Sixers on a minimum contract last July, to honing his conditioning and focusing on his defense, to leading the team in made three-pointers — is remarkable. Still, it’s rare for Korkmaz, who scored 21 points in Wednesday’s 125-121 loss to the Raptors, to be a positive-value player when he’s not hitting jumpers. 

Other Sixers on the bench are more well-rounded. If he’s not limited by a nagging left hip pointer injury, Glenn Robinson offers an attractive two-way skill set, a playoff-ready mixture of perimeter defense, outside shooting and cutting. Alec Burks is far from an elite defender, but he’s generally looked capable of stopping some dribble penetration and can single-handedly generate offense in a way few of his teammates can. 

Though Matisse Thybulle provides little offensively besides spot-up shooting and athleticism, he has special talent on the other side of the ball that the Sixers will need with Ben Simmons out after undergoing surgery on his left knee. 

It’s possible all of the players mentioned above will be in the Sixers’ playoff rotation, which Brown has said he expects will include nine players. Mike Scott is a name seemingly on the edge, and perhaps he’s the kind of perpetually unfazed veteran who could step in if Korkmaz or Thybulle are having trouble in a particular game or matchup. 

Korkmaz combines a supreme faith in his abilities with an earnest, humble personality that’s endeared him to his teammates. He understands that opponents will try to target him defensively.

“I was just trying to be solid on defense,” he said on July 21, “because the first (two) years, everybody was talking about my weaknesses on defense, but I think this year I made a big jump on defense. Also, I was talking to the coaching staff, talking to players, to improve myself. Still I am trying to improve myself, every part of the game — not just only defense or offense. But I think defense is key for me to stay on the court longer, I know that.”

Against Boston this season, Korkmaz played, in chronological order, 19, 8, 14 and 25 minutes. He actually held Celtics players to 1 of 6 shooting on field goals he defended on opening night, while Boston shot 4 of 5 on shots Korkmaz guarded on Jan. 9. Assuming he’s in Brown’s initial rotation, there will likely be fluctuations in both Korkmaz's performances and his playing time. The idea of giving him a few stints per game alongside Al Horford, a player he’s thrived alongside this year, might work if he’s shooting well and holding his own in a manageable matchup against Marcus Smart or Semi Ojeleye.

Consistency and reliability are not traits usually associated with Korkmaz, but it’s a logical area of focus at this stage. 

“Defensively, offensively, I’m just trying to stay consistent,” Korkmaz said Wednesday. “I know my role. It’s good to be playing good basketball. I’m feeling good. I wish we just won this game. … Just getting ready for the playoffs.”

Brown seems to believe the Turkish wing’s defensive deficiencies aren’t enough to eliminate the possibility of him helping in the postseason. We'll see soon if that's the case. 

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2020 NBA draft: Sixers will own a first-round pick, thanks to Mike Muscala

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2020 NBA draft: Sixers will own a first-round pick, thanks to Mike Muscala

The Sixers will own a first-round pick in this year’s draft, and they have Mike Muscala to thank.

Muscala’s go-ahead three-pointer Wednesday night with 5.2 seconds remaining lifted the Thunder to a 116-115 win over the Heat. The shot ensures that the Sixers will have a first-round pick because Oklahoma City will finish with a top-10 record. In the Markelle Fultz trade last February, the Sixers acquired the Thunder’s top-20 protected first-rounder, in addition to Jonathon Simmons and a second-round selection last year. 

For many reasons, it’s an improbable turn of events. (Did we mention Oklahoma City trailed by as many as 22 points?) Muscala came to the Sixers as a part of a three-team trade in July of 2018, and he didn’t have an illustrious tenure here. After averaging 7.4 points and 4.3 rebounds in 47 games, he was dealt to the Clippers in the Tobias Harris trade, then shipped to the Lakers a day later. 

Muscala signed this past summer with Oklahoma City, who many projected to have a steep short-term decline following the departures of Russell Westbrook and Paul George. Instead, 35-year-old Chris Paul, 22-year-old Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Sixth Man of the Year finalist Dennis Schroder excelled in clutch situations and performed well above expectations. Former Sixer Nerlens Noel has had a solid year for the Thunder, too. 

The Sixers will own four second-round picks along with their improbable first-round. If the selection had not conveyed, it would’ve turned into second-round picks in 2022 and 2023. 

That’s not a bad return, but the Sixers will prefer having a first-round pick in a draft that, while not considered very strong at the top, should have future rotation player options in the 20s. 

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