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Sixers camp notes, quotes and tidbits: Markelle Fultz not changing shot

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Sixers camp notes, quotes and tidbits: Markelle Fultz not changing shot

CAMDEN, N.J. — A video of Markelle Fultz at the free throw line during training camp drew attention because of a noticeable change in form from college. Fultz, who shot 64.9 percent from the line as a freshman at Washington, clarified he does not plan on altering his shot in the NBA.

“My free throw’s going to look the same as in college,” Fultz said Thursday. “I’m just trying to look at different ways to see how the ball can go in the hoop.”

Fultz worked on his offense during his offseason training. The point guard will spend a lot of time playing off the ball when paired with Ben Simmons (see story), who will assume point responsibilities. Fultz averaged 23.2 points (47.6 percent from the field) to lead all freshmen and the entire Pac-12 in scoring. Brett Brown sees Fultz’s talents and doesn’t want him to force changes. 

“His percentages revealed that he’s a more-than-capable shooter,” Brown said. “I think right now him trying to figure out how to not overcomplicate things and maybe make over something that didn’t need to be made over as much as he might of thought is a challenge.” 

There will be plenty of other adjustments for Fultz to make. Among his areas of focus is the middle pick-and-roll. 

“Once you get to the middle of the floor, everything’s open,” Fultz said. “In this game, everyone’s good at the one spot, the two, all guards. Even the bigs, they’re good at using illegal screens that refs don’t see. So you’ve just got to be able to fight through and get through everything.” 

For all the games and practices Fultz will go through, one thing will not change: he still is a teenager competing against players 5, 10, even 15 years older than him who have been in the league since he was a kid. Fultz has been getting a small sample of that from his teammates in practice. 

“He’s 19,” Brown said. “I think there’s a physical side of it that no matter how good his head and his heart is, you get back to reality. Trying to help him navigate that first year from a physical standpoint is a real challenge.”

Korkmaz work to do on D
Brown will split his attention between multiple rookies this season. Furkan Korkmaz has a long path of development ahead of him as he transitions from the international game to the NBA. Brown is placing a heavy emphasis on the defensive end. 

“Trying to get him defensively built, like an attitude and a mindset to try to grow him as a defender,” Brown said. “He can score. He’s got a real sort of interesting body for a basketball player in his position. He’s long, he’s lanky. Years ago I coached Brent Barry and sort of that bouncy pogo-stick, can shoot, can dunk, I see he’s got some real interesting qualities. The defensive side needs work.” 

The Sixers selected Korkmaz with the 26th pick in the 2016 draft. He paid a hefty buyout from Anadolu Efes to play in the NBA this season. Korkmaz’s friend and now teammate Dario Saric offered him advice to make the most of his time with the Sixers. 

“Here, it’s all up to you,” Kormaz said. “The coaches give you opportunity, everybody shows interest in you.” 

Injury notes
Jahlil Okafor (right knee soreness) went through limited parts of 5-on-5 action. Joel Embiid (left knee surgery) and Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (right knee patellar tendinitis) did not do 5-on-5 work. All three players participated in practice. 

Trainer Drew Hanlen details offseason workouts of Sixers' Markelle Fultz, Joel Embiid

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Trainer Drew Hanlen details offseason workouts of Sixers' Markelle Fultz, Joel Embiid

We’re now deep into the NBA offseason, which means we’ve reached the peak of players showing off their latest workouts on social media.

Unless you’re Markelle Fultz.

The 2017 No. 1 overall pick has mostly kept his sessions with CEO of Pure Sweat Basketball and famed skills coach Drew Hanlen, behind closed doors. 

Hanlen recently joined Alex Kennedy on the HoopsHype podcast and said the silence surrounding Fultz’s training is for a good reason.

“What I can tell you is that he’s doing very well,” Hanlen said. “I think that a lot of people think that we’re hiding him and we’re not hiding him. We’re just being very strategic in what we share because obviously, you don’t want to ever add pressure to a player when you don’t have to. 

“Fans and the media would love to be able to witness every workout of every player that I work with, especially guys like Markelle. All I can say is that it’s going really well and that we’re purposely doing things just to protect him right now. But I think Philly fans will be very excited.”

Meanwhile, Fultz’s Sixers teammate Joel Embiid is on the complete opposite end of the court when it comes to posting his workouts online.

So far this summer, Embiid has shared glimpses of everything from welcoming Orlando Magic draft pick Mo Bamba to the league to trash-talking with Boston Celtics phenom Jayson Tatum. The latest moment included a savage montage of Embiid dunking all over Portland Trail Blazers big man Myers Leonard.

But while Embiid is just being his usual outgoing self for social media, Hanlen made it clear that the All-Star center is putting in real effort to sharpen his craft.

“Our big three things this summer, No. 1 was just low-post dominance,” Hanlen said. “Obviously he was really good in the mid-post last season, but when you look at the game where he had like 46 points, the Lakers game, and the game before when I think he had [32] against the Clippers, he was a bully down low. Our first thing is just becoming a bully on the block.

“Our second thing is being able to consistently make threes. When he’s making threes at a high clip, no one in the NBA can guard him. It just stretches the floor out so much and it opens up driving room.

“No. 3 is playing on the perimeter slash taking care of the ball. We noticed that he turned the ball over too much (3.7 turnovers per game) and most of those turnovers came from drives on the perimeter or drives from facing up in the triple threat in the mid-post. So our third thing is just being able to make plays while facing up. That means tightening your handle, making more plays off the bounce, changing directions and adding some kind of face-up moves so he can be better in that category as well.”

Hanlen touched on a bunch of other topics, including how his team is trying to model Bamba’s offensive game after Embiid and which player he would really like to work with in the gym. Check out the full podcast right here.

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Sixers put bench under construction, but is second unit now any better?

Sixers put bench under construction, but is second unit now any better?

After a relatively quiet offseason, the Sixers’ roster has suddenly turned into musical chairs over the past few days.

In are Mike Muscala and Jonah Bolden. Out are Justin Anderson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Richaun Holmes.

Not exactly earth-shattering moves, but moves nonetheless.

Of course, all of those changes were directed at the Sixers’ bench. That’s because the team already has one of the best starting rotations in the entire NBA. The Sixers’ five-man combination of Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, Robert Covington, Dario Saric and Joel Embiid was plus-21.4 points per 100 possessions in 600 minutes of action together last season.

The reserves were a different story. The Sixers’ bench was among the league’s worst scoring-wise in 2017-18 before buyout veterans Marco Belinelli and Ersan Ilyasova pumped life into the group. With that duo on the squad, the Sixers posted a 20-3 record to close out the regular season and made quick work of the Miami Heat in the first round of the playoffs.

Those results changed against the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals. The Sixers’ bench was exposed defensively and smothered on offense in the five-game series.

“I’ve said on record, and I’ll say it again, I believe that anything that kind of matters, you’re probably going to bump into the Celtics,” Brett Brown said during the Sixers’ exit interviews. “So they’re always going to be sort of on our mind in relation to how do you compete with them?”

Competing with the Celtics and beating them are two very different things.

Did the Sixers’ tinkering with their bench put them any closer to knocking off their longtime rival? That’s a tough one to answer right now.

Despite shipping away Anderson, Luwawu-Cabarrot and Holmes, you can argue that the Sixers’ second unit will still be more athletic next season. A fully healthy Markelle Fultz will likely start out as the sixth man, and we know he’s got some incredible bounce to his game. Zhaire Smith already gave a glimpse of what type of athlete he is during summer league. And while 31 years old, Wilson Chandler can still rise up to throw it down.

Defensively is where that athleticism should really shine for the latter two. The rookie Smith has continually said defense is his best skill as he was named to the Big 12 All-Defensive team during his lone season at Texas Tech. Chandler possesses the ability to defend both forward spots and takes pride on that end of the floor.

Meanwhile, Muscala and Bolden aren't anywhere near leapers of Holmes' caliber. However, they are still bigger bodies that have the ability to move their feet to keep up with their man. That’s in addition to known hustlers T.J. McConnell and Amir Johnson putting forth their maximum effort guarding opponents.

But is that enough when a healthy Celtics team gets its projected roster back and rolls out a reserve lineup of Terry Rozier, Marcus Smart, Semi Ojeleye, Marcus Morris and Aron Baynes?

If the Sixers are unable to contain Boston’s talented starters and deep reserve blend, they might really run into problems trying to keep pace with offense of their own now that they lack a serious three-point threat outside of Redick. Belinelli and Ilyasova, who both departed moments into free agency, gave the team a one-two punch off the bench that could drain shots from anywhere. Now the only serviceable shooter in a backup role is the 6-foot-11, 240-pound Muscala (a career 37.8 percent shooter from long range). Kyle Korver, anyone?

The bench reset was necessary if the Sixers planned on getting to the next level. Is it enough to put them on the same level as the Celtics or will they remain green with envy?

We’ll see.

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