Technically, Furkan Korkmaz was listed as probable for the Sixers’ meeting with the Nets on Tuesday night.
But with significant injuries bombarding his team on a daily basis, Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey tweeted out his all-caps excitement Monday evening about Korkmaz’s imminent return.
If Korkmaz is indeed back, that will matter. He’s missed the team’s past three games with a left knee effusion and been one note on the Sixers’ constantly expanding injury list. Tobias Harris said after practice Monday that he also plans to return after sitting out two games with left hip soreness.
Everything else related to injuries for the Sixers looks bleak ... unless you ask Tyrese Maxey.
“I’m grateful to be alive every single day,” Maxey said Monday. “Every time I get to wake up — and I can breathe, and I can walk around and move around and have all my limbs and stuff — I still thank God every day. So I’m happy.”
While there's zero wrong with Maxey’s exceptional positivity, the Sixers do require players healthy enough to make an on-court impact. After suffering a small fracture in his left foot, the third-year guard won’t be able to check that box for a few weeks. The two cornerstones of Morey’s roster, Joel Embiid and James Harden, will also watch the Sixers’ upcoming back-to-back from the bench. Embiid has a left mid-foot sprain, Harden a right foot tendon strain.
If you combine Embiid, Harden and Maxey’s season averages, the Sixers will be without 77.2 points, 20.6 rebounds and 19 assists when they face Brooklyn on Tuesday and Charlotte on Wednesday. Outside of that trio, Montrezl Harrell has the Sixers' most free throws attempted per game (2.1).
The Sixers’ injury luck is bound to turn at some point, but their bad fortune has reached an absurd level. We have yet to mention that Jaden Springer is out with a right quadriceps strain, or that Matisse Thybulle (ankle) and De'Anthony Melton (back) have also been affected by injuries recently.
“You don’t worry about it,” head coach Doc Rivers said. “You get through it, you try to sneak some wins out. Any win now for us is a big win, so we’ll try to get them. And we’ve got a whole lot of games left, so we know if we can get guys back, we’ll make a run. A lot of guys that don’t play or don’t play a lot of minutes will get a chance to play a lot of minutes.
“There will be a silver lining here somewhere, even if it’s not sometimes one player. It may be an action, things that offensively we actually like now, and when guys come back we do it more. So we’ll find something out of this. But like I told the guys, what I really want to find is wins. Let’s find a way to win the game.”
Besides T.J. Warren (left foot injury recovery), the Nets should be at full strength Tuesday. They’re coming off of a home victory over the shorthanded Grizzlies in which Ben Simmons posted 22 points on 11-for-13 shooting, eight rebounds and five assists. Simmons also handled himself fine when the Trail Blazers intentionally fouled him last week, making 3 of 4 key free throws in the fourth quarter.
There is no chance Simmons, who earned three All-Star selections as a Sixer before heading to Brooklyn in Morey’s trade for Harden, will receive anything resembling a warm reception.
“Our fans will be our fans anyway, so it’ll be that type of atmosphere,” Rivers said. “Ben’s playing great now, so we don’t want him to play great.”
However Rivers begins the game, he’ll need to be extraordinarily flexible. Turnovers, missed layups and foul trouble will feel costly. So will new lineups that struggle and defensive schemes that opposing scorers torch.
The Sixers know they must minimize all of the above while maintaining an attacking edge. It’s a very difficult balance for a team struck lately by Murphy’s Law.
For what it’s worth, they’ll have tons of talent on the sidelines sharing advice and encouragement to Melton, Shake Milton and other players pressed into more minutes.
Maxey is enthusiastic about that non-playing role.
“Our conversations are real simple,” Milton said after scoring 27 points Saturday in the Sixers’ loss to the Timberwolves. “It’s always just me telling him or him telling me to get to it. There’s not a lot of thinking involved — just going for it. But even in the games, when Rese is playing well, we’re bouncing ideas off of each other and telling each other to continue to be aggressive.
“He has that energy, and that passes through the whole team. He definitely gives us an extra boost.”
The Sixers will take any boost they can get these days. Korkmaz’s return is almost here.