Offense Bucking Past Trends?
By the time Brett Brown met with the media Monday at the Sixers’ training complex, about 24 hours had passed since the team’s Blue x White Scrimmage at the Palestra. A combination of real-time observations and film study confirmed to the fifth-year head coach an inverse development.
“Usually, at this stage of the year, defense trumps offense, because they have no right to play with any rhythm, or sort of a fluid side,” said Brown, alluding to the lack of familiarity that usually exists within teams during the early days of the preseason.
The Sixers, after all, had practiced only four times prior to Sunday’s intrasquad competition.
Nevertheless, there was plenty of flow on the offensive end of the court. The Sixers, for the most part, were organized; played with pace; passed in crisp fashion; scored in high volume; and took care of the ball.
These factors, in Brown’s view, were the byproduct of all the time the Sixers spent together in Camden throughout the summer, and indicated to him that the offense is currently a little farther ahead than the defense.
In case you’ve forgotten, though, which side of the ball Brown prioritizes most, he issued a swift reminder Monday.
“As you’d expect me to say, that’s not good enough defensively, that isn’t playoff defense,” Brown said of the Sixers’ performance on Sunday. “You leave happy on one side, a little bit discouraged on another side.”
Amir Johnson, the 13-year veteran who logged impactful two-way minutes in the scrimmage, agreed with Brown’s assessment. Moreover, Johnson believes that the Sixers’ offensive and defensive success is intertwined, given the desired speed the team wants to play at.
“Our defense has to get way better,” Johnson said. “There always has to be guys back in transition. I think that’s one thing we can definitely work on. You can never stop working on defense. Our offense looked beautiful. Defense, we definitely need to work on.”
Korkmaz Aspires to Improve
One of the questions posed to Brett Brown Sunday in the bowels of the Palestra was whether Furkan Korkmaz – at any point in the four practices that preceded the Blue x White Scrimmage – showed signs of being able to do what he did that afternoon.
Judging by Brown’s response, it certainly sounded like the rookie opened eyes.
Korkmaz indeed put on quite the display in University City. He scored on scoops and floaters, drives and jumpers. His defensive length proved bothersome to his counterparts.
“You walk out of the gym, and you pay attention,” Brown said of Korkmaz’s effort. “I thought he was one of the standouts.”
Korkmaz appeared to take his auspicious first appearance in Philadelphia in stride.
“Every day, I start to feel better and better,” said Korkmaz, picked 26th overall in the 2016 draft. “I know I have to be better and better.”
While many of Korkmaz’s skills intrigue Brown, the swingman’s ability to keep the ball moving is one of definite interest to a coach who preaches that “pass is king.”
“There is nothing like the pass,” Brown said Monday. “Balls that stick, people that just dominate and dribble all the time, that is below the line of how we play. That ends up killing an offensive culture.
“People that pass the ball, share the ball, work together, and know how to get each other open interest me the most, and [Korkmaz] is a part of that. He’s a willing passer, he’s a capable passer, he obviously can shoot. I think there’s a complete player that’s growing. We’re going to be on him all year about his body and his defense, but he can facilitate and pass, I think, with the best of what we have.”
Korkmaz is about three weeks removed from a productive EuroBasket stint with Turkey. He averaged 10.5 points, 2.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, and 1.2 steals in just 21.0 minutes per game, while hitting 5 of 15 3-point attempts. Participating in the round robin seemed to serve as an effective springboard for his first NBA training camp.
“He…reaped the benefit of coming off real basketball in Europe, coming out of that tournament, where he’s been playing high level basketball against high level competition,” Brown said. “You can’t help but think about that.”
“For sure, it affected me well, because the EuroBasket, all the good players was playing there,” said Korkmaz, who also feels the time he spent with the Sixers in summer league has helped his transition. “I think Europe in basketball improved a lot. All the players deserved to play in the high level in EuroBasket. I think the tournament came in like very good experience.”
Having a familiar face on the Sixers roster hasn’t hurt either. Korkmaz and Dario Saric were teammates two years ago on the Turkish club team Anadolu Efes, when Korkmaz was 17.
“He tries to help me every day, because he came over,” Korkmaz said. “He felt the same thing like with me.”
Fans Express Appreciation for Okafor’s Outing
Sunday brought with it a nice moment for Jahlil Okafor.
At one point during the Blue x White Scrimmage, after the rising third-year center deposited a flurry of baskets, he exited the game to a pretty loud ovation from the Palestra’s near-capacity crowd.
Now feeling healthy, nimble, and strong, Okafor was grateful to receive the vocal support.
“It was great to hear,” the Duke product said. “I’ve been through a lot. One thing I tried to do this offseason was just lose weight, come in looking the right way, and I think they showed their appreciation for that. I’m going to do everything I can to help the team this year.”
Okafor’s solid outing wasn’t lost on Brett Brown, much like the 21-year old’s attitude the past two seasons.
“I think he’s great,” Brown said Monday. “I have so much sort of personal affection for him, and respect the way that he’s handled some things. He hasn’t cried once. He comes in, he’s a hell of a teammate. He’s put in the work, as his body tells all of us. He’s backing himself, and he should. He’s Jahlil Okafor. He has handled things very maturely, and like a pro.”