In recent years, Furkan Korkmaz has been mentioned more for his rebuffed trade requests than for his play on the court. That reality is something of a shame, as Korkmaz has displayed some rain-making performances over the years, some of which I touched upon during our season preview series back in September. However, with the Sixers having just completed the James Harden trade a couple days prior, Nick Nurse decided to pop the Kork. The city of Philadelphia celebrated accordingly, as Furkan recorded 10 points, one rebound and three steals in 22 minutes of action during Philadelphia’s 114-99 win over Toronto.
Korkmaz had a strong two-way performance, getting his hands into Raptors passing lanes, hitting one three-pointer, and authoring this amazing end-to-end sequence along with Joel Embiid at the end of the third quarter.
“I’m not a system player, I am the system” -Furkan Korkmaz pic.twitter.com/NACbSn2Xjq— Life of a Philly Fan (@PhillyFanLife) November 3, 2023
Joel raising his arms to his head in sheer amazement is an early top highlight of the season.
After the game, Nick Nurse spoke to his decision to play Korkmaz significant minutes:
“I guess we have to kind of figure it out. You can only go on what you see at practice and on a daily basis. And as I said to you guys, I didn’t get to see much of Furk and [Danuel] House because of health reasons in the preseason. And I guess I just had to make a decision. … Furk, he can handle a little bit, so we just thought we needed the combo of shooting and handling with the unit when he went in. So that’s that. I think we played some guys some pretty extended minutes, but I kind of knew that going in here, that this was one game we may have to cut the rotation down to eight and go for it. I kind of just believe in that, and we’ll worry about tomorrow when we wake up tomorrow.”
Despite not giving Furkan much run prior to Thursday night, Nurse said he was still trying to instill confidence:
“I think it probably started from our first conversation. ‘Furk, how you doing? You played some really good games against us, man. I think you’re a good player and I can’t wait to see what you’ve got.’ I know he wasn’t in the mix all that much a year ago, but a couple years ago, he was. And we were game planning for him and all kinds of things. So it’s not like it hasn’t been there and it’s not like he hasn’t produced on an NBA stage before.”
As for Korkmaz, he was asked whether it was tough catching up to the speed of the game after missing the preseason with that leg strain injury:
“It’s definitely tough. Especially like for me, or for European players, we just go back when the season is over. We get some days off and then you start playing for the national team, and then again you need to lower your tempo down before the training camp starts and then again you have to speed it up. And in the training camp, it was probably just because of the overload I got injured. You know, everybody can get injured. I’m glad that it was just a short time off, the injury wasn’t a big deal, but it took me out of three preseason games, which was important for all of us to show ourselves, you know, to get into the rotation minutes. But today I am glad that it worked out, you know, I just played.”
An early storyline for the Sixers has been the team moving the ball offensively more so than in years past. Furkan spoke to what it’s like to see the offensive sharing the ball around:
“I think as long as the coaching staff is just pushing this, it’s about players too, players need to accept this mentality. It’s not just the coach’s job like ‘Hey you have to flow, you have to have more flow, you have to run the ball, you need to get down on the floor.’ Players need to understand this too. I think this year we understand it. We know that has to be the key to winning the championship. So, I think we are all on the same page as the coaching staff as the players.”
Things were definitely flowing for the Sixers in the third quarter, particularly as they pulled away late in the third and early in the fourth. Korkmaz elaborated upon the team locking up the game over that stretch:
“I think this year we are mentally stronger, you know. Last year we had a lot of ups and downs, but most of the time you are failing. But I think this year it is not going to be like that, it is going to be like a total different mindset with the team. I think that’s what we showed tonight. So, it’s a long game you know, 48 minutes a game, everybody is trying to play hard, they also play hard. Toronto, I think they have good chemistry, good players, talented players. I think rather when they come back, they punch us we punch them right back, you know? We didn’t let them feel the game more.”
It remains to be seen to what degree Korkmaz will be in the Sixers’ rotation moving forward. The Sixers do have the four new players coming over from Los Angeles they’ll need to incorporate; Robert Covington and KJ Martin only saw mop-up duty in the final minute of last night’s game. Still, it’s good to know that when his number is called, Furkan will be ready.