Seltzer's Notebook | Simmons, Team Faring Well at Line; Korkmaz Gets Longer Run

by Brian Seltzer Reporter

Simmons, Sixers Doing Well at Line

Against the New Orleans Pelicans Sunday night, a noteworthy part of Ben Simmons’ potent scoring performance was his execution from the free throw line. The rookie went 7 for 9 from the stripe, en route to notching 27 points, which equaled the second-highest total of his 25 game career.

On the heels of this steady effort, it’s worth looking at how Simmons has fared in terms of his free throw shooting since the 76ers’ November 29th victory over Washington, in which the Wizards sent the point man to the line a ridiculous 29 times (he made 15 shots). In Simmons’ six appearances that have followed, he’s converted a respectable 13 of 19 attempts.

Brett Brown likes the way Simmons has been approaching his free throw opportunities. The Washington performance showed the head coach a lot. 

“You can judge body language on are they comfortable, are they going to make it, do they really want to be doing this?,” Brown said Sunday at Smoothie King Center. “When [the Wizards] were teeing off on Ben, he didn’t blink. He walked straight to the line, took the ball from the ref, and shoot the ball.”

Generally speaking, the Sixers have been excellent from the foul line ever since the calendar flipped. For the month of December, they so far lead the NBA with a collective team free throw percentage of 89.3, having nailed all but 12 of their 112 tries.

“I think John Townsend, our shooting coach, has done a great job,” Brown said. “It’s my responsibility to give him a stage, and have the team for portions of practice. I think John has done a great job of organizing our guys, I think our guys have done a good job of focusing on making free throws. We all get how important it is, if we can achieve our objective of playing in the playoffs. Recently, we’ve done pretty well.”

Townsend is now in his second season with the Sixers. One of the league’s veteran shooting coaches, he had previous stints with the Toronto Raptors, Portland Trail Blazers, and Memphis Grizzlies.

Johnson Embodies “Next Man Up” Mindset

Learning shortly before Sunday’s tip-off that Joel Embiid (back tightness) wouldn’t be available, the Sixers swiftly summoned Amir Johnson to start at center for the fourth time this season. He delivered.

With Johnson’s squad very much needing a strong interior presence against the likes of DeMarcus Cousins and Anthony Davis (Johnson dealt mostly with Cousins Sunday), the 13-year vet set a season-high with 16 points (5-7 fg, 5-5 ft), and added 5 rebounds and 4 assists.

“We play to win, and that’s really all that matters,” said Johnson afterwards. He nearly helped the Sixers do so, sparking a comeback bid that began in the third quarter, when, at one point, he scored 8 points in a row.

“Me personally, I just really want to help this team win as many games as possible, and that’s my main focus.”

Complicating things on that front over the past week has been the Sixers’ recent spate of injuries.

“It’s unfortunate, but the next guy has been able to step up for us, and play extremely hard,” said Johnson, one of the club’s emotional tone-setters. “We’re giving it a good fight. We came up short these last couple games. We just got to be better.”

Korkmaz Gets Extened Look

Shorthanded Sunday, the Sixers turned to Furkan Korkmaz early. He was brought in off the bench right before the six-minute mark of the opening quarter, and went on to log 19 minutes of action. In his five previous outings with the Sixers, he had played a total of 12 minutes.  

“It’s good to be on the court,” said Korkmaz, who scored 5 points, on top of 3 rebounds and 1 assist. “I try to give my best every time - it doesn’t matter one minute, three minutes, five minutes, 10 minutes.”

Against New Orleans, the 20-year old Korkmaz connected on his first NBA 3-pointer, and also twirled home a smooth reverse runout dunk.

When approaching his opportunities this season, Korkmaz has concentrated on his defense more than anything else. 

“If you don’t play defense, you can’t stay on the court,” he said. “Offensively, I know what I can do - shooting, creating for my teammates.”

The 26th pick of the 2016 draft, Korkmaz has been busy lately. He dressed for the Sixers Saturday in Cleveland, and, the night before, had suited up for the Delaware 87ers for an NBA G League contest in Canton, Ohio.

Korkmaz has been appreciative of the extensive assistance he’s received at all levels of the Sixers organization.

“Everybody’s been supportive.”