Danny Green’s status for the rest of the playoffs is in jeopardy after he strained his right calf in Game 3. The starting forward was set to undergo an MRI on Saturday as everyone holds their collective breath.
The Philadelphia 76ers have relied on Green’s veteran leadership and championship experience all year. Head coach Doc Rivers wasn’t sure which bench player would slide into the starting five if Green was out for an extended period. Furkan Korkmaz got a lengthy tryout in Game 3 and ran with the first unit for much of the second half. The Turkish standout scored a playoff career-high 14 points in 27 minutes. Korkmaz promised to keep it going if Green is out for Game 4.
“Definitely,” Korkmaz told reporters. “I don’t think there is any better motivation [than starting] because you know when you’re out there you need to set the tone with the starters and then you feel good. That makes you motivated.
“And I also know how to play with the first unit, too, I’m used to it. I don’t think it’s going to be so hard to get adjusted to it. I’ve been doing that all year. I’m excited about it but also from the other side, I hope Danny is going to recover well.”
Korkmaz has 30 career starts, including 11 this season for the Sixers. He averaged 9.1 points per game while shooting 37.5% from three-point range. He has also been steadily improving on the defensive end of the floor. More importantly, his teammates trust him to get the job done.
“He’s great. He’s a weapon. He’s had a lot of great moments wearing a Sixers jersey and I love playing with him,” guard Ben Simmons said. “Offensively he’s great and defensively he’s stepped up, too. He’s another guy who has taken on the challenge of guarding his man.”
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Doc Rivers Keeps His Players ‘Ready’
The Sixers went 32-6 this season with their preferred starting five: Danny Green, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, Seth Curry. But they still won a lot of games with their bench players filling in and stepping up. The Sixers went 49-23 in the regular season and claimed the top seed in the Eastern Conference. Credit Rivers for pounding home the “next man up” mentality.
“He talks every day about staying ready,” Korkmaz said. “As a player, we know that. Sometimes there’s not going to be a second chance, you have to be ready, you just need to step up. You know one game Shake [Milton], one game me, one game Tyrese [Maxey]. Every day the name changes but the message stays the same, just stay ready.”
What will that name be in Game 4? Rivers is keeping that tight-lipped for now.
“We’ve done it all year. Just the next guy has to step up, not sure who that’s going to be yet,” Rivers said. “We’ll go back, watch film, and decide who that will be. I’m not ruling Danny out, but I’m pretty much ruling him out. I doubt if he plays the next game.”
Korkmaz Stayed After Game 2 to Shoot
Korkmaz only saw six minutes of action in Game 2 and missed both his three-point attempts. After the game, the fourth-year player went back out on the court and got a few extra practice shots in. He didn’t want the bad taste of a poor performance left in his mouth.
“Sometimes you don’t want to go home with that mentality, you don’t want to just leave the court like that,” Korkmaz said. “Mentally, you want to forget it, you want to remind yourself that you can make the shots, and then sometimes that’s the reason that I personally take those shots after the games and I think that helps.”
He had seven points in 11 minutes in Game 1. The 23-year-old is averaging 6.8 points and 12.5 minutes per game in the playoffs while shooting 37.5% from deep. The Sixers will be fine with or without Green.