After a career-year coming off the Philadelphia 76ers bench last season, Furkan Korkmaz looked forward to building on his surprising emergence under new Sixers head coach Doc Rivers.
Throughout training camp this past offseason, Rivers was genuinely excited about having Korkmaz as well. While Rivers had plenty to rave about when it came to the Sixers' starting lineup, he consistently talked up his key bench players too, which happened to be Shake Milton and Korkmaz.
Rivers rewarded both players with the opportunity to be key reserves at the start of the year. Unfortunately, Korkmaz's offseason progress in Philly's new system was derailed as he suffered an injury during the third game of the season.
For 11 games, Korkmaz watched the Sixers from the bench as he recovered. The good news for him was he immediately resumed his role coming off the bench upon his return. Lately, however, Korkmaz has hit a bit of a slump, and his role is beginning to diminish as each game passes.
One might say the Turkish shooter, who has hit on just 26-percent of his three-point shots in the entire month of February, is in a slump. But Sixers veteran Tobias Harris recently defended that notion.
“I wouldn’t say he’s in a slump,” Harris said after Sunday night's game, where Korkmaz played just two minutes. “Furk is a great shooter for our team. I never consider a guy in a slump when I see the work that he puts in, day after day. We expect him to get back in rhythm when he’s out there and to play and to make great plays.”
Harris might not want to admit his teammate is in a slump, but Doc Rivers can't afford to pretend Korkmaz isn't in one. Lately, the second-round rookie out of Arkansas Isaiah Joe has taken up some of Korkmaz's minutes. After Sunday's game against the Toronto Raptors, Rivers essentially admitted that Joe is going to take over Korkmaz's minutes in the rotation for the time being.
"He was absolutely fantastic," Rivers said in regards to Joe's performance against Toronto. "You know, this is not football; you have to be a basketball player, and you have to play both ways, offense and defense. I thought he did that tonight. Everyone earns their minutes, and it's always a fair competition. So, right now, we're going with Isaiah."
Joe over Korkmaz isn't permanent. Rivers has shown before that none of his rotations are permanent as it's still the first half of the regular season. If the Sixers were beginning to approach the postseason, it'd be a different story, but it's still early enough in the season where the Sixers can tinker with the rotations and play the hot hands as the season progresses.
Based on Tobias Harris' claims regarding Korkmaz, the young Turkish guard won't roll over and pout about losing his spot. Instead, he'll work even harder on getting better and get ready for his next opportunity when it comes around.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him on Twitter: @JGrasso_