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Rebounds in season opener by Ben Simmons, who also scores 19 points

Fish ‘n Chips

Posted by Eric Fisher On July 5

When the 76ers announced the signing of Turkish shooting guard Furkan Korkmaz, the second of their first-round pick during the 2016 NBA Draft, a crazy thought crossed my mind: how are they going to find playing time for him?

This is a crazy thought because, aside from when they were trying to juggle playing time for three young centers, finding playing time for quality players hasn’t been a major problem for the Sixers. The problem has been finding players good enough to deserve playing time.

But the Sixers’ bench no longer resembles a D-League roster (now the G-League). There are NBA-quality players at every position.

The Sixers supplemented their draft, highlighted by the selection of Markelle Fultz with the first overall pick, by signing veteran shooting guard J.J. Redick and veteran forward Amir Johnson to one-year contracts. A team that didn’t have an outside shooting presence at guard last season now has Redick, Fultz and Korkmaz to go with holdovers Jerryd Bayless and Nik Stauskas.

If you prefer to consider Stauskas as a swing player, he will compete for playing time with Robert Covington, Justin Anderson, Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and Gerald Henderson.

Joel Embiid and Richaun Holmes are the centers, with Jahlil Okafor’s role still up in the air. At forward the Sixers have Okafor, Dario Saric, Johnson and Ben Simmons – unless you prefer to categorize Simmons as a point guard. Don’t forget about T.J. McConnell at point guard, a position that also could include Fultz and Bayless.

There still is a long time before the start of the regular season. As we learned last season with Simmons, injuries could still change the depth chart at some of these positions; however, the Sixers might find themselves in the unusual position of having to cut a quality player.

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FUTURE MAY BE NOW: In my column following the NBA Draft, I preached patience. The Sixers have turned the corner, but that doesn’t mean they will make the playoffs next year.

The events of the past week, though, make it more likely that the Sixers will reach the postseason this upcoming season. Adding J.J. Redick and Amir Johnson provides much-needed experience for the Sixers’ young roster. Redick’s outside shooting should also make a major difference.

The other factor is that some lower-seeded playoff teams took a step backward. The Bulls traded Jimmy Butler. The Pacers traded Paul George. Furthermore, aside from the Celtics, no team from the Eastern Conference netted an impact player in the first 10 picks in the draft.

The Hornets traded for Dwight Howard and drafted sharpshooter Malik Monk, and the Pistons appear to have improved, but the Sixers should be in the mix battling for the final playoff berths. The caveat, of course, is that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons need to remain relatively healthy in order for the Sixers to reach the postseason.

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TEAM CONCEPT: The Flyers made a solid addition in signing free-agent goalie Brian Elliott. He was terrific, at times, during five seasons with the Blues, and he was very good last during the second half of last season with the Flames.

Two other reasons this is a good signing are affordability and attitude. Elliott signed a two-year contract for $5.5 million. That makes Elliott and Michal Neuvirth an extremely affordable veteran goaltending combination. Unlike the departed Steve Mason, who signed with the Jets, Elliott, 32, seems amenable to working in a goaltending tandem rather than playing 60-65 games. By the time Elliott’s contract expires, one or two of the plethora of young goalies in the Flyers’ system should be ready to take over.

Another key signing for the Flyers was the re-signing of restricted free agent forward Jordan Weal to a two-year deal for $3.5 million. Weal provided a spark at the end of the season, scoring eight goals in 23 games for an offense that needed a spark. The Flyers didn’t do too much in free agency, but their moves made sense on the ice and with respect to the salary cap.

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SUMMER SPORTS: With so much emphasis on the future, there is a lot of attention on the Sixers’ summer league teams and the Flyers’ development camp. The Sixers are playing in the Utah Jazz Summer League now, and will be switching to the Las Vegas Summer League later this week. The Flyers open their development camp on Friday.

All eyes in the summer league are on Markelle Fultz, who scored 17 points in his debut Monday. Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot also had a strong game, scoring 16 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out five assists during an 89-88 loss to the Celtics.

Flyers camp will provide the first opportunity for Flyers fans to see the team’s draft picks, although center Nolan Patrick, the second overall pick in the NHL Draft, won’t play because he is continuing his recovery from a sports hernia. Almost all of the Flyers’ draft picks will be at the camp, but so will players battling to make the Flyers’ roster this season. Defenseman Travis Sanheim, left wing Oskar Lindblom and right wing Mike Vecchione are three of the players with legitimate chances to make the main roster at training camp.

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CAMP COUNTDOWN: It’s difficult to believe that Eagles training camp is less than three weeks away.

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REMEMBERING RUNAGER: There was sad news this week regarding former Eagles punter Max Runager, who died at age 61. Punters and kickers come and go, but Runager, who helped the Eagles reach their first Super Bowl, seemed to have a tough and rugged attitude not always found in punters. That attitude endeared him to Eagles fans. PhillyPhanatics.com extends condolences to Runager’s family, friends and former teammates.

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AMERICAN DECLINE: The absence of an American man with a shot at winning the title, or even reaching the quarterfinals, seems to lead to an increasing decline in interest in Wimbledon. Purists would say the nationalities of the players shouldn’t affect interest, but it clearly has an impact. Need proof? When was the last time you paid attention to the Tour de France? That race was front page news when Lance Armstrong was piling up titles.

By the way, both Wimbledon and the Tour de France already started.

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CAN SOUL GO TO 11? After a bye week, the Soul (10-0) resume their pursuit of an undefeated season Saturday (7 p.m.) when they visit Baltimore.

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NO ANSWERS: During an overseas flight last week, I clicked on a sports quiz on the airline’s in-flight entertainment system. The categories were golf, football and cricket – and we’re not talking about American football. Needless to say, I didn’t do very well.

Eric Fisher, who has been covering sports for nearly 29 years, can’t remember a year in which there was this much excitement about the 76ers in July.

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