DENVER - The adjustment, to say the least, has been strenuous.
New country, unfamiliar teammates, different style of play. Those are just some of the things Furkan Aldemir has encountered since leaving his native Turkey and coming over to join the 76ers on Dec. 15. After slowly getting worked into the rotation and seeing action in 17 of 18 games, Aldemir was relegated to the bench and played in only five of the next 15.
But with a contract that has him making $2.7 million next season and $2.8 million the one after, the team thought it'd better give the 6-9 power forward more of a look as the season played out. Last night in Denver, Aldemir, 23, saw action in his fifth consecutive game and hit the floor for the ninth time in the last 11.
He is still a long way away from being a dependable contributor. His offensive game is pretty non-existent, with points coming on occasional put-backs or perhaps off a rare pick-and-roll. He gets manhandled easily down low by the stronger player with whom he is matched, but relentlessly fights for rebounds, averaging 3.9 boards in his 10.7 minutes.
He knows his limitations and is working to improve. Whether he can become a real NBA-level player is yet to be determined.
"I've tried to adapt and [lately] I got more minutes," Aldemir said. "I'm learning to play with my teammates and in the NBA. But still I'm just trying to learn what they are doing, what I need to do. Every day, I'm working on my individual things - my shooting, my post moves - and I think I improved my body and my skills. I want to use this opportunity.
Coach [Brett Brown] is giving me some minutes and I don't want to break their trust, and I don't want to break my confidence."
He says he has lost about 10 pounds since coming over, along with a good bit of body fat. The team, no doubt, will want him to regain the weight but as muscle. He'll have a chance to do that over the summer after a little time off.
Still, adapting to the league is the hardest part of Ademir's transition. The speed of the game still dizzies him at times.
"The running," he said, laughing. "[It's so much] faster. In the Euro League, we try to use all 24 seconds on the shot clock, we try to use all set plays. But here, we play out of fastbreak. I remember my first month here, I couldn't catch my guy. I would take the ball out of bounds and give it to the point guard and then I'd try to run down the court, but they'd already shoot it. I am faster now because of working every day.
"I want to play [in the summer leagues], and I think they will call me to. I want to go back to Turkey for a month and see my family for vacation, then I will come back and go to work. I can rebound. I can set a pick and I can play pick-and-roll. But I don't want to play just one way. I want to improve other things, like shooting, and I want to play face-to-face.
"I'm a player that I don't care how many points I have. I don't care what my stats are. I just want to help my teammates."
He still has the look of a kid going out to play before every game. Despite being in the league 14 seasons, Jason Richardson is as antsy as anyone in a pregame locker room - legs shaking, eyes wide. After all these years and two seasons away from the game because of injury, the game is as fun as ever for the 34-year-old. Last night was even more special.
Richardson and his family make Denver their home. His wife is from there, and the city and its surroundings supply everything Richardson could possibly want out of life.
"This is where I'm going to retire," he said before starting last night's game. "I've been living here for 5 years. This is just a great place, and my wife is here to watch, my kids are here. I love it.
"I'm an outdoor person. I love the hiking, the camping in the summer. The golf courses are great. Winter, although I haven't been here for one yet, I'm looking forward to the snowboarding and the skiing. All the stuff an outdoor person would like. It's also the best place to train, with the altitude. I've been lucky to travel to a lot of places in my career. Denver, for me, has it all."
One of the top basketball families in Philadelphia has a presence in Denver with the Nuggets.
Brian Boyle, a University of the Sciences and Bonner-Prendergast grad, is a video coordinator for the Nuggets. He is also the grandson of Jim Lynam.
Following college, Boyle spent a year with the La Salle University men's basketball team as video coordinator.