Thursday, February 11, 2016

Welcome, Evan Turner

Well, well, well. There you have it.

Welcome, Evan Turner


Well, well, well. There you have it.

If you watched the Sixers' 123-110 victory over the Phoenix Suns, then you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you didn’t, then here’s the update: we’re talking about Evan Turner.

After what he did, and how he did it (23 points on 9 for 12 shooting), the real question is: where the heck has this guy been for the last 30 games? He looked like a confident, swagger-filled, aggressive, scoring machine.
It was actually quite impressive. The best moment came with 1 minute, 42 seconds left in the game when Turner caught the ball in the left corner, sized up his defender with the shot clock running down, rose for a three pointer and … nailed it. With the score 117-107, Phoenix immediately called timeout and Turner jogged to the bench, unable to hide the smile creeping across his lips.
A few seconds later, Turner hit another jumper.
So how did this happen? How did Turner go from a completely ineffective fifth or sixth option against the Golden State Warriors to a dynamic rookie tonight against the Suns? 
That’s a good question.
After the game, Turner was standing near Jason Kapono. While we waited to talk to Turner, Kapono, totally deadpan, asked him if he was going to be in the three-point contest at the All-Star game now, after the one he hit with 1:42 left. Turner laughed.
The best insight Turner offered was that Sixers’ veteran center Tony Battie talked to him earlier in the day and told Turner that he “needed to step up and stuff.” The team knew that without Andre Iguodala for a second consecutive game, they weren’t going to be able to beat the Suns without Turner providing a strong game.
For whatever reason (because we’re pretty sure Battie’s suggestion wasn’t the first one offered to Turner about making his game more aggressive), from the moment Evan stepped on the court, he looked like a completely different player. He wasn’t just making shots, he was dropping almost every single one through the dead middle of the hoop.
“I was just looking for my own shot a little bit and trying to attack,” Turner said. “Sometimes I come into the game and second-guess on shots.”
Continued Turner: “Once I focused in a little bit and saw the first one go in, that’s always a good thing. After that, I just didn’t care. I tried to attack and that was it.”
Turner’s entire game was transformed. His ball handling was impressive, his ability to shift past a defender, to create space and then go up on-balance and strong. He even got into a little back-and-forth with Vince Carter, which tells you how good Turner was feeling.  
“He was being a lot more aggressive,” said Jrue Holiday. “After he hit his first couple of shots I think he got really confident. He was definitely taking it to them, knocking down big jump shots. He had a swagger to him, it’s coming back.”
The game seemed to cure all ills for the Sixers: Holiday looked darn good and Andres Nocioni had his best game of the season. Those were good signs for the Sixers, but absolutely nothing compared to watching Turner play, at least for one night, like the best rookie in the league. 
“I told him I was so proud of him,” said Doug Collins. “He was aggressive and assertive all night. He never ran away from a shot … tonight he was fabulous.”
Collins called tonight’s win the team’s most complete of the season.
When Turner jogged back to the bench with 1:42 left, he really looked like he was trying to keep himself from smiling. There seemed to be a lot in that smile: finally, OK, here we go, maybe I can do this. Like for the first time he decided to let go and just play and not worry about where he might fit in, whether he’d be better with the ball in his hands more, whether he’d be stepping on someone’s toes if he shot too much, etc., etc.
“He looked like he was happy,” Holiday said of that timeout. “He was excited and he wanted to celebrate. That’s what we need him to do. We need him to be happy. When you’re happy, you play better. I’ve been happy all day.”
“I was definitely happy,” Turner said. “It was a big shot and I was feeling it a little bit.”
So we know he has it. We know that somewhere inside of him are games like these and moves like these. It’s only one game. And just like we weren’t yet ready to call him a bust for his dozens of struggling games, we’ll also have to demand more games like this one before we’re ready to put all of the concerns behind us.  
But for now: that was impressive, very impressive. Check out the video below of Collins right after the game.

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About this blog

Keith Pompey has been an Inquirer reporter since September 2004 and took over the Sixers beat in the summer of 2013 after covering Temple basketball and football for the previous three years.

Marc Narducci has served in a variety of roles with the Inquirer since beginning in 1983. He has covered the 76ers as a backup and a beat writer. In addition, Narducci has covered everything from the Super Bowl to the World Series and a lot in between.

Keith Pompey Staff Writer
Marc Narducci Staff Writer
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