Evan Turner has a chip on his shoulder. He feels the fans anxiety about his play - so far not living up to that of a No. 2 overall choice. His frustration level over his first two seasons has reached a boiling point several times.
But now Turner, entrenched as the team's starting small forward and expected to play bountiful minutes, is ready to put all of that behind him and just concentrate on what drives him - playing ball.
Monday at the team's practice facility at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, Turner fidgeted when asked if this was a "make or break" season. He didn't care for the question as he, quite frankly, didn't think he was given the proper chance to prove his worth. He was stymied in a reserve role in most of his first two seasons as coach Doug Collins went with shooter Jodie Meeks over Turner. It wasn't until last year's playoff run that Turner started getting the minutes he expected from the day he was drafted out of Ohio State.
"I basically sat for two years," Turner said. "I have time to make up and get my rhythm back. Fitting in and playing situational minutes for two years, that takes a toll on your game. I'm just trying to find my niche, keep getting better and find my rhythm.
"I knew I was going to play in the playoffs. I knew that was coming I knew two or three months prior to that. I might not have played that much during the season but playoff comes and my number gets called because I can play like that. I remember certain situations (that will help him this season), playing against great wing players like Paul Pierce and Rip Hamilton and Ray Allen. I remember how poised they were. They kept chucking away the whole game. In certain game Paul and Ray might not have been on fire but when it came down to it they hit big shots and made big plays. (This summer) every time I worked out I OD'd and made sure I was dead by the end of the day."
So far this season, Turner seems to have taken on a role of leader, vocalizing to new teammates more than he ever has in the past. He seems stronger, absolutely more confident and, above all, more settled in his role. And his teammates have impressed him mightily so far.
"I think these practices (the past week) were better than all the ones my past two years, to tell you the truth," he said. "There's competition every single day, everybody is going at each other. People are more hungry. I'm not saying guys in the past weren't but spots were solidified and everything like that."
And now his spot is solidified.