Exiting a team that became victims of a two back-to-back 40+ point massacres had to be a relieving experience for forward Evan Turner.
Of course, the Philadelphia 76ers’ confidence and desire to buy into Turner out of his junior year at Ohio State had to be monumental to the 6’7″ scorer. To base their offensive system around him for nearly four whole seasons, Sam Hinkie and the 76ers just may have wanted to keep Turner on board if it meant they could still tank and rebuild their franchise.
The pressure laid upon Turner in the City of Brotherly Love slightly decreased when rookie, Michael Carter-Williams, filled the gap of stardom on the roster. Even so, the 34.9 minutes per game coach Brett Brown awarded Turner allowed for a complete offensive showcase for opposing teams. Directly after their 3-0 start to the season was halted and sent in the opposite direction, Philadelphia was surely looking for the right trade offers. The comical message behind it, however, was that no deal was going to be made to strengthen the team …. but to increase likelihood of losses, and dive harder, deeper into the lottery pool.
Now headlining the Indiana Pacers’ bench, Turner has to be sensing a change in team culture, playing style, and attitude. He’s finally a part of something he hasn’t been for majority of his career — a winning atmosphere.
Debuting for Indiana in Tuesday’s 20-point win over the Los Angeles Lakers, Turner impressed fans at Bankers Life Fieldhouse by working so well within the offense he’s had limited time to learn. But, as Turner told those who questioned his ability to fit so early with the new team, it’s all about going out there and just playing basketball. After all, these athletes have been under tons of offensive sets — from slow, halfcourt speed to run-and-gun philosophies — and we continue to act as if they are newborn babies learning how to walk or speak their first words.
Turner had a large amount of opportunities with the second unit on Tuesday, playing just over 26 minutes of action against a Lakers unit that has been searching for defensive answers since Dwight Howard‘s departure in July. Turner immediately appeared to be the right move for Indiana, scoring 13 points on 6-of-12 shooting and looking to make a difference, especially in the first half.
Majority of Turner’s looks — and scores — came from his favorite area on the hardwood, the mid-range game. You could automatically sense what type of game he wanted to play, as he used his size to post up the smaller Kent Bazemore, eventually setting up for a fade away jumper from the mid-post. Movement without the ball was also instrumental in his offense, as he stuck to his ability to flash off weak side screens and connect on catch-and-shoot jump shots.
The play that truly earned Turner his grade for Tuesday, however, came in the final seconds of the third quarter.
Controlling the possession and being the team’s floor general with the shot clock turned off, Turner utilized his earlier success to his advantage by getting into the teeth of defense and selling a pull-up jumper from the free throw line. Kicking out the ball to C.J. Watson for a corner 3-pointer was all the critics needed to see. With 1.9 seconds remaining, Turner’s emotions to finally having his all-around game pay off for an East frontrunner, had to be sky-high.
When asked about Turner’s versatility and how he can balance his offense with selflessness, coach Frank Vogel broke it down into simple terms:
“You saw the last play of the (third) quarter,” Vogel said. “He knows how to make the right basketball play. He’s not out there forcing action. The man with the basketball attacks to score, until help comes. And then, we share. Simple offensive concept.”
Turner’s grade on Tuesday: A- (13 points, six rebounds, two assists, 26 minutes)
Thursday evening while hosting the Milwaukee Bucks, the Pacers clearly needed more offensive punch in the second quarter, which would have been from the second unit. Larry Drew‘s persistent deer torched Indiana for 35 points in the second, out-scoring the Pacers by 15 in the quarter to enter halftime nodded up at 50.
Turner attempted five shots in the first half, getting just one to fall. The lonely success in the half was the result of a 3-point play Turner executed, posting up O.J. Mayo and drawing a touch foul on another fade away jumper. Turner’s shot-making ability is something that the Pacers haven’t seen from Danny Granger since the 2011-12 regular season and playoffs.
While the newcomer knocked down just two of his 10 field goal attempts for the game, seven of them were considered quality looks, in my book. When guys are not finding their rhythm, the criticism should be hampered if the shots came within the flow of the offense. Turner has not been forcing much of anything, which speaks volume to how well he’s ready to listen to a new voice as head coach, and play with two All-Stars.
The play of Turner’s night was a bit odd, considering it was the result of the defensive side of the ball, something he has rarely (if ever) been credited for.
After Mayo throttled a Bucks’ comeback in the second by scoring 10 points and putting in three 3-pointers — two poorly defended by Turner — the ex-76er had an appropriate response in the closing minute of the third quarter.
Turner played Mayo tight and didn’t allow crossovers to get himself off balance, forcing Mayo into a difficult mid-range attempt with 22.2 seconds left in five-point game to end the third. As Mayo elevated to release, Turner rose to block the shot and force a jump ball situation. It was truly as well as anyone could defend the Milwaukee guard that has yet to earn any of his $8 million this season:
Turner’s grade on Thursday: C (eight points, six rebounds, three assists, 2-of-10 field goals)
The effort he has put forth in his first two games makes it impossible to award him a negative grade. Moving forward, the only question that should remain about Turner is how he’ll find the stability in needing the ball in his hands versus being the accepting teammate Granger loved to be, letting the offense come to him. Turner is only used to one of those, but he was brought to Indiana for the mixture of both.
Confidence and creating offensive opportunities are two things Larry Bird sought at the trade deadline. After two games, it’s safe to call him Larry Legend once more.