Friday, October 29, 2010

Short attention spans will not define Turner

By John McMullen

Philadelphia, PA - Evan Turner was a pretty good college basketball player.

The versatile Chicago native ended a spectacular career filled with accolades at Ohio State as the 2010 National Player of the Year.

A skilled ball-handler, Turner excelled as a facilitator  whether he was toiling at the point, as a two guard or at small forward. Turner excelled when creating for others, and could forge the type of space and separation to get his own shot at virtually any time.

With little left to prove with the Buckeyes Turner decided to forego his senior season and enter the NBA Draft where he was selected second overall by the rebuilding Philadelphia 76ers, a team with quite a few holes but a legitimate prospect at point guard in Jrue Holiday.

Most draft experts raved about the 6-foot-7, 210-pound Turner, comparing him to players like Grant Hill and Brandon Roy. Of course, he would have to learn some new skills while adjusting to the speed of the NBA game.

Doug Collins, the Sixers new coach, quickly fell for Holiday's game, mentioning some of the league's top point guards while addressing the UCLA product's ceiling as a player.

"He is the total package," Collins said of Holiday during his luncheon with the local media before the preseason began. "He is such a good kid and such a hard worker and he is pure. I honestly believe that next year you will talk about him being one of the top five point guards in the league. I think you will speak about him with Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Russell Westbrook and Derrick Rose."

That meant Turner would have to settle in as the team's two-guard and learn to play without the ball in his hands, a totally new skill set for the 22-year-old.

Early results weren't pretty. Turner struggled mightily in the Orlando Summer League and followed that up with a preseason in which he shot a miserable 31 percent from the floor and failed to connect on a single 3-pointer.

"Evan got knocked back this summer, and I think it is the thing that happened to him," Collins explained. "I think it gave him an idea of how hard it is and how tough it is in this game and how nightly he is going to have a bull's-eye, and that guys are going to go at him. He is learning that you have to earn your stripes in this league."

He's also learning how quickly people will give up on you.

In ESPN the Magazine's recent NBA preview issue, Turner was named by three of the four experts polled to be the "Bust of the Year" Yep, Ric Bucher, Jalen Rose and Chris Broussard all gave up on Turner before he played a single real game.

Evidently in our 24-7 news cycle, short attention span culture, four months, the time between the NBA Draft and the opening day of the season, is all the time you need to remake your entire game.

Well, I'm not sure if the ESPN family of talking heads is embarrassed after watching Turner's first real NBA game against the Miami Heat but they should be.

The rookie came off the bench and stuffed the stat sheet against LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Company, scoring a team-high 16 points on 7-of-10 shooting and adding seven rebounds, four assists and a blocked shot in 31 minutes of action during a 97-87 Sixers setback.

"I thought I did better than in the past," Turner said after his debut. "I got a pretty good rhythm going. I was in sync with my teammates tonight. I though we might have been able to pull it out but they have a lot of good players."

Turner was the Sixers' best player against a team with the best wing players in the game. He even had a little Allen Iverson moment. No, it wasn't a 21-year-old A.I. crossing over Michael Jordan, but his left to right spin move on Wade ignited the capacity crowd at Wells Fargo Center.

Turner is certainly going to have hiccups during his rookie season but he's still the same guy with the big upside coming out of Ohio State. Now, however, he has an excellent coach guiding him.

Collins is no system guy. He is one of the best at maximizing the strengths of his players while masking as many of the deficiencies as possible.

"This is my fourth different spot and I haven't used the same offense yet," Collins said.

The veteran coach was forcing Turner to address the flaws in his game during the summer and the preseason, a novel concept. Now that things actually count, you can bet Collins will be trying to accentuate the things Turner does well, not slamming the square peg into the round hole.

"I had some rough, rough days [during the summer]," Turner said. "Today, I had a pretty good day. We fought as a unit, that's the most important thing and we never gave up.

"I think coach was real impressed."

I'm sure he was.

Turner is just too good to let a short attention span define him as a player.

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