Turner Getting Opportunity
This latest performance aside, this has been a season of redemption for Evan Turner. He’s re-establishing himself, tidying up the image that was tarnished during his bumpy 27-game ride with the Pacers last season.
Turner entered Boston’s game at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Friday in the starting lineup and in the good graces of coach Brad Stevens. He was averaging 9.1 points on 47 percent shooting from the field and 41 percent shooting from the three-point line, and, most recently, playing point guard for the first time in his NBA career. He scored 29 points while hitting 4-of-5 three-pointers in an overtime loss at Chicago on Jan. 3, and finished with six points, eight rebounds and seven assists in a win at Brooklyn two nights earlier.
All in all, he’s shown solid improvement over his play with the Pacers, when he averaged 7.1 points on 41 percent shooting.
“We’re in a situation where he’s been forced into some point guard minutes, but it’s given him a chance to expand himself a little bit,” Stevens said before the game. “He’s got a great mindset, he’s working hard, and you can see he’s excited about his opportunity.”
Opportunity is what Turner desires most. The No. 2 overall pick in the NBA draft five years ago, he put up decent stats amid turmoil in Philadelphia. The trade that brought him to the Pacers along with Lavoy Allen in exchange for Danny Granger 20 minutes before the trade deadline a year ago inspired hope that he would provide the scoring punch the Pacers needed to compete for a championship, but it didn’t work out.
Turner never fully adjusted to playing in shorter bursts off the bench, or to a new system. He averaged just 3.3 points in the playoffs, and was held out of seven of the postseason games. Many fans regarded him as a bust, and questioned the deal in retrospect.
What went unnoticed by many was that Turner produced when he got significant playing time with the Pacers. In the six games in which he played more than 25 minutes, he averaged 17.8 points on 58 percent shooting from the field, and hit 7-of-11 three-point shots. Still, the option year on his rookie contract was too rich for the Pacers’ tastes, and he signed a free agent deal with Boston in the off-season.
Stevens said Turner is playing with a chip on his shoulder as he tries to prove himself all over again. Turner said he holds no grudge against the Pacers, though.
“I had fun here,” he said before the game. “They gave me an opportunity to be part of something special and I got a chance to see the Eastern Conference finals. I met some good people and make some more friends.
“Frank (Vogel) tried his best to fit me in, but it’s always tough to come into a season halfway through. At the same time I … thought I chipped in when I played. Obviously with my status as the No. 2 pick, people expect (more), but I always tried to impact the game in some way when I played.”
Turner was at his best and worst in Friday’s game, offering further evidence of his enigmatic game. He got all the minutes he could have wanted, 38. He scored just nine points while hitting 3-of-15 shots, but tied a career-high with 15 rebounds and passed out a team-high seven assists, with two steals and two turnovers.
He made big plays, but he also did the Pacers a few big favors. He missed three foul shots, including the first of two attempts with 9.7 seconds left in regulation, leaving the Pacers with a one-point lead. He hit a 16-foot shot in the overtime period to give Boston a one-point lead, but later, when Boston was trailing by a point, missed two layups – a driving shot in traffic and a rebound attempt, with 12.9 seconds left.
As usual, he had impacted the game. For better and for worse.