Bob Ford: Sixers back to culture change with Evan Turner pick

Posted: June 25, 2010

The last time the 76ers talked this much about "changing the culture" of the organization, the general manager was Billy King and he was trying to figure out how to deal with the messy end of the Allen Iverson era in Philadelphia.

That broom finally swept through the roster - although, unfortunately for King, not quickly enough to keep it from sweeping through the front office as well.

Here we are, several years later, and the culture has to be changed again, apparently, like a dirty crankcase that keeps putting out a lot of smoke but not much power.

What has been learned this off-season, since King's successor, Ed Stefanski, fired coach Eddie Jordan and brought in hyper-passionate Doug Collins, is that the organization didn't think much of the team's toughness or discipline last season.

This is a difficult balancing act, of course, for Stefanski, whose selection of Jordan helped create the culture - but at least he has been acting quickly to set it right.

Hiring Collins was the loudest part of the new mission statement, but there was nothing subtle about the trade of Sam Dalembert, either. Dalembert has his talents, but he also devolved into a sulking presence. The trade was an object lesson for the rest of the roster to ponder.

The team made its third statement Thursday night with the selection of Ohio State shooting guard Evan Turner. This time, the meaning was also clear. The Sixers aren't into drafting projects and they aren't into taking chances. There is work ahead, and it is going to be serious work.

They didn't fool around with the second pick in the draft, taking the best player available, and it didn't hurt that he comes with a competitive reputation that - you guessed it - will help with that culture thing.

"He's such a competitive player and he can play multiple positions," Collins said. "When we worked him out, almost from the first minute we knew he was who we were going to take."

Stefanski, who had to accept much of the blame as the team fell to 27 wins last season, probably isn't in position to take that many chances. He doesn't have as many fouls to give as he did before the unfortunate decision with Jordan.

"We would have taken a project if we felt that was the best player available," Stefanski said. "But at the number-two spot, we had to take the best player, and there's no doubt, this is the best player. This guy brings the total package. He's a tough-minded kid, and that's important for this team as we're changing the culture."

There it is again.

The new culture of the Sixers, at least as Collins sees it, is that he is going to take all these interchangeable parts and find a way to make them play hard together.

With Turner, the Sixers have added another wing player, not that much different in size or presence from several other players on the roster. Collins said Turner can play point guard and small forward in addition to his natural shooting-guard position, and he envisioned an offensive system in which the floor is wide open and the team's athleticism is allowed to flourish.

"The game has become an international game where you spread the floor and have pick-and-rolls from all angles," Collins said. "You want to be able to drive and attack and not call so many plays, because you're scouted so much they know all your options."

Hold on a minute. A read-and-react motion offense in which the emphasis is on players who can play a total game, not pegs that fit snugly into the strict holes of their positions? Didn't we just try that?

Maybe, but that was with a different culture, and a different hammer trying to drive the pegs into position.

"One thing I feel I do best is find ways to bring out the best in my guys," Collins said. "I want to make the game easier for the players."

Of course, it's amazing how much easier the game is for players with the talent to play it. Turner, who can handle the ball extremely well and get to the basket on command, is one of those guys. Collins wants him to cut down on turnovers, develop a more reliable jump shot, and learn to work without the ball in his hands.

He has a list like that for every one of the players, and the playing time will be apportioned according to how well they check off the items on their personal to-do lists.

And how well they fit into the new culture.

"People who see how I work and see how I play know that I care about winning and care about the game," Turner said. "I know there's other players there that care about winning and care about the game. Things will turn around slowly."

It all sounded great, except for the "slowly" part. Cultures aren't changed overnight, however. That takes time and patience, not to mention good players. The Sixers have one more of those now.


Contact columnist Bob Ford at 215-854-5842 or bford@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/bobford.

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