John Smallwood: Turner shows signs of greatness for Sixers

Posted: October 28, 2010

EVAN TURNER is not Allen Iverson, and

Dwyane Wade is not Michael Jordan.

Still, there was a familiarity to the move Turner put on Wade with about 8 1/2 minutes left in his NBA debut last night for the Sixers at the Wells Fargo Center.

It was a crossover dribble that left Wade falling off balance to one side while Turner calmly pulled up for an 18-foot jumper.

A lifetime ago, back in 1996, Iverson, during his rookie season, brought the crowd at the then-CoreStates Center to its feet by unleashing an ankle-breaking, crossover/jump-shot combination that left Jordan stumbling for his jock strap.

Like Jordan, Wade complained to the officials.

"I've seen that [Iverson-Jordan clip]," Turner said after he had a team-high 16 points with seven rebounds and four assists in the Sixers' 97-87, season-opening loss to the Miami Heat. "Some people say it was a carry.

"I don't know. I didn't even think about it. It's a cool move that I've been doing my whole life. I never considered anything more than that."

This was a relief.

Sure it was only one game, a game the Sixers lost, but Turner's performance in his first real NBA game afforded Sixers fans an opportunity to exhale.

Fair or not, there have been concerns about Turner, the second overall pick in the 2010 draft. And then there was his disappointing performance in the Orlando Summer League.

And much of the talk coming out of Sixers training camp has been about the struggles Turner has had making the transition from being a primary ball-handler to playing without it in his hands.

ESPN the Magazine recently lit up Turner in its NBA preview, with four of its five experts tagging him as the biggest bust in the draft.

Criticism has been a bit harsh on a kid who hadn't played a meaningful game since Ohio State was eliminated from the 2010 NCAA Tournament.

One night isn't likely to change many minds, but when that one night is the first night of Turner's NBA career, it has to ease some concerns.

"I thought I did better than in the past," said Turner, who did not score more than 14 points in seven preseason games while shooting 31.1 percent. "I got a pretty good rhythm going. I was in sync with my teammates."

Officially, Turner's NBA career began with 5 minutes, 43 seconds left in the first quarter when he substituted in for Jrue Holiday.

A half-minute later, he got his first NBA statistic when he assisted on a dunk by Thaddeus Young.

Turner got his first basket at 9:53 of the second quarter when he rebounded a missed shot, stuck back a follow basket and was fouled by Udonis Haslem.

He finished the first half with three points on 1-for-4 shooting.

During his research, first-year Sixers coach Doug Collins said the scouting report on Turner was that he takes some time to get comfortable, but once he does, he takes off.

Last night was a perfect illustration of that.

When Turner returned for his second stint at 9:48 of the third quarter, he was a different player, more aggressive and confident.

In the second half, Turner shot 6-for-6 from the floor and scored 13 points.

"You know what, [Turner's] a gamer," Collins said. "I was so proud of him. He hadn't taken a shot in 3 days in practice. He missed two or three early but kept on being aggressive.

"He took the ball to the basket, played with poise, played with confidence. I was so happy for Evan, especially for his first night in Philadelphia. It was a really good night for him."

The expectations are high for Turner. That comes with being a lottery draft pick.

He's not in the starting lineup, and although Collins has insisted over and over, "my starters are not necessarily my best players," there is a stigma that comes with being a high draft pick who doesn't start.

What you have to like about Turner is that he seems to have the demeanor to handle that and not let it affect his development.

"I've always thought that people would like to see a plane crash rather than see a plane land," Turner said of the criticism he's already received. "People are going to say what they want, but I've never played into that.

"I know what's inside of me. I know this is a marathon and not a sprint. A lot of people say negative things about me, and sometimes I do want to say, 'Hey, look at me now.'

"But that's not the classy thing to do. That's not the thing to do, in general. You just keep working.

"I've had some rough, rough days. Today, I had pretty good day."

Send e-mail to

smallwj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/smallwood.

|
|
|
|
|