Turner shows flashes of greatness for Sixers

Wall
Wall
Posted: November 02, 2010

EVAN TURNER has "never, ever" played against John Wall. Not in college, not in pickup, not anywhere.

Turner is the 76ers' rookie guard, the No. 2 overall pick in the NBA's June draft. Wall is the Washington Wizards' rookie guard, the No. 1 overall pick.

They will face each tonight in Washington.

But don't expect a mano-a-mano battle. Don't look for a classic "your turn, my turn" confrontation.

And Sixers coach Doug Collins doesn't want anyone searching for the gap from No. 1 to No. 2, even if Wall is starting and thrilling crowds with his speed and explosiveness, and Turner is coming off the bench, splitting time between the backcourt positions.

"I don't want it to be a 'hissing' contest, all of a sudden you're going back at each other," Collins said bluntly after yesterday's practice session at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Plus, Collins said, "They probably won't be guarding each other."

"The media focuses in on those guys when they're playing [against each other], and who's doing well at what particular time," Collins said. "I told Evan, 'Just play.' "

Turner is outgoing, thoughtful in dealing with reporters. He knew what was coming yesterday.

"I haven't done a one-on-one [comparison] since maybe high school," he said. "I just feel like it's pointless. At the end of the day, you can only worry about yourself, control yourself and what you do. I just worry about my teammates and worry about trying to be the best I can for the Philadelphia 76ers. I don't worry about anybody else."

The fan base and the media worried when Turner had a miserable five games in the Orlando Summer League, but the coaches and the front office wrote that off as the product of Turner not playing for nearly 3 months after the conclusion of his stellar Ohio State career. He worked out, shot and did the appropriate drills, but his representatives didn't want him playing competitively until he signed a contract.

Everybody brightened when Turner shot 7-for-10 in a solid opening-night performance against Miami, stunning the Wells Fargo Center crowd with a delightful crossover move past Dwyane Wade. The mood dimmed when he shot 0-for-5 against Atlanta, but Collins saw encouraging signs against the Hawks and again in Saturday night's loss in Indiana when Turner asserted himself a little too much and drew his first pro technical.

"The first night, he was terrific," Collins said. "The second night, he did a very good job that people wouldn't see because he was 0-for-5 from the floor, and wouldn't see the other things he did for our team. Indiana, I thought he did a good job.

"Evan will go get that ball rebounding. His defense has been very good. What holds him back sometimes from huge nights is, he's not a guy who's a great shooter or not a volume shooter . . . His personality is starting to come out; he's an incredible competitor. He got kicked [in Indiana] and he got a 'T,' but I don't mind seeing that kind of spunk or fight."

Turner didn't know what to expect from his coach when he drew the "T," costing himself $2,000 under the league's tougher new guidelines.

"I thought he was going to kill me," Turner said, laughing. "He understood, I guess. It wasn't a smart play on my part. I should have kept my composure a little bit better. I learned from it."

Collins has watched Wall on tape and seen the reasons for excitement.

"Get him in transition and he's as good as there is in the league," Collins said. "He's got strength, he's got size, he's got incredible speed, and he's a winner. That's the one thing I know about John Wall, as about Evan. Both those guys are winners; you see it. [Wall's] got a lot of personality and a lot of charisma out on that court. His teammates really believe in him, and our team now believes in Evan."

But the discussion inevitably came back to whether there's a significant gap between Wall and Turner, and Collins handled it as smoothly as he used to handle passes from Maurice Cheeks.

"It's different," he said. "Wall is playing 35 minutes; he's got the ball in his hands right now, and Evan is coming off the bench for us, playing a certain role. I don't see anything in who's the better player, or whatever. I mean, Evan's giving us a lot of good stuff. Wall is doing great stuff for Washington."

Turner, to his credit, hears the chatter and shrugs it off.

"I understand, being a rookie, people are going to try and see what I'm made of," he said. "I'm coming and playing and competing, and not backing down."

No surprise, according to teammate Andre Iguodala. Both grew up in Illinois; Iguodala in Springfield, Turner in Chicago.

"He's a tough kid," Iguodala said. "You don't see it because he went to private school [in suburban Chicago] and Ohio State and is well-spoken, but I know where he's from [in Chicago]; it's a rough area, so he has a lot of toughness in him. I think that showed [against the Pacers]. He's not going to take anything from any guy, and he's not afraid of anyone, that's the biggest thing. No matter who we're playing against, whether it's LeBron James or anybody, he's willing to take the challenge."

As for Turner's first "T," Iguodala said, "You can't let somebody get you out of your mental game. Losing $2,000 is not good; even though he's got plenty of money, it's never good to give money away like that."

And don't worry about a "hissing" contest, at least not from Turner's perspective.

"I think the Wizards are [0-2] and we're 0-3," he said. "That's the last thing we need to be worried about, a head-to-head matchup."

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