Struggling rookie Turner could lose spot in Sixers' starting lineup

Evan Turner has hit only two of 14 shots in last four games.
Evan Turner has hit only two of 14 shots in last four games.
Posted: December 02, 2010

Evan Turner just turned 22 in October.

That thought probably enters the minds of coach Doug Collins, president Rod Thorn and general manager Ed Stefanski every day - probably more than once.

It hasn't been a rosy start for the second overall pick from the June draft. There have been some slivers of sunlight, but also some persistent dark clouds. Collins and the higher-ups certainly knew Turner's early days in the NBA would be turbulent, and maybe the rookie knew it, also. But never in his wildest dreams did Turner see himself going through the rugged stretch he is entrenched in right now.

Over the past four games, he has made only two of 14 shots from the field, and totaled seven points and eight rebounds. He has struggled mightily in the starting lineup since Andre Iguodala returned from an Achilles' tendon injury and soon might find himself among the reserves.

Asked yesterday whether he would consider removing the rookie from the starting lineup, Collins replied: "I would. I talked to Evan. I think, right now, he just wants to do so well. He puts so much pressure on himself. The last four games, in [81] minutes, he's gotten eight rebounds. That's the thing I was talking to him about. Even [Andres Nocioni] talked to him a little bit about going to Chicago his first year and he couldn't shoot, and his focus was on how many rebounds he could get. I think Evan is trying to find his way with that [starting] group. Definitely, I will consider [removing him as a starter]."

It is ludicrous to expect Turner to come in and turn around all that is ailing this organization, especially after only 18 games. So is thinking he would go through his struggles without showing his frustration over his and the team's play. He did just that a couple of times during Tuesday's win over Portland. He has been negatively demonstrative on the court more than a few times - a flaw that certainly can be corrected in someone who is only 22.

"I don't want anybody to put blame on anybody. We've talked about that," Collins said following yesterday's practice at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. "We are a team, first and foremost, and we always have each other's back. I told them I would never talk about them in the media, and I would expect that they would do the same about their teammates and coaches. I think that we have a great group.

"As for Evan, I don't worry about his attitude as much, because I know what's in his heart. I know he wants to win, and I know what a competitor he is, and I know that he's frustrated. But the important thing is he can't let that frustration spill out. That can't happen. We just can't do that. We have a month that is . . . I don't even know how to describe this month that is coming up. We have to stay together, because the best of teams wouldn't want to face this schedule that we have from now until early January."

Starting Dec. 18, the Sixers will play eight straight road games, including a swing out West to Denver, Golden State, Phoenix and the Los Angeles Lakers.

For now, though, after tomorrow's game in Atlanta, they will play six of seven in South Philly. The goal for Collins will be the same as always - to win games. And he will strive to accomplish it with whoever gives the team the best chance to do so. Even if it means having Turner come off the bench.

"We play so many lineups out there together," Collins said. "We finish games with a lot of different guys. If you look at our team, you know three guys who are going to get 30-plus minutes every night in Elton [Brand], Jrue [Holiday] and Dre [Iguodala]. We just don't have the luxury of great separation, where there's a great separation between guys [in talent]. So when a guy's playing well, he plays. Elton didn't play the fourth quarter the other night. That's just sort of the kind of team we have. It has nothing to do with anything but trying to win basketball games. Nobody wants to sit. If there's a guy over there happy with sitting, I don't want him on my team. But, at the same time, you have to be a good teammate. That's the deal. Everybody wants to play. That's the essence of this game, getting out there."

Six shots

Elton Brand, Tony Battie and Andre Iguodala were given off the final part of practice yesterday when the team scrimmaged for 20 minutes . . . Practice was very short. The team worked on situational things briefly before getting in a lot of shooting. *

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