Iguodala says Turner kept his focus

Evan Turner had a career night, scoring 26 points in the 76ers' 103-71 win over Boston.
Evan Turner had a career night, scoring 26 points in the 76ers' 103-71 win over Boston. (CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 09, 2012

Not long after Evan Turner had the game of his life, scoring a career-high 26 points and grabbing nine rebounds to lead the 76ers to a 103-71 win over Boston on Wednesday, Sixers forward Andre Iguodala talked about Turner's not succumbing to the dark side of pro basketball as he waited patiently to be elevated to starter status.

"I think it weighs on any basketball player when they are not playing and they think they should be playing," Iguodala said. "Some guys, they go to a vice or they go to something that not only hinders their game but it hinders their health overall. Guys can drink; guys can go to drugs. That's the part of the league that people don't see.

"I think he just stayed focused and continued to work on his game," Iguodala continued. "He's had ups and downs just like any other human being would. I'm happy to see him playing well and continuing to grow."

Iguodala didn't elaborate on his comment about the league's dark side, and Sixers coach Doug Collins gave the team off Thursday. However, the message was clear: Turner, named the starting shooting guard earlier in the week, was nothing but professional in waiting for his opportunity.

Collins said that Turner, evaluated as a two-guard after a junior season at Ohio State in which he won multiple college-player-of-the-year awards in 2010, is now a point guard who needs to have the ball in his hands.

Collins is committed to finding out how well Turner plays in the starting lineup alongside Iguodala and point guard Jrue Holiday. That process takes its next step Friday night, when the Sixers (23-17) host the Utah Jazz. Barring an injury, those three will be in the starting lineup for the rest of the season.

"To me, unless somebody gets injured, Jrue and Evan and Dre are going to be out there to start games," Collins said. "I've got to be able to see how those guys can play over an extended period of time together because that's so much of our future and where we're headed."

In recent weeks it appeared as if Turner wasn't headed anywhere except to an extended stay in Collins' doghouse. After failing to crack the starting lineup, the second-year player got off to a decent start as a contributor off the bench and the Sixers started 20-9.

But the Sixers lost five straight and seven of nine, and Turner's minutes dwindled despite the continued ineffective play of then-starter Jodie Meeks. Along the way there has been talk about his maturity level and speculation that he has fallen out of shape.

All along, his teammates have been supportive.

"We see him in practice, so we know what Evan can do," power forward Elton Brand said. "He's been working hard and being patient, very supportive. He's going to continue to work hard and try to get better as a player because he's a professional."

Collins finally decided to swap out Meeks for Turner right before the Sixers took on the Milwaukee Bucks on Monday. And while he grabbed 12 rebounds in a loss to the Bucks, it was Turner's 1-for-12 shooting, two-point performance that grabbed the most attention.

Turner appears to be keeping his last two performances in perspective.

"That's the game and that's life," Turner said. "One thing I've learned in this league is you have to stay positive and have positive thoughts. That's what you have to do to help the team get better, and that's what I'm going to keep on doing."

Contact staff writer John N. Mitchell at jmitchell@philly.com. Follow him on Twitter @JmitchInquirer. Read his blog at www.philly.com/deepsixer