A week from Wednesday, the Sixers will close out the 2012-13 season. They will do so with a losing record. What happens from the first moment of the offseason will be interesting, intriguing and critical to the team’s success in the near future.
Will Doug Collins return for the fourth and final year on his contract? Does the franchise already know if it wants to go after Andrew Bynum in free agency? Or will it swallow the massive loss he was and pursue lesser-name players who are available on the market? (See story.)
And will they trade or keep Evan Turner? The second overall pick in the 2010 draft can have 24-point, 11-rebound performances, as he did Friday in Atlanta, just as readily as he can have six-point, six-rebound and zero-assist nights, like he did two weeks ago against Utah.
Turner will be the first to admit his time as a pro has come with its ups and downs.
“It has been a bumpy ride, but it has gotten smoother as I go along and get more acclimated,” he said.
When asked if he has learned what it takes to make a good professional basketball player, Turner was quick to answer.
“In general, coming early and staying late. Being a guy your teammates can depend on and just coming out to play every night,” he said. “And doing what is best for the team.”
Turner is cautious with his words. He wants to tread gently around a subject that he knows everyone talks about but feels he can control only so much. That's the stigma that comes with being the No. 2 overall pick but without the statistics to prove he was worthy.
“I feel like what I am asked to do and what I am allowed to do lead to me getting the bulk of the blame in certain situations,” Turner suggested. “It goes along with the status of being the No. 2 overall pick – the No. 2 pick is supposed to be the franchise tag, but here it is a different situation because I am a role player.”
Turner is cognizant that Jrue Holiday, who was drafted a year ahead of him, was given a contract extension, participated in his first All-Star game this year and is the focal point of the Sixers’ future. Holiday thrives with the ball in his hands, which is what Turner believes he would do if their roles were reversed. What makes the situation even more challenging is Turner’s relationship with Holiday.
“Jrue is one of my best friends. Jrue is a great guy,” Turner said. “He makes being part of the Sixers really special and being able to be out on the court with him is really fun. You want to do certain stuff that you wouldn’t do for other people. You know, go the extra length, the extra mile in that regard.”
And Evan would do that for him?
“Yes for sure,” Turner responded.
And Jrue would for Evan?
“I would guess so – you’d have to ask him,” Turner said respectfully. “I wouldn’t be arrogant enough to jump the gun like that.
“Jrue is a great dude. He is selfless and you want what is best for your teammate in general. It is just how it is. It is how the organization is run, and I just try to play my part and get in where I fit in.”
Like many his age, Turner takes to Twitter with great regularity. He has more then 140,000 followers and while many adoring fans converse with him in a positive manner, Turner also encounters his fair share of criticism.
“Everything I do is watched,” Turner said. “Everything is ‘I was the second pick in the draft.’ After three years, I can’t run from it. I can’t hide it. But growth is important and getting better day by day and sometimes seeing a bigger picture is important.
“On Twitter, I get hit by a lot of negative stuff, but I never see those people on the street,” he continued. “I never hear anything negative when I walk the street. I see positive people, people who are appreciative of what me and my teammates do. I could be ignorant enough to say 'I don’t like these fans,' but not everyone is like that.”
Turner’s inner battle is constantly on display. He wants to fit in. He wants where he was selected in the draft to have no bearing on what's expected of him, and yet, in the next breath, he seems so determined to prove he can be better and different.
“I was the best player in the draft at the time,” Turner insisted. “I was the best player coming out of college. I can’t hide from how good I was at the time. This situation is going to make me stronger and whatever the future holds, I am going to be prepared for it.
“I look over the past few years and say I went No. 2 in the draft and then all my problems started coming. It is not a problem. I have a long career ahead of me, hopefully, and hopefully things get better. And even though it has been a down year for our organization, I try to find positives. It is so easy to find negativity, but as a player I have grown every year.”