There was a plan. The plan hasn’t exactly worked out. Not yet. But there was a plan.
This was the plan: Trade Andre Iguodala and others. Bring in Andrew Bynum. Turn the team over to the young core: Bynum, Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner. Let them grow. Let them excel. Let them win. Let them form a formidable trio. Let the rest of the Eastern Conference watch the transformation with envy.
Bynum still isn’t on the court. You probably noticed. Holiday is having an excellent season, an All-Star campaign. And then there is Turner.
Going into Wednesday’s game against the Washington Wizards, Turner had scored at least 20 points in three straight outings. It was the first time in his career that he’d done that. Against Memphis, he had a season-high 27 points along with seven assists. He had been really good of late.
That changed in the Sixers' 92-84 win over the Wizards (see game recap). Turner -- who scored six points on 27.2 percent shooting from the field -- looked lost for much of the evening. During one painful offensive possession in the first half, he dribbled for almost 24 seconds, got blocked, and then got called for a shot clock violation. You know those basketball training videos they show to kids? That sequence was the opposite.
It is impossible to know what to make of Turner. He has been in the league for three years. He’s as big a mystery now as he was when he was drafted -- perhaps bigger.
If you pretend to know how Turner will play on any given night, you’re kidding yourself. Because Turner doesn’t know, either.
After a recent game, Turner was in the Sixers’ locker room talking about the season. He admitted that the squad has been inconsistent. That’s a word you hear Doug Collins use a lot when he talks about his team. Collins uses it so much he ought to go to Sam’s Club and buy it in bulk.
So there was Turner, talking about overarching inconsistency, when someone asked him how he might evaluate the way he’s played so far this year.
“I want to play well, obviously,” Turner said. “You’re never happy when you mess up and stuff. If I can handle it, I handle it. I don’t worry about stuff too much anymore. I just want to play well and find consistency.”
He wants to find consistency. That’s a start. But it might require someone from MIT to build him a basketball GPS.
In his rookie year, Turner started 14 games and played in 78. He averaged 7.2 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.0 assists.
Last year (in a 66-game, lockout-shortened season), Turner started 20 games and played in 65. He averaged 9.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists.
This year, Turner has started all 45 games. Entering the Wizards’ game, he was averaging 14.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists. He has improved on a basic statistical level. There has been growth.
“More opportunity, more responsibility will help mold me as a player,” Turner said. “Slow and steady.”
It has been slow, but it has not exactly been steady. He’s had 14 games -- about 30 percent of the Sixers’ season -- in which he’s shot 35 percent or lower from the field.
There are nights when he can take over a game. Then there are other nights (like against the Wizards) when he appears so bewildered that you half expect the PA announcer to ask someone to come claim him at lost and found. What’s the issue?
“They put athletic wings on him,” Collins said when asked about Turner’s intermittent struggles. “They try to take away any kind of post game or mid-range game in the paint where they put stronger guys on him. The matchups, he hasn’t really been played by what I’d consider a smaller guy or a guy his size. I think that speed and athleticism -- they’re matching up some different players on him.”
That’s what happens in the NBA. Life in the big leagues and all that. The question is whether Turner will turn into one of the team’s pillars. Because if the Sixers can’t lean on him from night to night, that makes Holiday the lone load bearing wall for now. That’s an issue.
The problem isn’t that Turner doesn’t want to carry his weight, it’s that he sometimes tries to shoulder too much on the offensive end. At times -- when he’s ripping an ill-advised jumpshot early in the shot clock or trying to pull off a highlight layup with several defenders in his face -- he plays like a man trying to show that he was worthy of the second overall pick. It’s almost like he’s trying to prove his value -- to his team, to his opponents, to his fans, to himself.
That’s troublesome. Because when Turner utilizes his strengths, he’s an asset. He can defend and rebound, pass and score in transition. That’s the good Turner. The bad Turner is the one who over-dribbled against Washington, made bad decisions and took 11 shots but hit only three.
The Sixers had a carefully crafted plan. It hasn’t worked out the way they or anyone else expected. Not yet. They can’t do anything about Bynum. That’s on him. Turner is another matter.
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