Tied together by draft spot, Turner and Wall face off

Tied together by draft spot, Turner and Wall face off

January 30, 2013, 4:15 pm
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When the Sixers and Wizards take the court tonight the No. 1 and 2 overall picks from the 2010 NBA draft will be on the court for the opening tip. The journey for John Wall and Evan Turner to this point in their respective NBA careers has been interesting, challenging and arguably disappointing.

Wall came out of the University of Kentucky after just one year and was presumed, from the moment he declared himself eligible for the draft, to be the No. 1 pick. Washington selected him first but in his rookie season won just 23 games. Wall’s sophomore season started with a 2-15 record, which led to a coaching change. And this year he missed the first 33 games because of an offseason knee injury, leaving the Wizards with a 5-28 record before he returned. They are now 11-32.

For his career Wall has averaged 16.2 points and 8.1 assists, but his play flies under the radar because the team he plays on, to this point, has not been good.

“That is a tough situation,” Turner said. “He is the key franchise guy. At one point he went from being the Golden Child to being criticized and ridiculed a little bit. I went through a similar thing at one point and sometimes still go through it. You just wish the best for the person. I don’t worry too much about John Wall the basketball player, just as a person.”

Turner does not like to be reminded that he and Wall will forever be linked by their 1-2 placement in that draft. Turner was the college player of the year coming out of Ohio State as a junior that spring.

“I just worry about winning and making the playoffs,” Turner stressed. “I don’t worry about that stuff. We were kids when we got drafted; it feels long ago. You hope the best for anyone as a person, not as a basketball player. I like myself too much to worry about anyone else.”

Playing in the postseason is a definite distinction between the two players' careers. Turner has played in 18 playoff games; Wall has appeared in zero. Many believe a healthy Wall will one day be an all-star, while the jury on Turner being such is still out.

Wall is a bona fide point guard with amazing speed, possibly the fastest player in the league.

“He is definitely a high-energy guy,” Thaddeus Young said. “He is going to run his team and make tough shots but the biggest thing is to keep him out of the paint and keep him under control coming off screen and roll. He is probably the fastest guard in the league as far as coming off the screen and roll, getting to the basket and getting in transition. You have to try and keep him contained and make him see bodies.”

Wall uses his speed to put his fingerprints on a game while Turner has the ability to use his strength to do so, provided he is in shape.

“His weight is down a little now. He got up to 227 and he’s down a little now, which is good,” Doug Collins said. “Evan has to be careful. You look at Evan and he’s really not a power player — he has a power body and he’s not really what you’d consider a power player. You have to be careful that if he gets three or four pounds too heavy, which might not sound like too much, but you lose that elusiveness that you get around the basket and stuff.”

There is no doubt Turner wants to be a star in this league and that goal has sometimes hindered his progress because he wants the goal achieved yesterday.

“I sat behind an all-star, gold medal-winning guy for two years,” Turner said. “I came in a certain type of player. Another all-star is here again and is developing and that is Jrue Holiday. Andre Iguodala is Andre Iguodala. I was not a catch-and-shoot three-point shooter. I can make threes now but that is not where I want to be.”

Turner is averaging 14.5 points, 6.6 rebounds and 4.5 assists in 36.6 minutes, all career highs. Turner points to minutes and opportunity being the reason he is more productive across the board than he was his first two seasons.

“We were in the crunch time of winning,” Turner said of his first two seasons when the Sixers were in hot pursuit of the playoffs. “I think I still had valuable minutes and key moments in my career throughout that and two years deep I think I showed up well in the playoffs. I have always tried to make the best out of situations. I led all guards in rebounding last year. I think I have shown that I am a pretty good basketball player and it is only going to get better.”

Turner’s rookie playoff averages were 8.0 points and 4.6 rebounds over five games. Last year he averaged 11.2 points and 7.5 rebounds. He is a fierce competitor. But he is not a shooting guard because his jumper is only OK, and he is not a small forward because he is not athletic enough.

Turner doesn’t think having a true position matters because he is a basketball player, in his words.

“Nobody works harder than Evan Turner. Nobody,” Collins said. “From the summertime, from what he did coming into the season, nobody worked harder. Nobody is more dedicated to their craft than Evan. He works all the time, sometimes a little too much. I’d like to keep him fresh because we have a long way to go here.”

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