Reports this weekend from Evan Turner's return trip to Philly with the Indiana Pacers revealed that Turner had driven to the airport with Sixers GM Sam Hinkie, the man who had just traded Evan from the only NBA franchise he'd ever played for. Thanks to bugging equipment the 700 Level had long ago installed in Hinkie's Honda Civic for just such an occasion, we were able to get exclusive tape of the conversation that took place on their car ride. Here is the transcript of that conversation.
Sam Hinkie: So Evan, have you ever been to Indiana before?
Evan Turner: Well, yeah, we play there a couple times a season, and we used to play Indiana a bunch when I was at Ohio State...
Hinkie: Right, yeah, of course. What I meant was, have you ever really spent much time there, gotten to really know the place?
Evan: Uhhh, no, not really I guess.
Hinkie: Well I think you're gonna love it. It's beautiful there, especially during the spring time. And they have great fast food--you're a fast food guy, right?
Evan: Uhhh, yeah, sure, I guess...
Hinkie: Well they have these drive-in restaurants there. You ever been to a drive-in restaurant, like in American Graffiti? You just drive up and they take your order straight from your car, and then they bring it out to you on a tray, your burger and fries and soda, all while you're still in the car. You just eat it right there. It's great, especially on a sunny spring day. And they love their basketball there. You ever seen the movie Hoosiers?
Evan: Yeah man, of course, everybody's seen that movie.
Hinkie: There you go. Not to badmouth the Philly fans--and please don't tell anyone I said this, haha--but it's just a different type of fan out there. They just love the sport, in all its incarnations out there. It's pure. They're gonna love you there, too, the way you play. I just know it.
Evan: Thanks, man.
The conversation is silent for a few minutes, before Evan asks if he can turn on the radio. Sam says sure, and Evan flips a couple times through Hinkie's presets, mumbling something about him not being able to find a hip-hop station. Finally, he settles on an oldies station playing a Smokey Robinson song. The conversation is silent again for another couple minutes.
Evan: So, uh, Mr. Hinkie, could I ask you a question?
Hinkie: Sure, Evan. And I've told you before, please call me Sam.
Evan: OK, Sam. So, like...I'm not surprised that you traded me. I've been in trade rumors for as long as I can remember, since my rookie year, it feels like. I'd learned to not pay much attention to them, but this time, I could feel it was different, you know? The team was losing so much, and you guys had just traded Jrue, and he was an All-Star last year, so I knew you guys were rebuilding and that nobody on the team was safe. I get it, really.
Hinkie: Thanks, Evan. I'm glad you're able to see it that way. What's your question, then?
Evan: Well...was Danny Granger and a draft pick--a second-rounder--really the best offer you got for me?
Hinkie: What do you mean?
Evan: I mean, that's not that much to get back for me, man. I'm only 25. I was averaging 18 points a game, grabbing six rebounds, four assists. I'm getting better every season. Guys like me, teams should be going out of their way to try to get so they could build around us, but you gave me and Lavoy up to Indiana for next to nothing.
Hinkie: Well, second-round picks are very valuable these days. They don't count against the salary cap and some of the upcoming drafts might go two rounds deep with NBA talent.
Evan: Yeah, but that pick's gonna be what, in the 50s?
Hinkie: Well...not definitely, but it's possible.
Evan: In the 50s! Man, I was the #2 overall pick four years ago! You think you can replace my production with a #52 pick?
Hinkie: No, probably not, but having the pick allows to do various other things, too. We can use it in a trade to move up in the first round, or as part of a larger trade that gets us another valuable rotation guy. And we're also getting back Danny Granger. Don't forget that Danny was an All-Star a couple seasons ago.
Evan: Yeah, but Sam, is he even gonna play for you guys?
Hinkie: Well, we're going to sit down with him and have a conversation, and find out where...
Evan: C'mon, man, don't give me that B.S.! You know goddamn well you're gonna buy him out first chance you get, so you don't have to worry about giving him minutes that could be going to some scrub you're gonna call up from the D-League or Europe or whatever who costs you like two bucks and who ain't gonna be on the team a month later. You forget I just spent over half a season on this crappy team you put together? You think I haven't figured out how it works? Don't treat me like I'm a damn blogger talking to you right now!
Hinkie: OK, Evan, calm down. Look, you're probably right--chances are, he's not gonna play for us. He's too old to want to play on a rebuilding team, so he's gonna want to get bought out, and we doubt he can really do that much for us this season anyway. He'd just be a distraction.
Evan: All right, so then why'd you trade me for him?
Hinkie: I'm sorry, Evan, it's just the realities of the trade market. We wanted to trade you for a first-rounder, but fact of the matter is, nobody's offering first-rounders mid-season these days. Your contract makes you a difficult player to trade for, since you're a free agent at the end of the season, and most people think you're going to ask for a lot of money in the offseason.
Evan: But I've earned it! Haven't I earned it? You see guys getting these extensions, ten million, twelve million a year, and they haven't averaged 18 points a game! They haven't been to the playoffs twice! They haven't done what I've done in this league! I've put in the work, I've done what I had to do. Why shouldn't it be my turn to get paid?
Hinkie: Look, Evan, I don't disagree with you. I think you're a very talented young player. But the truth of the matter is, you weren't in our long-term plans. Really, nobody that was on this team before I got here is--the old administration put us so far behind that we're basically trying to start from scratch. Michael and Nerlens, we hope they'll be part of our future, but we don't even know that for sure yet. We're taking it one step at a time, but we need a clean slate before we can truly start over.
Evan: OK, yeah, I sort of get that, I guess. But didn't anybody else want to take a chance on me? There's 29 other teams out there, I gotta sign with one of them eventually!
Hinkie: Of course you do. But what I think you need to understand, Evan, is that your style of game makes you a hard player to fit around sometimes. You take a lot of shots, but you don't make a very high percentage of them. You get a lot of assists, but you get nearly as many turnovers. You defend twos better than you defend threes, but you don't make enough three-pointers to play you at the two. It's hard to know where you fit in a starting lineup, and you've made it clear you feel like you don't deserve to come off the bench.
Evan: Well, yeah, man, I get buckets! I can get a bucket whenever I want to, man, always have. You guys all worry so much about "Is he a two, is he a three?" Dude, it's just basketball! Let me get out there and play, it don't matter what position they got me in on the scorecard or whatever!
Hinkie: OK, well that's fine when you're at Ohio State and the entire offense is built around you. But in the NBA, you're gonna be going to teams that already have guys like that, where they need you to come in and play a supporting role, to do the little things that help make a good team a great team.
Evan: I can do those things, too. Man, don't you see the box scores at the end of games, the numbers I put up?
Hinkie: Yes, but it's not always about those things. Sometimes it's about making the correct defensive rotation, or about hustling back in transition, or about just standing behind the three point line and making enough shots out there that a defender has to stay with you, opening up space for the rest of your team to work with. And if we're being honest here, I don't think you've always done that sort of thing with consistency.
Evan: I try, man. You know Sam, everyone thinks they know me, know my game, what I do or don't do or whatever. But they don't know what it's like to have the offensive load on my shoulders every night. To get fouled while shooting like I do but not got the respect from the refs for a whistle. They don't know what it's like to be on a team this bad, hell, I didn't even know until the last few years. It's hard to do all the little things when we ain't got enough of so many of the big things.
Hinkie: I think you're right, Evan, to an extent. And I do feel bad for you having to play on a team that loses so much, and I do think you get more criticism from some people than you probably deserve. But I think there also comes a point in your career when you've got to get past all that, even past the losing, and lead by example. You've gotta be the guy who gets back on defense, who doesn't complain to the refs, who goes hard on every possession and doesn't bail out defenses with bad shots. That's what the great ones--the Kobes, the LeBrons, the Durants--all do, and they do it every night. If you wanna be great, that's what you have to do too.
Evan: Look, I know I'm not a perfect player. But I'm still young. I'm still improving, working hard every off-season. I know there's another level I gotta get to, and I still wanna get to it. I'm gonna get there, Sam, I know I will. I've gotten there my whole life.
Hinkie: I don't doubt that you will, Evan.
Evan: So then why trade me at all, man? You couldn't get squat for me, whatever, you didn't want to re-sign me in the offseason, whatever. Why not just keep me for the rest of the year? Don't you care about winning games at all? We lost our last ten, man, how you think we're gonna do now that Spence and Lavoy and I are gone? Did I mean that little to you as a player?
Hinkie: Of course not. You might not believe me, Evan, but I really do think you're a good player, and I know you would help us win more games. Hell, I've seen it with my own two eyes. I saw what you did against LeBron the first night of the season. I saw you hit that game-winner in Boston. I saw you play your heart out against the Knicks in New York. I'm a fan of yours, Evan, and I'm gonna miss having you as a Sixer. But I don't think you need me to tell you that it's not about that for us right now. It's about the future We know we can't afford you in the offseason, so we don't want to wait until then to part ways with you, when it's possible we could get a player on our roster right now who might still be able to help us, and we might be able to resign in the offseason. I'm sorry we couldn't get more for you--and believe me, I tried--but like I said, that's where the league is at right now. You didn't see a lot of other guys getting traded for much of anything this deadline, did you?
Evan: No...not really.
Hinkie: OK, so...would you really have wanted to finish out the season on a losing team? Don't you miss playing meaningful basketball? Wouldn't you rather have a chance not just to go to the playoffs, but to maybe even win the title? Do you know how many really good players have gone their careers without ever even getting that chance?
Evan: Well, yeah, of course. I'm all about winning, that's all I've ever been about.
Hinkie: So then why are you looking at this in such a negative way? This should be the opportunity you've dreamed of since you got in the NBA!
Evan: I dunno, man. I just didn't think it'd be so cold, I guess. I thought I could leave with a little dignity.
Hinkie: Evan, you have nothing to be ashamed of here. You've been a great Sixer, and now we're rewarding you with the chance to play for a team that's much farther along than we are right now, than we'll likely be for years to come. We could have traded you to Sacramento, to Charlotte, but instead you're going to Indiana. Back to Big Ten country! You should be excited.
Evan: I guess, man.
The conversation goes silent again for the remainder of the car ride. The tape ends with the car stopping at the airport, and the two men sharing a brief goodbye.
Hinkie: Well, this is it, Evan. Best of luck in Indiana, and if all goes right, hopefully we'll see you in the playoffs in a couple years' time.
Evan: Yeah, Sam, see you there. Next time you see Tony, tell him not to shoot so many damn threes, will you? He never listens to me when I tell him, but maybe he'll listen to you.
Hinkie: Hah, Evan, sure will.
The car door shuts, and "Leaving on a Jet Plane" comes on the oldies station. Hinkie chuckles for a second and starts to sing along softly to himself as the car pulls away from the airport.