Here we go again.
You thought it was over. You thought it had been resolved. You thought everyone was on the same page the coach, the player, the media and the fans. You thought wrong but at least you werent alone on that front.
Its crazy how quickly things can change. Barely two weeks ago, the Sixers beat the Celtics at the Wells Fargo Center. After the game, Doug Collins gushed about Evan Turner, who had gotten his second consecutive start of the season that evening. Turner played well and, more notably, played the point. Thereafter, Collins said, in front of cameras and digital recorders and other devices capable of capturing the moment, that Evan is a great leader, and that he needs the ball.
I was in the room that night. I had one of those digital recorders. I heard what Collins said. Just to make sure, I replayed it to myself. Heres the money quote:
When he has the ball in his hands, hes a totally different player, Collins said. Evan is a point guard. At the end of the day, hes a point guard. Weve got to play an extended period of time with he and Dre together. And thats what Im locked into. Unless theres an injury, Im finishing the year with those two guys playing together.
Everything was fine after that or, if you prefer the parlance of Sixers co-owner Will Smith, it was jiggy. Collins did as he promised, putting Turner on the court and the ball in his hands. The Sixers won three of the first four games Turner started, and they beat some good teams: Boston, Utah and New York. During that stretch, Turner averaged 17 points, 12 rebounds and three assists over 37 minutes per game. He looked like a totally different player.
Lately, though, Turner has looked like the same lost -- even marginalized -- former second-round pick that spent much of the season working a nice backside groove into the Sixers bench. The Sixers have lost four of their last five games. During that time, Turners numbers have dipped considerably (9.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game). Thats bad, but this is far worse: Turner's minutes have gone down in each of those five games. Turner played 38 minutes against Indiana, 35 against Miami, 32 against Chicago, 27 against Charlotte and 26 on Wednesday against the Knicks.
The latest Knicks game was a particularly bad one for Turners development. He had two points on 1-for-7 shooting from the field. For much of the night, he played off the ball and did a lot of standing around in the corner during half-court sets. Once again, it looked like he was only tangentially involved in the offense.
After the game, Collins was asked about Turner looking more like a potted plant than a point guard. (The actual question was asked more delicately than that, but you get the idea.) Collins did everything he could not to let his clearly-overheated coach circuitry blow, but it was tough for him to mask his irritation.
How many rebounds did he get?" Collins asked.
Five, the reporter replied.
"How many did he get last time against the Knicks? Collins asked.
Fifteen, the reporter replied.
That's 10 more times he had it in his hands," Collins said, seemingly suggesting that Turner would need to do more of the dirty work in this case, defensive rebounding if he wanted to touch the ball.
It was a strange exchange for all sorts of reasons. Collins is generally pretty cool and calm, but his frustration was apparent. Was he sending a message to Turner through the media? And, if so, what changed from two weeks ago when Collins was practically salivating about the idea of tinkering with Turner at the point?
"I don't know, Turner said when asked why things appear to have regressed for him, again. I really dont know. Maybe part of it is not getting in transition To a certain extent the ball isn't in my hands as much, but Jrue Holiday has been hot hand and we do stuff through him. Shots haven't been falling, but that's basketball. Sometimes shots go in, sometimes they go out. Some nights you can't miss, some nights you can't make. But it will be all good."