Doug Collins has gone Bizarro Norman Dale on us.
Dale, the fictional coach in the movie Hoosiers (played wonderfully by Gene Hackman), defiantly marches to the microphone on meet-the-team day at Hickory High, after the student body chants We want Jimmy a reference to Jimmy Chitwood, the best player in town, who doesnt want to play for the varsity because well, we dont know why; the movie never gets around to telling us. And Coach Dale says, This is your team.
Collins, the real-life boss of the Sixers has, by contrast, heard the cyber-chanting for Evan Turner all these weeks. And finally he has said, in effect, You know what? Thats not a bad idea.
After Turner pumped in a career-high 26 points in Wednesdays 103-71 rout of the weary Celtics his second straight start Collins said he plans to start him the rest of the season, barring injury.
In other words, this is your team: Turner, Andre Iguodala and Jrue Holiday on the perimeter. Elton Brand and a cast of thousands in the post. Thad Young, Lou Williams and Jodie Meeks off the bench.
Will this work? Nobody can say for sure, and its a mistake to overreact to Turners performance against Boston, just as its a mistake to overreact to his 1-for-12 shooting performance in his first start, Monday in Milwaukee (albeit one in which he claimed 12 rebounds).
But this much seems clear: If youre going to try this, its best to give Turner an extended look as a starter, as Collins seems prepared to do. Its best to be fully committed to this setup. Anything less, and youre just left with more question marks, about Turners direction as a player and the franchises direction as a whole.
If all goes according to plan, Turner will get 28 games as a starter (excluding playoffs). By that point the Sixers should have a pretty good idea about what he is, and whether he will ever be the player they thought he was, when they made him the second overall pick in the 2010 draft.
Collins proclaimed Wednesday that Turner is a point guard at heart, as well as a team leader and the Sixers best rebounder. He even made a Magic Johnson comparison, though he didnt (thankfully) push that too hard, other than to note that the 6-7 Turner is a bigger guard in the mold of Magic, capable of cleaning the defensive glass and then pushing the ball the other way.
One other thing.
Evan believes hes the best player on our team, Collins said. And thats what I want him to believe.
Collins has said that before, though not lately. The difference now is that we get to find out definitively if its true.
This is your team. And this is Evan Turners chance. He will never get a better one.
Gordie Jones is an award-winning journalist who has worked in the Philadelphia market for 28 years. He also co-authored a book about the 76ers' 1982-83 championship team with former Sixers general manager Pat Williams.