Sixers' options with Evan Turner are endless

usa-evan_turner.jpg

Sixers' options with Evan Turner are endless

It is about options. It always has been.

When Sam Hinkie became the Sixers’ president and general manager, his plan became evident: Clear cap space, accumulate draft picks, untether the team from its present entanglements in order to weave a quality future with better material. It made sense then. It still does. Flexibility matters in the NBA.

It is, in part, why the Sixers recently decided not to extend Evan Turner’s rookie deal (see story). Turner wasn't thrilled when it unfolded that way. It’s hard to blame him. Getting paid and having a certain sense of security is preferable to not having those things.

At the time, Turner said he “didn’t expect anything because Sam Hinkie is not my GM. I didn’t come up with Hinkie, and he has his own plan for stuff.” As shots at your employer go, it was a big one -- a verbal half-court heave that Turner drained right through the get-bent basket. When he was asked if he thought he’d get traded, Turner said he didn’t know and reminded everyone that “[Hinkie] just traded Jrue [Holiday], and Jrue is like a walking legend.”

The walking legend stuff was a bit much, but you get the idea. Turner was ticked. Shy of storming into Hinkie’s office and smashing his favorite calculator during an analytics exercise, it would be tough for Turner to more clearly express his displeasure.

You can understand Turner’s emotional response, though that’s not the point here. The point is that Turner represents another option for the Sixers.

Turner is having his best season as a pro. He’s averaging 21.7 points, 6.9 rebounds and 1.0 steals. All are career highs. He’s also taking smarter shots and getting to the line more. A year ago, Turner shot just 2.5 free throws per game. This year, he’s taking 5.7 per game and making a career-best 83.5 percent. And he’s shooting 59.8 percent at the rim this season compared to just 46 percent last season.

Turner’s advanced metrics have improved as a result. His player efficiency rating has improved from 12.1 a year ago to 16. And his true shooting percentage (which accounts for efficiency in two-pointers, three-pointers and free throws) is up from 47.8 percent last season to 52.5 percent.

He’s seriously struggling from three-point range (he’s hitting just 15.4 percent), but on the whole Turner is playing better than ever before. You don’t really need numbers to know that -- just working eyeballs.

Considering how much he’s improved, it makes sense that the anti-Turner crowd is clamoring for the Sixers to unload him now -- pack him into some bubble wrap and slap a UPS sticker on his forehead and overnight him to whichever NBA outpost is willing to pay the shipping and handling fee (a first-round draft pick and an expiring contract, perhaps). The Sixers could do that. But they don’t have to do that. With Turner, they could do so many things.

Turner is in the fourth year of his rookie contract. The Sixers have until June 30 to extend a qualifying offer. That would be around $8.7 million based on his current salary. If they do so, Turner becomes a restricted free agent and the Sixers would have the right to match any offer. If they don’t come up with a qualifying offer, Turner would become an unrestricted free agent.

In the first scenario, the Sixers could conceivably keep Turner around for a reasonable sum considering his current performance. Or, if some other team comes in with a ridiculous over-the-top offer that the Sixers don’t want to match, the Sixers could pass and let Turner walk. At which point they would free up more salary cap space that they could use to pay draft picks and/or free agents.

In the second scenario, the one in which they don’t bother with the qualifying offer, the Sixers could simply skip ahead to the expiring contract part, let Turner leave, and allocate those funds elsewhere.

Or they could do a sign-and-trade after the year if they find a suitor for Turner with pieces they want in return. Or they could simply trade him at any point between now and the end of the year. Or they could re-sign him. Or. Or. Or. Or is a great word for any NBA organization, particularly one looking to rebuild.

The Sixers don’t have to rush anything with Turner. They can (and should) wait until the time is right to determine his fate and find the proper path for the organization. They have options. It’s a good spot for the Sixers, even if it might be frustrating for Turner.

NBA Playoffs: Kyrie Irving's 42 points spark Cavs' comeback win over Celtics

NBA Playoffs: Kyrie Irving's 42 points spark Cavs' comeback win over Celtics

BOX SCORE

CLEVELAND -- Kyrie Irving gritted his teeth, tightened up his left sneaker and hopped to his feet.

The pain couldn't stop him. The Celtics couldn't either.

Irving took over in the second half and finished with 42 points despite playing on a tender ankle, LeBron James added 34 and the Cleveland Cavaliers moved within one win of an almost inevitable third date in the NBA Finals with Golden State by rallying to beat Boston 112-99 on Tuesday night in Game 4 of the Eastern Conference finals.

With James in foul trouble, Irving was forced to do more than ever and he delivered, scoring 19 in less than five minutes and 33 in a 19-minute stretch.

"The kid is special," James said. "I was happy to sit back and watch him. He was born for these moments."

The defending NBA champions, who shot 71 percent in the second half, opened a 3-1 lead in the series and can wrap up their third straight conference title -- and a "three-match" against the Warriors -- with a win in Game 5 on Thursday night in Boston.

But if Games 3 and 4 are any indication, it won't be easy.

Fighting to keep their season alive, the Celtics aren't giving an inch despite playing without All-Star guard Isaiah Thomas, who may need surgery on a hip injury.

The Cavs, meanwhile, wouldn't be on the cusp of the Finals without Irving.

With Cleveland in jeopardy of dropping its second game in a row after James followed an 11-point Game 3 debacle by picking up four first-half fouls, Irving put on a breathtaking one-man show.

Freezing Boston defenders with his dribble and driving to the basket whenever he wanted, Irving made six layups, two 3-pointers and a free throw in a dizzying span of 4:48. He capped his blistering 19-point outburst with a 3 in the final second of the quarter and celebrated at mid-court by pretending to put two pistols back in his holster.

"He saw Bron went out and he wanted to put the team on his shoulders," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "He did that."

Irving said he was driven by the thought of the Cavs seeing their series lead vanish.

"In the back of my mind, I thought, `They can't tie up the series,'" he said. "We can't go back to Boston tied 2-2. We needed everything tonight."

Irving put a scare into the Cavs and their fans when he stepped on Terry Rozier's foot and rolled his ankle. He stayed on the floor for a few moments before sitting up and re-tying his sneaker. Nothing was keeping him out.

"It was one of those games we had to fight through and we had to earn it," he said.

Celtics coach Brad Stevens was disappointed with his team's defense on Irving, who was able to spread the floor while surrounded by shooters.

"There's choices," Stevens said. "I'm not sure there are good choices. When he gets going like that, he's tough to stop. The ones we gotta look at are the ones he got at the rim."

Kevin Love added 17 points and 17 rebounds for the Cavs, now 11-1 in the postseason.

Avery Bradley scored 19 and Jae Crowder 18 for Boston.

Ankle grab
Irving did not show any noticeable limp following the game as he walked down the hallway, stopping to hug and kiss friends and family following his performance.

Irving, who has had a history of injuries, said he's rolled his ankle enough times to know when it's serious.

"My adrenaline is still going," he said. "I'm pretty sure I'll be sore when I get home."

Boston bound
Crowder and the Celtics are looking forward to going home and redeeming themselves after the blowout losses in Games 1 and 2.

"I feel like we're humble enough to know we haven't played well at home," he said. "We want to give our home crowd a better outing than we put out the past two games."

Foul trouble
Lue paused for several seconds before responding to a question about the third and fourth fouls called on James, who was whistled for barely touching Marcus Smart on a jumper and then was called for a charge.

"They called them," he said of the officials. "We had to do what we had to do."

Tip-ins
Celtics: Thomas spoke to coach Brad Stevens and told him that he has visited one hip specialist and plans to see more before it's decided if he needs surgery. Thomas initially injured his hip in March and played the final two months of the regular season before aggravating it during the playoffs. ... Stevens started Kelly Olynyk, who had 15 points. ... Before the playoffs began, the Celtics were 22-5 at home since Jan. 1. They're 5-4 in the postseason so far.

Cavaliers: The 42 points were a career playoff-high for Irving, who scored 41 in Game 5 of last year's Finals. ... Cleveland improved to 35-5 against Eastern teams in the playoffs since 2015. ... J.R. Smith and his wife, Jewel, brought their daughter home after more than five months in the hospital following her premature birth. Smith posted photos on his Instagram account of the couple leaving Hillcrest Hospital with their baby in a stroller. "We Walked In Together We Walked Out Together!!" Smith wrote. ... Deron Williams played 18 minutes after sustaining a shoulder "stinger" in Game 3.

Up next
The Celtics lost Game 2 at home by 44 and the first two games of the series by a combined 57.

NBA draft prospect Josh Jackson's diversion requires apology, anger management classes

NBA draft prospect Josh Jackson's diversion requires apology, anger management classes

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- Former Kansas basketball player Josh Jackson must attend anger management classes, write a letter of apology and refrain from using alcohol or recreational drugs for a year as part of a diversion agreement arising from his confrontation with a Jayhawks women's basketball player last year.

Jackson, who is leaving Kansas after one season and is expected to be a top pick in next month's NBA draft, had pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor count of criminal property damage after he argued with McKenzie Calvert on Dec. 9 outside a bar in Lawrence.

Jackson signed the diversion agreement on April 26, according to Douglas County Court records obtained by The Kansas City Star . If he successfully completes the program, the case against him will be dismissed.

He is required to complete the anger management class and community service by Oct. 31 and write the apology letter and obtain a substance abuse evaluation by June 30. If the evaluation doesn't make any treatment recommendations, Jackson must complete alcohol information classes by Oct. 31.

Jackson also signed a "stipulation of facts" that said he followed Calvert out of the bar after she threw a drink at fellow Kansas player Lagerald Vick. He said he yelled at Calvert and called her names before she got into her car and locked the doors.

"I kicked her vehicle, breaking the left rear taillight and denting the driver's door," Jackson said in the document.

A damage estimate of Calvert's car for $2,991 was given to police in December, according to a Douglas County District Court affidavit. The total repair bill was $3,150, which included $1,127 for the driver's door and left tail lamp. Jackson was not charged with felony criminal damage in excess of $1,000 because prosecutors couldn't prove that he caused all the damage to the car "due other unidentifiable individuals damaging the vehicle," according to county District Attorney Charles Branson.

He was ordered to pay $158 in court costs, $150 in a diversion fee and $250 in restitution to Timothy Calvert, McKenzie's father. If Jackson violates his 12-month diversion, he would pay restitution of $3,150 to Calvert.

The 6-foot-8 swingman was the nation's No. 1 recruit when he signed with the Jayhawks out of Prolific Prep Academy in California. He immediately earned a spot in the starting lineup, teaming with national player of the year Frank Mason III and Devonte Graham to form one of the nation's top backcourts.

Jackson was the Big 12 newcomer of the year after averaging 16.3 points and 7.4 rebounds. He helped the Jayhawks to a 31-5 record and a 13th straight regular-season Big 12 title before a loss to Oregon in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. He has signed with former NBA player B.J. Armstrong of Wasserman Media Group.