With Sixers down 3 starters, Turner slumping again


With Sixers down 3 starters, Turner slumping again

Often, an NBA basketball game is a microcosm for the season. There are hot streaks, cold streaks and times when the ball just doesn’t go into the basket for one reason or another.

Lately, Evan Turner is having one of those streaks in which he couldn’t buy a bucket with a week’s pay.

Turner is in the midst of a slump of slumps. He has scored just 20 points in the last five games, including two points in the 88-69 loss to the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night. In that one, Turner shot 1 for 10 with four turnovers. On the plus side, Turner grabbed nine rebounds, but he has not made a three-pointer since Jan. 26 and he has not attempted a foul shot in the last two games.

Over the last four games, Turner has attempted just four foul shots while shooting 9 for 36 (25 percent) from the field.

Given that the Sixers are missing three starters -- Thad Young, Jason Richardson and Andrew Bynum -- because of injuries, Turner is picking a bad time to go into a funk. If anything, the Sixers desperately need Turner to produce.

“For him it is the all-around game,” head coach Doug Collins said after Thursday’s practice session at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. “When he is having an all-around game, everything fits in for him. He can’t let some missed shots bother him and sometimes when he is not shooting the ball well, it deflates him a little bit. It frustrates him.”

Certainly, Turner’s inconsistency on offense has been frustrating. During the opening weeks of the season, Collins said he needed to find a way to get Turner, “unlocked.” A TV and movie buff, Collins hoped to emulate the relationship between Will Smith and Matt Damon in The Legend of Bagger Vance with Turner in hopes of getting the third-year player going.

Apparently it worked, because from Nov. 16 to Dec. 18 Turner scored at least 11 points in 17 straight games with five 22-plus scoring games thrown in. But after he twisted his ankle in a blowout loss in Houston on Dec. 19, Turner has been up and down. After scoring 36 points on 17-for-33 shooting in back-to-back games, Turner followed it up with a season-low one point in a victory in Memphis on Dec. 26.

Turner’s latest skid follows a stretch in which he scored at least 20 points in three straight games, pouring in 70 points on 28-for-51 shooting, while adding 15 rebounds and 17 assists over that span. In the Jan. 28 game against Memphis, Turner scored a season-high 27 points, with 14 of them coming during the pivotal third quarter.

Now it seems as if he hasn’t put together a string of baskets since.

According to Collins, Turner takes the missed shots hard. Often, failure in a game leaks into other areas, though Turner has been pretty solid on the boards.

Still, with the team’s injuries and the pressure on all-star Jrue Holiday to carry the club, Turner’s contributions are needed more than ever. It might be up to Collins to figure out a way to get Turner going.

“I don’t know,” Collins said. “He has the ball and he’s pushing it up the floor. When Jrue is off the floor, [Turner] has it in his hands. We run an offense that is equal opportunity. It’s not like we focus on one guy. We don’t have a team with great speed and quickness and so our guys do a lot of standing. You have to cut and you have to move and our guys are used to having the ball in their hands. You have to learn to move without the ball -- you have to make a conscious effort at it. Most of our guys are used to having the ball and then doing something with it. We don’t have guys who are used to running off screens.

“Evan has to keep battling. He has to get the ball in the open floor and he has to hit that mid-range shot and get himself to the free throw line and be active. But I’m trying my best.”

Whether it can translate into Turner’s best remains to be seen. With one year and $6.7 million remaining on his rookie contract, Turner doesn’t have a whole lot of time to prove he can be consistent.

Jahlil Okafor eager for more minutes as knee heals

Jahlil Okafor eager for more minutes as knee heals

CAMDEN, N.J. — Jahlil Okafor has been patient with his right knee. He was disciplined with restrictions and recovery during the preseason, recognizing the goal of being ready for opening night. 

At the same time, once he got back on the court he wanted more. Okafor played eight minutes Friday against the Heat, his first game since Feb. 28 before undergoing surgery to repair a right meniscus tear. 

“I don’t think I’m going to do eight again,” Okafor said Sunday. “They kind of heard me complain about that a lot. I think it’ll definitely be more than eight, but it won’t be much more.” 

Okafor has been limited since aggravating his knee during the final day of training camp. He practiced “to tolerance” on Sunday, according to the Sixers. Okafor did not participate in the team scrimmage and worked out individually with assistant coach/head of strength and conditioning Todd Wright. 

The second-year big man did not feel soreness on Saturday following the game. On Sunday, he felt “kind of stiff” during practice. Brett Brown has been watching Okafor’s movement closely. While Okafor considered it to be “good,” Brown was a tougher critic. 

“I think he looked OK,” Brown said. “He didn’t look great to me today. I’ll give him a B-minus … It’s always how do you move? East, west, north, south, how do you move?” 

Okafor scored four points and had one rebound, one assist, one block and one turnover in Miami. He focused on his defense during the game. When he subbed out, he checked in with Elton Brand on the bench to receive feedback from the now-retired veteran. Okafor plans to continue to tap into him for advice throughout the season. 

With opening night three days away, Okafor still plans to be on the floor for it.

“I am optimistic about it,” he said. “I should be ready to go.” 

Robert Covington sprained his right ankle in Friday’s game and did not practice Sunday. Brown anticipates Covington, who has been starting at small forward, also will be ready to go Wednesday. 

“I do (expect him to play),” Brown said. “But we won’t know that for sure yet.” 

Sixers waive retired Elton Brand
The Sixers waived Brand on Sunday, making his retirement official. Brand announced his intentions to walk away from the game Thursday. The Sixers' request of waivers was a procedural step. The roster currently stands at 19. 

“It’s been an honor, it’s been a privilege to play this game, the game that I love, and I’m certainly going to miss it,” Brand said last week (see story). “But it’s definitely time now.” 

Brand celebrated his career with his teammates at Komodo in Miami on Thursday night ahead of their preseason finale against the Heat. 

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

Report: Nerlens Noel expected out 3-5 weeks after left knee surgery

It appears the Sixers' frontcourt logjam may not be an issue early on.

Nerlens Noel, who is having surgery Monday for an inflamed plica in his left knee, will miss the first three to five weeks of the season, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Noel suffered a left groin injury in the first preseason game against the Celtics and missed the rest of the preseason. While undergoing treatment, Noel reported left knee soreness, which led to the discovery of the inflamed plica.

It's been an odd start to the season for Noel. The big man was outspoken about his displeasure with the Sixers' frontcourt situation early in camp. With the deadline for Noel's rookie contract extension approaching on Oct. 31, the team has not had conversations about it, according to a report.

The Sixers are already without No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons as he recovers from surgery to repair a Jones fracture in his right foot. The team will also be without their starting point guard Jerryd Bayless who is dealing with a ligament issue in his left wrist. Bayless won't require surgery and will be reevaluated in two weeks.