CHICAGO Its been quite a trip home back to Chicago for Evan Turner. Hes been able to see his mom and his family and visit the places he likes to eat. Hes had Harolds Chicken, been by Lou Malnatis for some deep dish and later he plans on stopping by Fratellos for hot dogs.
As far as the culinary aspect of the trip goes, Turner has done alright.
But hes also in town to work. Business, he says, comes first and if Saturdays Game 1 was any indicator, Turner is going to be very busy in Game 2 on Tuesday night as well.
Turner came off the bench to play nearly 30 minutes in Game 1 where he relieved the largely ineffective Jodie Meeks. Though he took just nine shots, Turner had 12 points and got to the foul line five times to go with five assists and three steals. Generally, Turner caused a panic for the Bulls when he was on the floor which is something Meeks was unable to do.
But when it comes to adjusting his starting lineup for Game 2, Sixers coach Doug Collins has not decided on any changes just yet. That doesnt mean hes standing pat with Meeks in the backcourt with point guard Jrue Holiday, but one has to believe hes leaning toward giving Turner the nod.
You know Im not going to answer that, Collins said when asked if he was going to use the same starting lineup for Game 2.
In Game 1, Meeks started the game guarding veteran Rip Hamilton and was promptly lit up for 11 points. Hamilton hit all four of his shots (including a three-pointer), made two foul shots and had an assist. Collins pulled Meeks just seven minutes into the game and didnt put him back in until there were three minutes remaining.
Meanwhile, Meeks missed the only shot he took, had a turnover and was hit for a foul on Hamilton. When Turner came in he was able to limit Hamilton to just two more baskets for the rest of the game.
Still, Collins pointed out that guarding an active player who runs all over the floor like Hamilton is no easy feat for Turner, either.
Hes never really chased guys as a two-guard or a small forward so thats a real adjustment, Collins said. But Im very happy with Evan, I think hes made great strides. I think last year in the playoffs he took a big jump and I think in Game 1 he played very well. For us to win, a big part of it is his rebounding. He and Andre Iguodala help us on the boards and the problem for Dre is hes chasing guys on the perimeter and we missed both of those guys on the boards.
Turner guarded both Dwyane Wade and LeBron James during the playoffs last season and did a fairly solid job of it. He also stood out offensively in the Sixers victory in Game 4. Still, even though Collins says he does not know which player Turner will defend against, it seems as if the second-year guard is gearing up for another go-around with Hamilton.
You have to be aggressive, Turner said. Rip is a vet so he knows how to move around and maneuver. Sometimes you have to body up with him, sometimes he uses his hands and starts pushing and stuff so you have to get your body into him and limit where he wants to go and what he wants to do.
Nevertheless, there is the issue of the starting lineup. Collins always points to Meeks ability to space out the floor and his shooting prowess as an aspect he likes to have with the starting unit and the Sixers went 27 for 19 with Meeks as a starter compared to 8 for 12 with Turner.
But Meeks needs to be set up in order to be effective offensively. Turner has the ability to create a shot and play three different positions on the floor. When Meeks did not start games, his scoring and shooting percentage dropped significantly even though his minutes remained somewhat the same.
Its been a tough year for him very streaky, Collins said about Meeks. Hes had moments when he shot the ball really, really well for us and teams arent going to give him any shots. I think you saw when he played a lot of minutes and he got 18 or 19 shots and he was driving to the basket and he got fouled and he put up 20-something points.
Unfortunately with our team hes not going to get volume shots. He needs to be out running and we can find him on the break. Its hard for him because when you dont get a lot of shots then it puts a lot of pressure on you to make the ones you get. But with Jodie there is never a doubt that hes all about winning and wants the team to win. I have tremendous respect for him.
Turner, however, is just different. Collins said he felt as though Turner had earned a starting job coming out of training camp, but because of the way the schedule and the dynamics of the compressed season shaped up, it was better for the team if Meeks was on the first unit.
As the playoffs continue, however, one has to wonder if thats still the same.
I think Evan is a big-game guy and I think hes a big-game competitor. I think he thrives in those moments, Collins said. Last year in the Miami series I think he took the challenge of playing against D-Wade and LeBron and I thought he grew from that. He was the victim of this condensed season. Evan was one of our best players coming back and I started the same group because I wanted to get off to a good start and we did by going 20-9. Im not sure if we would have done that if we had changed the starting lineup. I think there would have been an unfamiliarity with Turner and I think if we had done that we might not have been a playoff team. Turner was the guy who was the victim of that.
There could be a couple more return trips to Chicago for Turner, but first the Sixers have to win one of these games. Perhaps he will return to Philadelphia as a part of the starting five.