With Sixers down 3 starters, Turner slumping again

slideshow-020713-sixers-turner-ap.jpg

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.

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

Brett Brown has 'completely different feeling' in training camp this year

GALLOWAY, N.J. — Brett Brown left training camp last September with an unsettling feeling. He had just completed long days of scrimmages, drills and planning, and yet he sensed the Sixers were not ready to tackle the 82 games that lied ahead. 

“I remember driving back to Philadelphia last year knowing in my heart of heart that this group was going to be challenged,” Brown said Thursday following the morning practice session at Stockton University. “That was a frightening drive home. That drive home scared me because I felt like, I know what we have and how are we going to be able to maneuver through this?”

Brown was right. The Sixers lost their first 18 games and began the season 1-30. They stumbled the rest of the way, finishing the 2016-17 campaign with a dismal 10-72 record. 

“We really didn’t know who the point guard was,” Brown said. “We came in extremely injured, we were trying to make the Nerlens [Noel]-Jahlil [Okafor] thing work, there really weren’t a lot of veterans to look around [and see], and you knew it.”

Now in his fourth training camp as head coach, with 47 wins and 199 losses with the Sixers behind him, Brown has different emotions as the team nears the end of training camp on Friday. 

Instead of a constantly-changing lineup of players, the Sixers are building a roster that can serve as the foundation for the future. There are nine new players on the team, including first overall pick Ben Simmons and rookie Dario Saric. Joel Embiid will make his NBA debut after two years of injuries, and the Sixers added veteran leaders in free agency.

Brown has a clearer picture of what the team could look like this season and beyond. He is coaching training camp to enter a new chapter, not to simply make it through the upcoming months. 

“You can leave and you can sniff reality,” Brown said. “Now what I see is there’s depth. There are challenges positionally as we’ve talked about. But there’s talent. There’s point guards. They’re sprinkled in with some veterans. How we grow it and play it is still on the table. To me, it’s a completely different feeling that I have now that I did not have last year.”

The additions of Jerryd Bayless and Sergio Rodriguez at the one spot lessen the coaching load for Brown. He also can turn to T.J. McConnell from last season. The depth is a far cry from when the Sixers were quickly changing at that position and didn’t find a consistent starter until they traded for Ish Smith in late December.

“That position, I think, is vital when you start putting a bunch of 20-year-olds around it and trying to find some type of organization,” Brown said. “You just can’t replace a point guard’s intellect. You can’t replace, I think, somebody that has great command from that position. It certainly helps me.”

Brown expects to feel “proud” when the Sixers wrap training camp on Friday. He is looking forward to getting the season underway, beginning with two practices at the new training complex in Camden before their first preseason game Oct. 4 against the Celtics. 

Brown anticipates his drive home this time will be a much different trip. 

“I feel comfortable that we’re ticking boxes and we’re achieving the goals that we set out from the start of what we wanted to get done in Stockton,” he said.

The Sixers continued to monitor load management on Thursday, as Okafor, Embiid and Gerald Henderson did not participate in the morning scrimmage. Bayless also did not go through the scrimmage because of a sore left wrist. 

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

Nerlens Noel thinks he and Ben Simmons can be a lockdown defensive duo

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers' abundance of big men lends itself to numerous combinations in the frontcourt.

On Thursday, Nerlens Noel had his first experience playing with Ben Simmons. The center gelled with the rookie forward.

"It's a great duo, I think," Noel said following the morning practice session of training camp at Stockton University.

Noel has been paired with many big men during his career with the Sixers. Last season, he faced the challenge of playing out of position at times with Jahlil Okafor. The logjam prompted him to speak out about the current makeup of the roster (see story).

After playing with Simmons, Noel saw how the two can share the court.

"I think we complement each other very well, especially on the defensive end," Noel said. "He's definitely a lockdown type defender that digs in."

Even though Simmons has yet to play an NBA game, Noel already envisions how he can help the Sixers.

"He just plays basketball the right way," Noel said. "When your big man does that, it makes it a lot easier because he is very versatile being a point-forward type. That opens up a lot of things for him to be able to open up for his teammates."