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.

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

Nerlens Noel joins Sixers in New Orleans, may play Sunday vs. Pistons

NEW ORLEANS — Nerlens Noel made another step toward his return from arthroscopic left knee surgery by joining the Sixers in New Orleans for their game against the Pelicans.

Noel arrived on Wednesday with Robert Covington, who is slated to start after missing the last three games with a left knee sprain. Noel is not cleared to play, but Brown doesn’t think it will be long until he suits up. 

“I don’t think far away,” Brown said of Noel’s regular season debut after shootaround.

When asked about the possibility of Noel playing this weekend when the Sixers face the Pistons on Sunday in Detroit, Brown replied, “Maybe.” 

Noel has missed the entire regular season recovering from elective surgery for an inflamed plica in October. He completed the first phase of his rehab in Birmingham, Ala. and has been continuing his work with the Sixers. This trip to New Orleans is the first time he has been with the Sixers on the road. 

“[He is] integrating with the team, studying a lot of tape, scripting with his teammates with the understanding that we have a chance to see him soon,” Brown said. “All that trying to ramp it up where he can go to an NBA court more comfortably.”

Noel spoke out about his displeasure with the Sixers crowded frontcourt at the start of the preseason. He recently stuck with his stance, saying, “I don’t think the roster’s changed.”

Brown is working to keep the team moving forward as a unit while still being aware of and recognizing Noel’s perspective. 

“It does,” Brown said when asked if Noel’s open frustration concerns him as it pertains to team cohesiveness. “But I feel like it’s so much a part of what we try do around here that it’s not like you’re going to blink and you’ve forgotten something that equals camaraderie, that equals team, that equals trying to keep this together, and you’ve left it for a week … 

“It’s a day-to-day focus for me and it’s a very candid conversation with me and the player. The team hears it, the individual hears it, we all understand it … We need to coexist and we need to understand the reality of it all, too. There’s a human side you understand. It’s also pride, it’s competitiveness, it’s do your job, it’s nothing is given, you’ve got to take stuff, draw your own line in the sand, competitors rule the day.”

Last season Noel averaged 11.1 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds per game. The Sixers will look forward to having him back on the court in that once-crowded frontcourt that is now shorthanded. Jahlil Okafor remained in Philadelphia with gastroenteritis. Ben Simmons still is rehabbing from a right foot fracture. 

"Soon you’re going to see Ben Simmons coming to a team bench where he doesn’t come out with boots and have to push him in some type of wheely apparatus," Brown said. "We’ve dealt with so many injuries trying to find that balance of dealing with their health and so on, and then trying to integrate them back into a team is part of growing a program."

Sixers-Pelicans 5 things: Joel Embiid takes on dominating Anthony Davis

Sixers-Pelicans 5 things: Joel Embiid takes on dominating Anthony Davis

76ers (4-18) vs. Pelicans (7-15)
8 p.m. on TCN and CSNPhilly.com, Pregame Live starts at 7:30

The Sixers will try to snap their eight-game losing skid when they take on the New Orleans Pelicans at the Smoothie King Center on Thursday night.

Let's take a closer look at the matchup:

1. Walking wounded, part II
After the Sixers were limited to nine available players in Tuesday's loss to the beat-up Memphis Grizzlies, things won't be much better in the health department in New Orleans.

Sure, Joel Embiid's expected return after sitting out the second half of a back-to-back set for rest will be a welcome boost. However, the Sixers are still dealing with a host of other ailments that will likely limit them to just 10 healthy bodies on Thursday night.

The Pelicans surely won't shed a tear for the Sixers because they have their own injury issues. New Orleans could have as many as five players sidelined, including former Sixer Jrue Holiday with turf toe.

2. The next big thing
All of the injuries won't decrease the game's intrigue, mainly because of the matchup at center between Embiid and Anthony Davis.

Embiid is coming off a subpar performance in his last outing against the Denver Nuggets, but the big man has still been as advertised this season. The rookie is putting up 18.5 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 23.3 minutes a game. Embiid is also shooting 46.8 percent from the field and an even 50.0 percent from three-point range.

On the other side, Davis has been an absolute monster for the Pelicans this season, even if it hasn't translated into many wins. 

The three-time All-Star leads the NBA in scoring with 31.6 points per game on 50.3 percent shooting. While carrying the scoring load, Davis has still been able to average a career-high 11.5 rebounds, 2.8 blocks, 2.2 assists and 1.8 steals a night.

This should be the first of many meetings between two big men that look to dominate the future of the league.

3. Glass repair
With Embiid out on Tuesday, the Sixers were dominated 69-54 in the rebounding battle against the Grizzlies.

They should find things a little easier in that department against the Pelicans. Despite Davis' best efforts on the boards, New Orleans has allowed a league-high 48.9 rebounds to opponents this season. 

With Embiid back in the lineup, Ersan Ilyasova coming off a 17-rebound game and Richaun Holmes always active, the Sixers should be able to control the rebounding category.

4. Injuries
Robert Covington (knee/illness) is available to play. Jahlil Okafor (illness), Jerryd Bayless (wrist), Nerlens Noel (knee) and Ben Simmons (foot) are out for the Sixers.

Holiday (toe) and E'Twaun Moore (toe) are questionable. Tyreke Evans (knee), Dante Cunningham (knee) and Quincy Pondexter (knee) are out for the Pelicans.

5. This and that
•  The Sixers are trying to avoid a franchise-record 24th straight road loss.

•  The Sixers and Pelicans split the season series in 2015-16 with each team winning at home.

•  Ilyasova is averaging 16.2 points and 8.2 boards so far in December.