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The Turner Problem

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The excuses are starting to get to me. Evan Turner has been playing horribly passive basketball for the past six games. It's been glaring since Andre Iguodala returned from his achilles injury, but the problem didn't start there.

Excuses have been made for Turner since he first donned the Sixers jersey in Orlando for the Summer League. They've gone from rusty to out of shape to needing the ball in his hands to uncomfortable with certain teammates to all of the above. The one thing that simply hasn't been said is that Turner needs to take it upon himself to become an integral part of this team.

The most-recent excuse is that he can't play with Iguodala because he needs the ball in his hands to be effective. Jrue Holiday needs the ball in his hands, he's able to play with Iguodala. Lou Williams needs the ball in his hands, he's able to play with Iguodala. Iguodala isn't exactly a gunner, his usage rate is below 20% for the season, the lowest it's been in years. Against Portland, AI9 only attempted four field goals in 42 minutes. Iguodala spent the summer sharing the floor with a bevy of ball-needy players and excelled in that role. The problem here isn't Iguodala's presence on the floor, it's Turner's refusal to assert himself.

Whatever the reason - be it a lack of comfort, a lack of confidence, insecurity, unfamiliarity with his teammates and the pace of the NBA game, fear of making mistakes - he needs to get over it. Far too often, it looks like Turner is feeling sorry for himself out on the floor. Doug Collins has handed him the starting SG position and the third-most minutes on the team. That starting spot may disappear shortly, possibly even for Friday night's game against the Hawks, and that might not be a bad thing.

In the past, I've been a huge proponent of rookies getting playing time. Under most circumstances, I think every minute spent on the floor is worth 100 in practice. In Turner's case, though, I'm not sure how much experience he's getting out of these minutes. Standing in the corner, passing the ball at the earliest opportunity, and not in a way that's improving the team's odds of scoring ... I don't see how that's moving him toward being a productive offensive player.

Doug Collins isn't without blame for the situation, but one thing you can't fault him for is Turner's minutes. The kid has been shamefully gun shy and there are times when you can't have that. Up until about five games ago, you could make the case that his rebounding and defense were enough to keep him on the floor, but the rebounding has dropped off precipitously and there have been a few too many lapses on the defensive end as well. Collins has probably given Turner more minutes than his play has warranted. No, Doug's sin has been his passivity in the handling of Turner.

Collins has said time and time again that Turner is having a hard time transitioning off the ball, and he's also said Turner is searching for his confidence. There's a simple solution, it's one Collins himself came up with at the beginning of the season. Let Turner run the point with the second unit. The only problem is, Turner was always the point guard in name only. Since opening night, Lou Williams has been playing the point and positively dominating the ball for the second unit. When Turner has been out there with the starters, I can't remember a single time when Collins put the ball in Turner's hands and let him orchestrate a play. He's got sets in there designed to get Thad the ball facing the hoop just above the foul line. He's got pick and rolls to get Jrue into the paint. He's got cluster screens to get Iguodala the ball moving to the hoop. He's got something to play to each of his players' strengths, but nothing to get the ball to Turner on the perimeter in an iso. Turner doesn't even get to run the pick-and-roll.

It's a two-part solution, really. Collins has given Turner the minutes and Turner has done nothing with the opportunity. It's time for the kid to start demanding the ball. Every time you get the ball, you look to make a play first. Every time you're on the floor, you're aggressive, on both ends. Make it so Collins has no choice but to play you through your rookie struggles, even if your shot isn't falling. Once the minutes are earned, and you can visibly see Turner taking an active role in the offense, then it's on Collins to create situations where he can be successful, then you build on that success.

I don't doubt there's a productive player somewhere inside Evan Turner. Unfortunately, we've only seen a few flashes, and not nearly enough for Collins to keep playing him heavy minutes in the hopes Turner will organically emerge from his shell. I wish a more concerted effort had been made by this point to get Turner into his comfort zone, but he seems to be getting more and more lost. It's time to shift the burden onto him and see what he's made of.
by Brian on Dec 2 2010
Tags: Basketball | Evan Turner | Sixers |