A few days ago this site ran a piece urging coach to curtail Jodie Meeks’ minutes in favor of the more talented Evan Turner; a move that seemed mandatory if the team hoped to advance further into the month of May.
Despite the wishes of this site’s writers, Jodie still started in Game 1 and saw double digit minutes — 11 to be exact. Although that total was down substantially from his regular season average of 24.9 mpg.
Not surprisingly, Chicago steamrolled the Sixers for a Game 1 win, and it became exceedingly clear to the Philly faithful that a shakeup was necessary. So, our wish was granted, and in Game 2 on Tuesday night, Evan Turner started his first career playoff game, and what a start it was.
Not a complete newcomer to the NBA’s postseason Turner, currently a sophomore in the League, had a strong playoff performance last year ( 5 games last season — 8 ppg. & 5 rpg.), serving as one of the Sixers’ only bright spots in an otherwise disappointing series with Miami. He elevated his overall play, and showed a tough confidence that the team rallied around. Thus, it was no surprise to see Collins reaching for Turner when it became clear that he needed to tweak the lineup to compete in this series. The move represented the second time in as many seasons that the coaching staff has expanded Evan’s role at the most important point of the season; illustrating that they clearly have the confidence in him and believe that he gives them the best chance to win.
The coaching staff’s confidence clearly paid off, and in a Game 2 where Jodie Meeks saw one minute of play in comparison to Turner’s forty-two, the Sixers surprised Chicago on the road with a strong second half to tie the series 1-1 and bring the momentum with them on the flight back to Philly. The Sixers second half run was largely spearheaded by Turner, who hit several big buckets (for 11 points) during the Sixers huge third quarter run and brought some much needed toughness and tenacity to a team that can all too often be timid.
Turner’s consistently strong playoff play should serve as a signal to Coach Collins, as well as the rest of the League that he’s ready. He has done his time, two years of standing around while the starters names are called has to be tough for someone who had become used to being a star throughout their career. Let us not forget, this kid was the number two pick in the NBA draft. He was the 2010 National Player of the Year, and led the Big Ten in scoring two straight seasons; kid can play. Just because ET has accepted his reserve role and hasn’t gone all Demarcus Cousins on the Sixers and demanded a trade doesn’t mean Turner isn’t dying to prove how good he truly is, and get some of the League-wide recognition that often comes with being a top two pick.
It is largely possible that his secondary role with the Sixers and the resulting lack of exposure has created a chip on his shoulder that often comes out in his game, such as we have seen with his amped up play in the postseason. He is ready for his time to shine, and the Sixers are too. He is the team’s most well-rounded player, as he can defend multiple positions, rebound, and run the break. He is an extremely talented offensive player as well. As he should again Tuesday night, Turner is a good isolation player, he can take a defender off the dribble, back guys down (ask Rip Hamilton), distribute the ball well and is a strong finisher. All the kid needs is a starting spot and a clearly defined role, and we could be seeing the birth of the Sixers next star, he has all of the pieces. Hopefully Collins addition of Evan into the starting lineup this postseason is representative of him being ready to embrace Turner as one of the keys to the future of this franchise.
Anything else is now unacceptable.