Turner embracing new, more prominent role with Sixers

October 21, 2013

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Things are different for Evan Turner this season. One look at the Philadelphia 76ers’ roster makes that fairly evident.

Turner was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft. He turns 25 years old in less than a week. He’s still a young player. But not on this team.

“I’m one of the old guys now,” Turner said, smiling, after the Sixers’ 104-93 preseason loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday at Ohio State University.

The game was a special occasion for Turner, as he starred for the Buckeyes from 2007-10. This was his first return to the arena in which he once dominated.

On this night, things were a little shaky. Turner went 4-for-13 from the field for 14 points. He also committed five turnovers. But Turner didn’t consider it a less-than-memorable homecoming by any stretch.

“It was cool, it was fun,” he said. “It’s just preseason, so our guys have time to get it together.”

Aside from perhaps Monday’s performance, which was far from awful, it appears at least Turner himself is getting it together. Entering the week, he was sixth in the NBA in preseason scoring at 19.8 points per game.

That’s up six points from last season and nearly double his career average.

The Sixers have a new coach in Brett Brown, a new plan (that doesn’t exactly involve the here-and-now) and, from the looks of things, a new man to take most of the shots and lead. That man, it seems, is Turner.

It is a new challenge for him, and if you ask Turner, he’s up for it.

“I’m getting confident that I can get to the basket and get my shot whenever I want,” he said. “I’ve been shooting it well all preseason, so I’ll take this one bad game. Shots went in, shots went out. I’m not worried about it.”

While Turner was upbeat after the game, mostly because of his return to Columbus, the Sixers are not in a great place. They traded All-Star point guard Jrue Holiday to the New Orleans Pelicans on draft night, receiving former University of Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel in return.

On Monday, Brown announced that Noel, coming off knee surgery, would likely be out for the season. Besides Turner, the likes of rookie guard Michael Carter-Williams, center Spencer Hawes and small forward Thaddeus Young are the Sixers' biggest threats.

So the roster has been depleted, stripped of hope and looking to make a run at the lottery. That’s a tough way to enter the year.

But Turner knows this is his chance to make his mark, to lift a team in desperate need of a leader.

“I’m just trying to get some rhythm, trying to get to the free-throw line, and gear everything toward the real season,” he said.

In that sense, he’s right on track.

In that sense, he’s a whole new player. So, yes, things are different for Evan Turner this year.

Twitter: @SamAmicoFSO