Turner adapting to life as starting small forward
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Evan Turner was putting in his time after practice shooting perimeter shots on Friday. On the heels of Turner’s 2-for-12 shooting night against Orlando, extra work seemed appropriate.
Turner was not alone in his shooting struggles. Thaddeus Young and Spencer Hawes joined him, but there were other facets of the game that were real positives for the new-look Sixers.
“Three of our key guys were 9 for 34 from the field,” head coach Doug Collins said of Turner, Hawes and Young. “We ended up shooting 45 percent. We would like to be over 45 percent. We were 9 for 18 from three. We had 24 fast-break points and 15 of those were on threes, so we had five transition threes. We had 44 points at the three and free throw line (combined), which is good.”
The bad from Thursday night was the fact that the Sixers allowed 58 points in the paint and were outrebounded, 49-43. Poor defensive rebounding led to the Magic’s 22 second-chance points.
The rebounding should improve when Andrew Bynum enters the lineup. Bynum was the third-leading rebounder in the NBA last season with 11.8 boards per game.
Turner, who had seven rebounds on Thursday, can be a force on the glass, especially in the defensive rebounding category. However, switching from the shooting guard spot to small forward requires Turner to make some adjustments in getting to the backboard.
“It is going to be way more physical,” Turner said of rebounding from the small forward position. “And with certain people on the court I am going to have to help them a little bit, but the biggest difference is I am guarding the best scorer, and sometimes that takes me off the boards.”
“What should be really good when he does defensive rebound at the three, to really push that ball in the open court, which he does well,” Collins said.
Turner is a very strong defensive rebounder. He totaled 349 defensive boards last season in 1,713 minutes. Only one other guard or small forward had more defensive rebounds than Turner – LeBron James with 398. James also played significantly more minutes (2,326).
The Sixers need Turner’s rebounding prowess, and his overall improving defensive game.
“Defensively, he needs to do his work early,” Collins explained. “You can’t let guys get the ball in their sweet spot because once those scorers get it there it is tough to defend them. One of the things we don’t want to have to do is a lot of double-teaming because that breaks down your rebounding.
“The big thing with that three spot, it’s a lethal spot offensively. He and whoever else are going to be assigned that position, that is going to be very important. That’s what Andre (Iguodala) did for us. 'Dre took on that challenge every night.”
Just as the rebounding should improve when Bynum returns, so too should the Sixers’ defense. Bynum’s size alone will give a boost to his teammates and a presence to the opposition when they are looking to attack the basket.
Bynum will be in attendance on Saturday night when the Sixers entertain the Brooklyn Nets at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. He continues to be sidelined as he rehabs his knee. The team felt the trip to Orlando was unnecessary, as his rehab routine is more valuable at this point.
The Sixers will also take a step up in competition on Saturday against a much-improved Nets roster.
“We are going to get a dose of some damn good basketball players,” Collins said. “They added Joe Johnson and he and Deron Williams out there together, that can be as potent a backcourt as any in the NBA. They have size, they have physicality, they can both shoot the three. They can both post, and they are going to put a lot of pressure on you.”
Williams and Johnson are the headliners. However, New Jersey added a formidable backup point guard in C.J. Watson, who always played well against the Sixers when he was with the Chicago Bulls. Gerald Wallace has moved to small forward, which gives New Jersey a bigger slasher at that position. Finally, the duo of Kris Humphries and Brook Lopez in the post gives the Nets a big front line.
Five of the Sixers’ final six preseason games are against Atlantic Division foes. They will see the Nets in Brooklyn six days after Saturday’s A.C. matchup, while they also face Boston twice and the Knicks in the preseason finale.