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BOSTON – Evan Turner has learned one great lesson since joining the Boston Celtics: do not worry about slugging percentages.
The fifth-year swingman looked poised and comfortable Monday night while leading his new team, the C’s, to a 98-78 win over his old team, the Sixers. Turner says a conversation with Brad Stevens led to his cool, calm and collected demeanor in the preseason opener.
“We spoke a couple of days ago and coach was like, ‘Just hit singles and your talent’s going to take over. Just take it one step at a time and [don’t do anything] too complicated. Eventually your talent is going to take over,’” Turner recalled. “And that’s what I did.”
Talk about a successful plan of attack.
Turner was the basketball version of a dynamic leadoff hitter Monday night. He slapped singles to all fields, stole bases to set up his teammates, and crossed home plate to put his team in position to win. He was fantastic.
No one on Boston’s roster scored more points than Turner’s 15. No one in the game dished out more assists than his six. Only one player, Jared Sullinger, grabbed more rebounds than Turner’s 10.
He was a multifaceted threat, one that Stevens wants to see on a regular basis.
“That’s who he is,” Stevens said, answering a question pertaining to Turner’s versatility. “And that’s who he’s got to be.”
According to the coach and Turner himself, the former No. 2 overall pick returned to his roots on Sunday. Less than two days removed from a poor performance in an intrasquad scrimmage, Turner showed up to the practice facility and looked like a different player.
“I thought yesterday was his best practice,” Stevens commented.
Turner seconded that statement and explained what had changed for him over the course of those 48 hours.
“I think I just started finding a little rhythm,” he said. “I think (Rajon) Rondo helped me a lot with my patience of it and kind of told me what he was seeing … I think finally I just started slowing down and letting the game come to me.”
The game of singles, of course.
Turner changed the game with his decision making and ability to set the offense into motion. He found holes in the defense, so to speak, to a tune that surprised some of his teammates.
“He has a really, really good handle and he’s really good in ball screens and he’s a really good passer,” said Kelly Olynyk, who started at center alongside Turner. “I think I kind of underestimated his ball handling and his passing ability.”
Those abilities will no longer go underestimated in Boston. Turner’s signing will be a home run for Boston if he continues to hit singles the way he did Monday night.