The lines wound around the parking lot of Jack's Place in Avalon, N.J., on Saturday afternoon as Sixers fans waited to get a glimpse of and an autograph from rookie Evan Turner. They were there for the organization's annual Beach Bash celebration, which benefited the team's various charities.
"That's the main reason I came here, to see Evan Turner," said Jack Walsh, 11, of Marlton, N.J. "I think he's going to be really good."
Optimism was about as plentiful as sunshine as fans spoke of a major turnaround this season after the 27-win campaign of a year ago. Turner also sees bright times ahead for his new team.
"Man, this is pretty exciting," said Turner, as he signed autographs and shook hands. "You can really feel the energy from the fans here. Everywhere I go in and around Philadelphia, Sixers fans are really excited for the upcoming season. They aren't as excited as me, but no one could be."
Turner still shakes his head while remembering his subpar performance at the Orlando Summer League that ended nearly a month ago. During those five games in 5 days, he seemed a step behind his normal game and grew more frustrated as the week progressed. The common problem was a lack of conditioning, something he has been working on since leaving Orlando.
"I've been playing pretty much every day against good competition," Turner said. "It was really an eye-opener for me to get my butt kicked, but it was also a good thing, I think. That hasn't happened to me in a really long time, so it made me realize how much harder I had to work to get myself ready for training camp. I can't wait to get started and play with my new teammates and learn from them, and get ready for the season."
Turner has been in the area for a little while, scouting for a place to live. He is starting to become accustomed to his new home, and can't wait to do the same with his new running mates.
"I've talked to coach [Doug] Collins quite a bit since being drafted," Turner said. "I really love his enthusiasm for the game and how excited he is for the season. I've talked to some of my teammates and am looking forward to getting to know them better. I've talked to 'Iggy' [Andre Iguodala] and he's been giving me some really good advice. Everything so far is going really well. I just can't wait to get it all started."
It won't be long now. Training camp, which will be held again at Saint Joseph's, is less than 2 months away.
The NBA schedule will be released on Aug. 10 . . . President/general manager Ed Stefanski greeted and spoke with fans at length about the upcoming season . . . Doug Collins celebrated his 59th birthday last Wednesday. While he celebrated with his family, his wife, Kathy, made him turn off his Blackberry for the entire evening.
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