Before 76ers swingman Evan Turner made his regular-season debut Wednesday, the rookie had heard all the negative talk.
Turner, the No. 2 overall pick in June's draft, knew critics had already called him a bust. On Internet message boards, fans vented about how the difference between Turner and John Wall, the first overall pick, was vast.
Turner took in all the bashing and stayed quiet.
"A lot of people say negative things about me," Turner said. "You know, sometimes I want to say it's bugging me now. But it's not the classy thing to do - that's not the thing to do in general. Just keep working hard."
So Turner kept his composure, even when he knew he would come off the bench on opening night, and responded with a team-high 16 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists in a 97-87 loss to the Miami Heat at the Wells Fargo Center.
Turner was a part of the second unit that helped the Sixers stay afloat through most of the game against the Heat, the team favored to represent the Eastern Conference in the NBA Finals.
Coming in, Turner said he knew he would have to improve his shooting. On Wednesday, he made 7 of 10 shots from the field.
"I just wanted to come off the bench and not let anybody down and not have the momentum drop," Turner said. "I think Coach [Doug Collins] really thinks every part of the team is real important, whether you start or come off the bench. So I was just trying to come with intensity."
Early in the fourth quarter, Turner pulled a crossover move on Dwyane Wade and drilled a 19-foot jumper over the Heat guard, drawing the awe of the crowd. Later in the quarter, he made a two-handed breakaway dunk as the Heat's LeBron James nearly undercut him. Turner smiled and ran back on defense.
"I just didn't want to fall off the rim," a smiling Turner said on his 22d birthday.
In the postgame news conference, much of the questions directed at Collins involved Turner and how well the rookie performed in his debut.
"My starters are not necessarily my best players," said Collins, echoing his theme through training camp and the preseason. "That's why I said don't get caught up with who's starting.
"Evan came in tonight and was terrific."
Turner filled up the stat sheet before he began scoring. As soon as he entered the game with 5 minutes, 44 seconds to play in the first quarter, Turner snagged three rebounds and added three assists.
Two minutes into the second, Turner grabbed an offensive rebound and put back the shot as he was fouled. The three-point play tied the score at 23.
"Sometimes a guy coming off the bench can be more important to you than starting," Collins said. "Evan, from where he started out in Orlando [in summer league] to where he is now, is light-years [ahead]. And he's going to keep getting better because he's a kid that, once he believes in himself and believes he belongs, he really will take off."
Turner knows he'll have his critics, but he'll continue to go about his business.
"I was told people like to see a plane crash instead of a plane land," the rookie said. "People are going to say what they want. I never really thought about it because I know what's inside of me. It's a marathon, not a sprint."