On this night, after making perhaps the most athletic play of the evening, the person laughing and poking fun at Evan Turner's perceived lack of athleticism is - Evan Turner.
"You don't think so?" a smiling Turner said, incredulity all over his face. "My friends talked about it all the time. We used to joke around about it. I'm decently athletic, but I'm not a freak like some guys that are out there."
This was about an hour after Turner, last year the 76ers' first No. 2 overall pick since they whiffed on Shawn Bradley in 1992, had looked anything but athletically challenged.
Coach Doug Collins, committed to boosting Turner's confidence after a shaky rookie season, was playing Turner extended minutes in the preseason opener in Washington just over a week ago. Bringing the ball up against the Wizards, Turner, just right of the three-point line, wrapped a dribble around his back and, in the process, ran 2010 top pick John Wall into a screen set by 7-0, 240-pound Sixers rookie Nikola Vucevic.
The move drew some gasps in the Verizon Center, but more important it gave the 6-7 Turner a wide-open look at the basket just inside the free-throw line. Turner swished a basket that would make the highlights on ESPN. It was part of an impressive stat line that saw him pack 16 points, seven rebounds, and three assists in 30 minutes.
This type of play was mostly absent from Turner's rookie season. Limited playing time quickly whittled away his confidence. And it didn't take long for his jumper - questionable when he left Ohio State - to follow.
After averaging 20.3 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 5.9 assists, and after picking up the Naismith Trophy, the John R. Wooden Award, and three other awards for being the top collegiate player in 2009-10, Turner, who left Ohio State after his junior season, was barely noticed his rookie year.
"I think there were times when he got lost out there," said Sixers president Rod Thorn. "It was pretty tough for him early on. But I think as the season went on he got a little more comfortable. He was playing pretty well for us at the end of last season. We feel pretty good about where he's a valuable piece."
Turner worked on his game this summer. Specifically, he worked on his suspect jumper with Philadelphia University coach Herb Magee. A Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame who's known as the "Shot Doctor," Magee worked many hours with Turner, watching his shot and diagnosing the problem.
"I was putting my hand on top of the ball and not on the side of it," Turner said. "Your guide hand has to be on the side of the ball. We worked on it. I know that it helped."
Collins has committed to bringing Turner off the bench because he wants his ballhandling skills on the floor with players such as Lou Williams and Thaddeus Young.
Turner was at his best at Ohio State when he played on the ball, a fact not lost on Collins. Collins envisions Turner, drafted to play shooting guard, in more of a point-forward role and plans to use him that way.
"When I coached Grant we utilized him that way," Collins said. "Evan plays similar to Grant in that he can see the floor and he's very comfortable with the ball in his hands. That's an added benefit for our team."
So will Turner be better this year? Or will his troubles continue.
"He's much more confident now," said teammate Andre Iguodala. "This is a league where confidence is so important, and he has it. He'll be much better."
YR FG-A FG% 3PM-A 3P% FT-A FT% REB A STL BLK TO PF PTS Avg.
10-11 225-529 43% 14-44 32% 101-125 81% 306 159 49 14 80 138 565 7.2
10-11 17-38 45% 4-5 80% 2-2 100% 23 4 3 1 0 9 40 8.0