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John Smallwood: There's hope for the Sixers' backcourt of the future

I WAS WRONG. The Sixers’ backcourt of the future is not Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner.

Doug Collins started Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday in the backcourt in Game 2 against the Bulls. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)
Doug Collins started Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday in the backcourt in Game 2 against the Bulls. (Ron Cortes/Staff Photographer)Read more


The Sixers' backcourt of the future is not Jrue Holiday and Evan Turner.

It's Evan Turner and Jrue Holiday.

I got wrapped up in the semantics of saying the name of the player running at point guard first and shooting guard second.

And in my personal take, I'd bought in to Holiday as the lead and Turner as the off guard.

I admit that I was not totally on board with a lot of Sixer fans — who likely will remind me today — who believe that Turner and Holiday would both be better with a switch of roles.

I still don't think the Sixers have to do something that definitive. They don't have to label Turner as the point or Holiday as the "two" guard, or vice versa.

The emergence of the combo guard or scoring point guard, ushered in by the likes of Allen Iverson and Stephon Marbury, changed the traditional structure of the backcourt.

All I've wanted — looking right at coach Doug Collins — was for the Sixers to make a firm commitment to putting these two young players together in the backcourt to see whether they could figure things out.

It's all I've said since the Sixers drafted Turner with the second overall pick in 2010.

It's why I've advocated at every juncture that I would have have traded Andre Iguodala and would still do so at the next opportunity.

This backcourt can't develop properly with the presence of a solid veteran player who does many of the same things and has earned his minutes and ballhandling time.

Iguodala's presence is an undeniable enticement for Collins to dismiss the long-term benefits of growing pains for more instant gratification.

Why bring this up now?

It's simple — the Sixers' 109-92 win in Game 2 of their Eastern Conference, first-round series on Tuesday in Chicago.

Collins started Turner and Holiday in the backcourt — technically, the box score listed Holiday as PG and Turner as SG — and ran them both more than 40 minutes. That might be a first this season.

The result was a devastating combination of 45 points on 19-for-30 shooting with 12 assists and nine rebounds.

The Sixers looked as good as they have against a quality opponent for a long time, and, with the way the game flowed, it's hard not to connect it to Turner starting again and playing big minutes.

Not only did Jodie Meeks not start, he played only 1 minute.

This series may have shifted.

Obviously, the Bulls not having injured All-Star Derrick Rose was a huge extenuating circumstance. If Rose had not blown out his knee in the closing minutes of Game 1, perhaps the Sixers would be down, 0-2, instead of being even going into Friday's Game 3 at the Wells Fargo Center.

A Chicago win Friday would quickly swing things back in its favor. But that doesn't change what I felt while watching the Sixers on Tuesday — with acknowledged check-ins on the Flyers and Phillies. Seeing Holiday and Turner work together, play off each other, seamlessly switch roles and responsibilities during a huge, pressure-packed situation, gave me something from a Sixers playoff performance I had not gotten since Game 1 of the 2001 NBA Finals — hope.

On that night more than a decade ago, Iverson's incredibly career-defining game made me believe, if only for one Hollywood-ending night, that David might actually be able to slay Goliath, the Los Angeles Lakers.

OK, so Tuesday wasn't nearly as dramatic, but the point is that all of the potential I've been hoping to see out of a Turner/Holiday tandem showed itself when it most mattered. After a decade of watching the Sixers spin their wheels during the playoffs and fail to deliver at every big opportunity, the kids who were brought together to be the future stepped up and delivered in the biggest moment of the season thus far.

Collins issued a challenge to the tandem, showed some faith in them, and the youngsters responded in a big way.

It was further evidence that Turner is at his best when he isn't looking over his shoulder. His play elevates when he thinks his coach has faith in him.

Game 2 was an actual display of growth and progress. It wasn't like beating the Miami Heat in a meaningless Game 4 last year, when already down in the series, 3-0.

It certainly wasn't 2009, when the Sixers came home for Game 6 against the Orlando Magic and got run out the building.

With Rose out, Tuesday was a chance for the Sixers to position themselves to take control of what suddenly has become a winnable playoff series. It was the kind of opportunity they never had succeeded at during the six seasons Iguodala has been the face of the franchise.

Holiday/Turner or Turner/Holiday delivered.

I don't know what Tuesday means. It may have been an aberration. Reality could come crashing back in the form of a Bulls win on Friday.

But for one game, at least, we got a glimpse of what the Sixers have sold as their future. We left thinking that maybe there is something there.

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