LOS ANGELES - For the first time in two seasons and just the fifth time in his career, Evan Turner missed a 76ers game. Saturday night in Phoenix, Turner was a late scratch by coach Brett Brown due to soreness in his right knee. During the morning shootaround, Brown said that Turner didn't participate but was good to go that night. The coach had a change of heart after Turner warmed up for the game and sidelined his leading scorer.
"I think I may have aggravated it the past couple of days in practice," Turner said. "I think coach, for the most part, was just being precautionary."
Perhaps, as Turner was back in the lineup last night as the Sixers faced the Lakers. In Phoenix, Turner got treatment right up until game time and had the knee wrapped while on the bench. He was walking with a considerable limp Saturday but seemed to have a much better feel yesterday.
Turner first felt the discomfort after back-to-back games last Friday and Saturday when he played close to 81 minutes in the contests. The thought was that 3 days off around Christmas would solve the problem, but Turner started to feel the pain again after the team's two workouts in Phoenix.
"He calls the shots and I probably would have made it worse by playing. I'll be fine," Turner said. "It was more sore over the break and it felt fine. It's not 100 percent but I'm fine."
Turner stayed in uniform on Saturday instead of wearing the league-required suit jacket for players not available. Asked if he had even brought a jacket with him on the long trip, Turner quipped: "Of course not. That's bad luck."
There may be no NBA player more appreciative of his job than Philly and Temple product Dionte Christmas. Now in his first season in the league with the Phoenix Suns at age 27, Christmas is the epitome of what hard work is all about.
"Get out your pen and paper," he said when asked to list the places he's played since his days as an Owl. "Let's see, Israel, Turkey, Greece, Russia, I've been to the Czech Republic. I've been everywhere, man. It's been a grind, a crazy grind for me. God has truly blessed me, just keeping me with my drive, keeping me going. He blessed me with great health. Every year I'm going to different countries, different teams, playing against different competition. But I stuck it out. I think that's a testament to the people who are around me - my dad, my mom. Anytime I get down on myself I talk to those two and they've really been keeping me going. I came here this summer and played with Phoenix and Jeff Hornacek has really been a great help to me, a great mentor."
"He plays hard, practices hard so it's been a big lift for our team even when he's not on the court," said Hornacek, the Suns coach. "He makes the guys better in practice. He's a guy who can really shoot the ball. We've used him a couple of times early in the season when we weren't playing very well and nobody could make a shot and he got hot and made four or five in a row and we wound up winning the game. He gives us that instant offense that we can use him every once in a while and he just plays hard."
Christmas was taken in by Philly natives and twin brothers, Marcus and Markieff Morris, upon his arrival in Phoenix. He lives with them in their eight-bedroom house in Scottsdale and soaks in all knowledge he can about the league from the third-year vets.
"So we made our little arrangement and I've got my little side of the house, they've got their side of the house and it's cool," Christmas laughed. "Marcus stays on his side and Kieff stays on his side and I've got my own side. It's cool. Sometimes I don't even see these guys. I go and leave and go to the gym and I don't even see them. But they've helped me out a lot since I've got to Phoenix and I've been enjoying every minute of it."