For Turner, Celtics feel like the right fit

For Turner, Celtics feel like the right fit
July 22, 2014, 2:45 pm
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BOSTON — Turning his career towards a new page was certainly on Evan Turner's wish list as he mulled over his options during free agency this summer.

But as you'll see with Turner's narrative, signing with the Boston Celtics was as much about the team's glorious past as it was about the 25-year-old rebooting a still promising career that will to some degree be guided by Celtics head coach Brad Stevens.

"We picked Boston as much for the historical culture and for Brad, as for anything else," Turner's agent David Falk told on Tuesday.

Falk, who also represents Jeff Green and Jared Sullinger, discussed how Boston's use of versatile players in the past influenced his client's decision to sign with the Celtics.

There were two teams that Turner was seriously considering. Falk declined to reveal  the other team, but a league source indicated that it was the Minnesota Timberwolves.

"If you look back into the 1980s when you had Danny (Ainge) and (Dennis Johnson) in the backcourt, (Kevin) McHale and Larry upfront ... there was a lot of diversity in the way the players were used," Falk said. "Evan's a multi-dimensional player."

At 6-foot-7, Turner has the ability to play both backcourt positions as well as small forward.

Prior to being traded to Indiana midway through last season, he was averaging a career-high 17.4 points per game with the Sixers. More important, he began to showcase the promise many saw when he left Ohio State and was drafted by Philadelphia with the No. 2 pick in the 2010 NBA draft.

When it comes to the NBA's top players, on-the-floor versatility has become what binds them even as they bring different skills to the game.

"If you look at the league today, and you look at the really elite players - I'm not in anyway suggesting Evan has reached an elite level yet - you look at Carmelo (Anthony), LeBron (James), (Kevin) Durant, Kobe (Bryant) in his prime, (Tim) Duncan in his prime ... they all played multiple positions," Falk said. "People applaud those guys for their versatility. When you look at a guy like Evan, a lot of pro personnel people tried to pigeon hole him and say, 'what is he?'"

An NBA scout who has watched Turner dating back to his days as an AAU standout, agreed that attempts to put a specific position on Turner has had a negative impact on his growth as an NBA player.

"He's played all over the floor, but hasn't really found a natural fit," the scout said. "That's because there really isn't a natural fit for a player with his talent and size. But Boston, you look at the guys they are bringing in and the guys they kept, for the most part those guys all play at least two and sometimes three positions."

Said Falk: "Even (my client) Jeff Green, came into the league as a 4 (power forward), played some 3 (small forward) and last year played some 2 (shooting guard). Boston has a history of that. Danny is the architect and I truly believe he appreciates that."

But as important as versatility is, arguably just as vital to a player's success is the relationship he has with the head coach.

This past weekend, Falk said he was at an event with his daughter in Minneapolis, MN, and happened to run into a dear friend - Flip Saunders, head coach, part-owner and president of basketball operations of the Minnesota Timberwolves.

"I was telling him (Saunders) how important it was that ... you need to be in synch with your coach," Falk recalled. "And he (Saunders) said to me, 'in this league you're as good as your coach thinks you are.'"

Turner had gained the trust of the Sixers coaching staff prior to being traded to the Pacers.

But considering Indiana's position among the top teams in the East along with the role that Turner was accustomed to serving at that time was being filled by Lance Stephenson, it resulted in rocky times for all involved.

Those factors coupled with Turner not having enough time to earn head coach Frank Vogel's trust, resulted in him averaging career lows in scoring (7.1 points) and minutes played (21.1) during his 27 games with the Pacers.

Having an opportunity to prove himself and gain that much-needed faith of the head coach was among the factors Turner's camp weighed in deciding to sign with Boston.

Said Falk: "Brad, being a year removed from college, that quality and the relationship that he (Turner) can have with a young coach like Brad who is a very talented, young coach ... it's the kind of environment we were looking for."

But just as it was in Philadelphia and Indiana, Turner will have to play his way into meaningful minutes which won't be easy, not with a Celtics roster that's extremely crowded at every position.

With Turner, Boston now has 18 players under contract although three of those players (Chris Babb, Keith Bogans and Chris Johnson) have non-guaranteed deals.

"For me, anywhere you go in this league you're going to have to compete," Falk said. "You can wait until September or October and see how the rosters shake out, but Boston was always Evan's number one choice."

There's the relationship he shares with Jared Sullinger who like Turner, was an All-American at Ohio State before becoming a first-round draft pick. Falk said Turner and Green also have a solid friendship.

And then there's head coach Brad Stevens, whose first job in coaching came under then-Butler head coach Thad Motta who would later go on to coach both Turner and Sullinger at Ohio State.

"There's a certain thread running through this," Falk said. "He couldn't be any happier with being a Boston Celtic."