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By Spike Eskin
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – A wise man once said, “good things don’t end, unless they end badly.” Well, it wasn’t a wise man, it was Ben Flajnik when he got dumped in the Bachelorette, but the point still holds true.
For more than a year, I defended Doug Collins’ use of Evan Turner in a backup role. If the guy wasn’t ready to play, he wasn’t ready to play. If he needed to learn how to play off the ball, and this was the best way to do it, so be it. If this is what it takes for Turner to be a productive NBA player let’s do it. Sure, he was the second pick in the draft, but the team was competitive, so the strategy made sense to me.
When Collins yelled, and Turner pouted, and Collins yelled some more, I felt like it was something that Turner needed.
At the same time, I defended Evan Turner’s lack of production. When people called him a bust, that he couldn’t shoot or wasn’t athletic enough, I said it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter because there were flashes of brilliance in the NBA, and there was year of brilliance at Ohio State. I saw it with my own eyes.
And when Turner struggled, and his play time decreased, and Turner struggled some more, I felt like it was all part of the journey.
The more I observe the relationship between Doug Collins and Evan Turner, the more I believe it ends badly. Even if all of the steps to get here were necessary, and they’ve been a good thing.
Sometimes two people can bring out the worst in each other. I’m sure you’ve been party to it. If you’ve got a bit of a temper, there’s probably someone who can bring it out in full force (not that I know anything about this). Watching them evolve from afar, it looks like Turner and Collins bring out the worst in each other. At least as far as their personalities.
They both say the right things, but something about the way they act on the court, and the way the say those things, makes me think differently.
If Turner has a propensity to pout, and be immature, Doug Collins’ overbearing (though successful) coaching style and insistence on his system, brings out Turner’s poutiest and most immature moments.
If Doug Collins has a propensity to grate on players, to be stubborn, to want things his way and only his way, the fact that Turner is slow to adapt is making Collins crazy.
Turner got his way, got on the court, did things his way and it worked. And it made Collins even crazier.
Collins pulled him back some, took him off the ball, played him less, and it made Turner disconnect.
Even worse, Evan Turner is not a Kevin Durant level talent, Doug Collins is not a Phil Jackson level coach, and the Sixers are not a championship caliber team. Talent and winning can hide a lot of problems, but something tells me we’re not close enough to that kind of winning yet in Philadelphia to sweep this aside.
As Doug Collins enters into the second half of his four-year deal, and Turner evolves into the “make or break” point of his career, I think the Sixers will have to make a choice between Turner and Collins. Or one of the two will make the choice for them. A player demanding a trade, or a coach who says “I can’t take this anymore,” is not unheard of in the NBA. Collins looks awfully tired, and Turner looks awfully frustrated. I don’t blame either of them, I think it’s just one of those things.
There are questions about whether Turner can be a top level talent, and whether Collins can be a championship caliber coach. If the decision isn’t made for them, the choice the Sixers end up making will signal which of the two they believe in more.