Gamebook: Singles add up for Turner

Evan Turner made an impact in his Celtics debut with 15 points and 10 rebounds. David Butler II/USA TODAY Sports

BOSTON -- Since signing with the Boston Celtics, Evan Turner has been asked to learn three positions, including a point guard spot he essentially hasn't played since college. He's immersed himself in film study and spent extra time with coaches trying to cram for everything he needs to know.

But frustrated by what he felt was an average performance in the team's intrasquad scrimmage last Friday, Turner sought advice, and both coach Brad Stevens and Rajon Rondo offered the same wisdom: Slow down and keep it simple.

Easy for them to say. Turner has been asked to do a lot this preseason and could be forgiven for being overwhelmed. Instead, he went out on Monday night against the team that drafted him and did a little bit of everything. Turner finished with 15 points, 10 rebounds and 6 assists over 31 minutes in a 98-78 triumph over the Philadelphia 76ers at TD Garden.

"We talked a little bit [Sunday] about ‘hitting singles’ and everybody here has heard me say that phrase before," Stevens said. "I think it’s really important that, any time you’re in a new place or you’re in a new system or with all of our young guys -- and we’ve got a bunch of new ones that are trying to make an impression -- and sometimes you can make mistakes trying to make an impression and doing too much. Just trying to keep it simple, figuring out what we’re trying to do. One of the things about Evan is that he does a great job, he studies, he works hard on his own. He puts in time on film, he puts in time with the coaches, he does all that."

Stevens prides himself on trying to accentuate a players' abilities and there's an awful lot the team feels it can do with Turner. He started the game at the swingman spot, but operated with the ball more in the second half as Boston tore the game open. Turner finished a team-best plus-19 in plus/minus.

"That’s who he’s got to be. I think he can be better than he was tonight, but he played well," Stevens said. "He’s been pretty good in practice. He was not as good in the scrimmage the other night and I think he was pretty hard on himself, but I thought [Sunday] was his best practice and he followed it up with a very good game tonight."

Turner credited Rondo with helping him slow things down during Sunday's practice.

"I think Rondo helped me a lot, with my pace and kind of told me what he was seeing a lot," Turner said. "Throughout practice, Coach helped, but Rondo helped me a lot too. I think I finally started slowing down and letting the game come to me. I was just trying to hit singles."

Turner helped Boston beat the team that drafted him second in the 2010 draft, but downplayed the notion of revenge after Philadelphia traded him last season.

"I mean they have like 12 new people every time I see them," Turner joked.

Read on for more notes from Monday's game, including Nerlens Noel's homecoming; Brett Brown's refreshing honesty; the return of Chris Johnson; and Marcus Smart's defense.


Sixers coach Brett Brown did his best to warn rookie Nerlens Noel before Monday's game to slow himself down. But Noel, a native of nearby Everett, Massachusetts, was clearly amped playing his first non-summer league game after sitting out all of last season, not to mention doing so in front of friends and family.

Noel missed seven of nine shots and finished with more fouls (six) than points (four) over nearly 27 minutes of floor time.

"I think it was a combination of things. I really didn’t think I had the right mindset coming out, I was a little quick with everything I tried to do," Noel said. "It's been a process of just trying to just slow down and be able to think things through."

Added Brown: “It was kind of what I thought. He was playing pretty quick trying to find his feet, trying to find ways to impact the game. I thought, defensively, he was pretty good; offensively, he struggled. The speed of the game in his mind I felt got the better of him, but I saw good things from him and I think this whole year is going to be one where we just keep trying to polish him up and get him NBA ready."


Give Brown credit for some refreshing honesty when asked about Philadelphia's rebuilding process. The team has been scrutinized for seemingly embracing a tanking approach while trying to reload with young talent and cap space.

"I understand how some people may question it," Brown said. "We’ve gone about trying to assess how we have our best chance to be annually competitive and annually special and be among the elite and we’ve chosen a path. It doesn’t ensure that we’re right. But I think it does ensure, in our eyes, that it gives us our best chance. And so, how others view it, that’s fair and that’s their call, but we’re quite comfortable -- from ownership to general manager to coach to the people that are involved in those decisions -- that there is a very singular focus that we have and we feel good that we are on the same page and do have pretty clear transparent path."


C's miss Johnson: The Celtics liked Chris Johnson after his time here last season following a call-up from the D-League, but were forced to waive him after acquiring four players as part of a trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers last month. Johnson landed with the 76ers and played 14 scoreless minutes on Monday. "I’m really happy for him. I like Chris a lot," Stevens said. "You talk about, you’re going to have to match his energy because he’s a huge energy player. And he gets down to the corners quicker than most anyone in the league. So you have to be able to match that from a standpoint of playing against him. But as far as a guy you loved having on your team and you loved having around and that you’re going to root for throughout every stop, it’s Chris Johnson."

Smart shows NBA-ready D: Marcus Smart didn't have a great debut, missing all eight shots he took and finishing with two points over 27:20. He did hand out six assists and grabbed three rebounds. More impressively, he had three steals as part of some antagonizing defense that helped atone for the poor shooting. "He is exceptionally hard to screen, and when the ball’s in front of him, he’s as good with his hands as anybody," Stevens said. "He still has to learn NBA actions that he’s going to see all the time, and the lingo, and recognize actions, be aware off of the ball. ... These are great experiences and he’ll learn a lot in the next seven games."