Evan Turner has been, in turn, bench catalysts, forgotten swingman, and triple-double machine for the Portland Trail Blazers this season. Averaging 6.6 points, 4.5 rebounds, and 3.9 assists in 22 minutes per game, Turner continues to crank out steady numbers for the 50-win squad. But according to Jason Quick of The Athletic, that’s not all Turner brings to the roster. In a lengthy article today (subscription required), Quick paints Turner as a glue-guy guru, nudging and shepherding teammates, creating a cultural influence beyond his minutes and stats.
Quick begins with a laundry list of affirmations and gestures surrounding Turner this season.
Inside the Blazers’ locker room, Turner is held with almost as much regard as team captain Damian Lillard.
“We all love him,” Zach Collins said.
They love him because throughout his time in Portland, but in particular this season, Turner has revealed himself in personal and touching ways, in the process becoming the catalyst for the team’s renowned chemistry.
In September, he invited rookies Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr. to his home to be fitted for custom suits, Turner’s treat. He did it not only so the teenagers would look presentable on the bench, but also to educate them on how to go about looking professional.
After giving more examples of Turner’s influence, Quick suggests Turner is filling the much-needed “veteran example” role for the Blazers brilliantly.
So while Lillard is the team’s unquestioned leader and motivator, it is Turner who has become the pulse of the team, his willingness to care, mentor and provide serving as pillars to the team’s cultural foundation.
Turner’s positive influence continues despite professional challenges with Portland’s shifting lineups and his up-down role with the team.
“Of course it’s been frustrating in a sense, but I’m not a kid anymore, so it’s not personal,” Turner said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about the wins.”
He is 30, and he says in his younger years he might have handled a reduced role like this season differently.
“I probably would have pulled a hissy fit,” Turner said. “But I’ve learned that sometimes you can sulk, and fall into the blaming and stuff, but by the time you snap out of it, it could be too late. It’s not about you. It’s about the team, and the position you are in. We just won 50 games, we have an opportunity to finish top three in the West. That’s a big deal. I don’t take that for granted.”
Quick’s piece contains far more insight and tidbits on Portland’s veteran wingman. Be sure to check it out.