After the Portland Trail Blazers traded Evan Turner to the Atlanta Hawks for Kent Bazemore, there were a variety of reactions across Rip City. But one thing is certain, according to Jason Quick of The Athletic (subscription required): the team is losing a leader in the locker room and a consummate professional.
Turner knows what it means to be a veteran and guide to younger players, especially Anfernee Simons and Gary Trent Jr. While being a leader comes with many qualities that are hard to pin down, Turner’s actions in Portland spoke as loudly as his words.
Some of the things he did were tangible. Last fall, he summoned rookies Simons and Trent Jr. to his home overlooking downtown Portland. They had no idea why he called them over. Waiting for them was a tailor, who measured them for custom suits. Turner not only arranged for the fitting, he paid for the suits, ensuring the rookies looked proper when the team embarked on trips.
According to Quick, when Turner first arrived in Portland, he picked up the check for a large meal, setting the stage for Damian Lillard to do the same at a future date. As Quick points out, the veteran was trained on how to be a team player by some of the most well-known team players in the league: Lou Williams, Andre Iguodala, and Elton Brand. Williams has won the Sixth Man of the Year award three times, which speaks to his ability to put team first. That ethos is what he passed on to Turner when the two played together for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Quick also talks about unspoken unhappiness felt by Turner, due to not being utilized correctly as a point forward.
The larger point, though, is this: few knew about his unhappiness because, in Turner’s eyes, that’s just not what you do as a professional. You always put the team before yourself. The most important result, he always noted, was winning.
“You just have to check your ego,” Turner said in November. “You get paid to play the game, but you also get paid to govern yourself and figure out the best way to work through situations and make it a positive environment. If you are trying to win, there’s no need for anything else.”
Whatever Turner’s feelings about his departure from Portland, one thing is clear: his example of professionalism is already being followed by the younger members of the team. Both Gary Trent Jr. and Zach Collins were on hand to welcome Nassir Little and his family to Portland during Little’s introductory press conference.
You can read Quick’s piece here (subscription required).