ATLANTA – Evan Turner, one of the Trail Blazers’ top play-makers and perimeter defenders, is ready to make his return to the team, and coach Terry Stotts said the guard will “likely” play Saturday against the Atlanta Hawks.
Turner, who broke the third metacarpal in his right hand on Feb. 7 at Dallas, missed 14 games, during which the Blazers went 7-7. He said if he doesn't make his return against the Hawks, he doesn't know why he flew across the country on Thursday. After practice, the team officially listed him as "probable" to play against the Hawks.
"If they didn’t clear me, I would have stayed my ass in Portland,'' Turner said. "I would have stayed at home or gone to Miami early if I wasn’t cleared. But I don’t know. I don’t know anything anymore to tell you the truth.''
For the past week, Turner has felt like his broken hand has been healed enough for him to play, but team doctors held him out of workouts to ensure the bone healed properly.
At the time of his injury, he was a starter and often charged with guarding the opponent’s point guard. Initially at least, it appears he will come off the bench, and initially it appears he will wear a protective brace and tape his ring and middle fingers together.
“I’m done talking about the injury and being worried about it, because it’s already over with as far as I’m concerned,’’ Turner said.
Turner rejoined the team in Atlanta on Thursday then took part in his first workout with the team at a light Friday practice at Philips Arena. He mostly played one-on-one in the practice, but said he has been running and keeping in shape throughout his rehabilitation.
He said the brace and the taping of his fingers hinders his grip of the ball, particularly when he dribbles. He said he feels like the bulkiness of the brace could get in the way when he dribbles because the ball could hit the contraption and cause it to spin.
However, Turner said he is not convinced he will wear the brace during Saturday’s game.
“I don’t have to listen after this (game) … we will see after tomorrow if I’m going to listen (to team doctors) or not, because you might not see this (expletive) again,’’ Turner said.
Turner is averaging 9.7 points, 3.4 assists and 3.8 rebounds in 26 minutes a game. Captain Damian Lillard said he envisions Turner making a seamless return.
“At the beginning of the year it took him some time for him to figure out how to impact the team, but once you know, you know,’’ Lillard said. “At this point I think he knows what he is to our team and what his role is … I don’t think we will have to re-adjust.’’
Up next: Blazers at Atlanta, 3 p.m. Saturday (CSN)