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CSN NBA Insiders Notebook: Evan Turner drawing criticism in Portland

CSN NBA Insiders Notebook: Evan Turner drawing criticism in Portland

Welcome to another edition of the CSN Insiders notebook, the most comprehensive gathering of NBA news and nuggets on the planet, compiled by our coast-to-coast Insiders.
 
Drum roll please ...
 
At the top of the alphabetic CSN Insider food chain is A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN New England, who covers the Boston Celtics. Up next is Jessica Camerato of CSN Philadelphia, who covers the no-longer-winless Philadelphia 76ers, followed by Vinnie Goodwill of CSN Chicago, who covers the Bulls; James Ham of CSN California, who covers the Sacramento Kings; J. Michael of CSN Mid-Atlantic, on the Washington Wizards beat; Monte Poole of CSN Bay Area, who covers the Golden State Warriors, and Jason Quick of CSN Northwest on the Portland Trail Blazers beat.

 
We start this week with a really good item from Jason Quick on Evan Turner, Portland’s prized offseason free agent pick-up who signed a four-year, $70 million contract after spending the previous two seasons with the Celtics.
 
Having covered him in Boston, I had a chance to see both the strengths and weaknesses to his game, a player who can be special for your team in the right situation, or a complete bust if that situation isn’t present or significantly limited.
 
Is that what he has in Portland?
 
Hear what Turner had to say on the matter.

Rough start for Turner
These are frustrating times for Turner, whose transition from the Boston Celtics to the Trail Blazers has not gone smoothly.
 
Through 10 games, Turner has the NBA’s worst plus-minus by a longshot, and with every head-scratching pass and every flat shot that bangs off the front rim there is growing unease among the fan base: What exactly did the Blazers spend $70 million on this offseason?
 
Turner is averaging 6.0 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists in just less than 24 minutes a game while shooting 38 percent from the field. Hailed as a playmaker when the Blazers signed him, Turner has 24 assists and 20 turnovers.
 
What is even more confusing than his play has been Turner’s recent assessment of his role. To hear the Blazers talk in July, Turner would be riding shotgun with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum in directing this team. But after three weeks, it appears Turner feels like he belongs in the back seat.
 
In the past week, there has been a noticeable step back from Turner in terms of his engagement within the offense. During his first six games, Turner averaged 7.8 shots; over his last four, he is averaging 3.7 shots.
 
"What can you possibly do?" Turner asked after the Blazers’ overtime win Friday against Sacramento, when he had two points, four rebounds and two assists in 23 minutes. “When you get three shots and play 27 minutes ... that’s not a knock, because we have the best guards in the league, but I mean, what can I possibly do besides be accountable to defense, take care of the ball, rebound and play the floor? Where I just came from, I had the ball in my hands tons of times to make plays.’’
 
Lillard is averaging 30.6 points on 19 shots a game and McCollum 22.2 points on 17 shots a game. Turner is averaging six shots.
 
“Obviously, everybody is paying attention offensively, and I mean, I think I’m playing the best I possibly can for the situation,’’ Turner said. “It’s not even ‘I’m only getting three or four shots’ ... it is what it is. We’ve been winning, and that’s pretty much it. I think I’m helping rebounding, defending, and I think I’ve gotten better taking care of the ball.’’
 
Coach Terry Stotts has become defensive amid growing questions about Turner’s play.
 
“I think everybody is kind of targeting Evan and I don’t think that is necessarily very fair,’’ Stotts said. “The game against (Memphis) he didn’t take a shot and played very well. He’s playing good defense, he’s adapting. ... It’s a process. He’s a smart basketball player, has high basketball IQ and he is only going to get better.’’
 
As the grumblings at home games become louder, and the questions after games become more frequent, Turner says he has become used to scrutiny, dating back to 2010, when he was the No. 2 overall pick in the draft. 
 
“This isn’t my first rodeo with this kind of stuff,’’ Turner said. “It doesn’t shock me. The gun is going to be left in my lap whether I have something to do with it or not.’’
 
At the forefront of the criticism is his plus-minus rating, which is a league-worst minus-110. That's 35 points more than the next closest player, Phoenix’s Brandon Knight.
 
“Whoever is on court with Dame is going to have a positive plus-minus,’’ Turner said, chuckling. “I don’t really know what else to say. I could counter and be like ‘Hey, whoever scores on ...,’ but that don’t look good. I’ve always been in situations where I’ve been a positive. I started out last year as having one of the best (plus-minuses) in the league.
 
“I mean, when it rains it pours. There’s more to make sense of and more to complain about, but what do you want to do? I mean, if you want to point blame or whatever, I’ve been blamed numerous times before so I don’t really dive too deep into it.’’
 
Turner was never angry or defensive Friday when talking about his season. Instead, he seemed uneasy talking so much about himself because he wanted the focus to be more on the Blazers’ 6-4 record than his struggles or dwindling role.
 
“What can you knock if you are winning?’’ Turner asked. “These dudes are making the right plays, the right reads, and you fit in where you fit in. The contract is going to draw attention, but even if I didn’t have a big contract I’m an easy target, so that doesn’t keep me up. As long as we are winning, it’s not about me.’’ – by Jason Quick

Davis to the Celtics?
The Boston Celtics have played most of this season with at least one starter out because of injury, but even at full strength they’re going to struggle rebounding the ball.

That is why they will forever — or at least the next three-plus months, whichever comes first — be linked with any and every big man who 1) wants to be traded or 2) is on the trading block.
 
But I’m told the Celtics at this point are only interested in potential “game changers” on the trade market.
 
One name to keep an eye on is New Orleans’ Anthony Davis.
 
The only way Davis will come into play is if Davis wants out, something that isn’t that far-fetched when you consider the steady run of injuries he’s enduring on a team that’s going nowhere fast.
 
The Celtics have draft picks galore, young talent with very team-friendly contracts, and being in the East, that would mean the Pelicans would see Davis only twice a season.
 
But again, it all depends on whether Davis wants out of New Orleans.
 
That doesn’t appear to be his desire ... for now at least. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

Lakers (surprisingly) on the rise
If there were an award for the most surprising team in the NBA, early-season division, the Lakers would be the favorites to win it.

Projected to win 25 to 30 games, first-year coach Luke Walton has coaxed his group to five wins in its first nine games, including victories over the Warriors, Hawks and Rockets.
 
A win over the Kings last week snapped a seven-game losing streak to Sacramento. More significant, it was the first time in nearly two years that the Lakers won consecutive road games — and the first time in three years they won four of five.

One of the biggest reasons behind the rise has been an effective bench, led by veteran guard Lou Williams, who leads the team in scoring. – by Monte Poole

Van Gundy sounds off on Trump
We have seen a rise in professional athletes chiming in on the political state of things. 

But Detroit head coach/president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy couldn’t stay silent any longer, not seeing how the presidential vote weighed so heavily on his mind as well as his players. 

He wasn’t alone, with San Antonio’s Gregg Popovich and Golden State’s Steve Kerr chiming in as well. 

But Van Gundy’s response was by far the most powerful among the coaching ranks.

“I don't think anybody can deny this guy (Trump) is openly and brazenly racist and misogynistic,” Van Gundy told reporters. “We have just thrown a good part of our population under the bus, and I have problems with thinking this is where we are as a country.”

He wasn’t done. 

“Martin Luther King said, 'The arc of the moral universe is long, but bends toward justice.' I would have believed in that for a long time, but not today,” Van Gundy said. “What we have done to minorities ... in this election is despicable. I’m having a hard time dealing with it. This isn’t your normal candidate. I don’t know even know if I have political differences with him. I don’t even know what are his politics. I don’t know, other than to build a wall and 'I hate people of color, and women are to be treated as sex objects and as servants to men.' I don’t know how you get past that. I don’t know how you walk into the booth and vote for that.” – by A. Sherrod Blakely

Not so fast, Suns
First in pace, last in defense. It’s a recipe for disaster for a young and very talented club. The big three of Eric Bledsoe, T.J. Warren and Devin Booker are a nice base, but they need to commit on both ends of the floor.

Brandon Knight continues to struggle as a sixth man. He’s shooting just 33.9 percent from the field and 23.5 from long range. The Suns' early-season schedule is filled with the who’s who of the Western Conference. – by James Ham

'Bebe' Raptor growing up
As much as DeMar DeRozan’s eye-popping video game-like numbers have carried the Raptors this season, Toronto has also gotten some solid — and unexpected — contributions from Lucas ‘Bebe’ Nogueira?
 
Who is he?
 
Don’t worry. You’re not the first and certainly won’t be the last to wonder where the heck this guy came from.
 
A former first-round pick in the 2013 NBA draft (he was selected by Boston, then traded to Dallas on draft night for the rights to Kelly Olynyk), ‘Bebe’ has been charged with helping fill the void left by Bismack Biyombo.
 
He has provided some much-needed energy, hustle and surprisingly efficient scoring.
 
In four games, Nogueira has averaged 8.2 points and 7.2 rebounds while shooting a blistering 88.2 percent from the field.
 
As you can imagine, pretty much everything he gets offensively comes from point-blank range.
 
But that’s not the point.
 
The Raptors have their sights on challenging the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers, and they'll need everyone on the roster to step their game up and have their best season ever.
 
‘Bebe’ looks like he’s ready grow into that role. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

Melo's ejection personal?
Melo wasn’t feeling mellow.
 
Carmelo Anthony got ejected for arguing a foul call in Friday’s game against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden. He was assessed a foul against Amir Johnson and then two technicals for “bad language,” said referee Tony Brothers
 
The situation didn’t end with the Knicks’ 115-87 blowout loss. Anthony’s wife, La La, took to Twitter to express her feelings about the ejection. 
 
“He hates Mel. It's personal. Always has,” she wrote.
 
Brothers replied “no” when asked after the game if he had a history with Anthony. – by Jessica Camerato

Wanted: Rebounder, rim protector in Indy
The Celtics are one of the worst rebounding teams in the NBA. Scratch that — they are the worst rebounding team in the NBA. You can imagine the red flags that should have gone up within the Pacers' organization when the Celtics came to town and not only beat them, 105-99 at home (their first home loss this season), but won the battle of the boards and got a lot of great looks down the stretch at or near the rim. 

Don’t be surprised if Indiana starts to take a long, hard look at potential trades that could land them a coveted frontcourt player who can rebound and protect the rim. 

Sacramento’s Willie Cauley-Stein is a name that has been put out there recently as possibly being available (we’ll have more on that later). If he is, Indiana should make a serious pitch for him. 

While Cauley-Stein has his limitations offensively, that’s OK. With the emergence of Myles Turner and Big Al Jefferson coming off the bench, scoring from the power forward and center positions should not be a major concern. 

Because right now, Indiana just doesn’t have the kind of personnel that can provide the resistance at the rim they need to make some noise in the East. – by A. Sherrod Blakely

Disappearing act continues for Magic offense
The Aaron Gordon experiment as a small forward has hit its first bump in the road with Orlando coach Frank Vogel switching to Jeff Green for his offensively challenged unit.  
 
While Gordon is noted for his defense, the Magic have trouble scoring. Gordon was shooting 40 percent from the field and 31 percent from three in the first eight games he started before the switch. Green was shooting just 36.5 percent from the field during the same span and just 35.5 percent from the three-point arc.
 
The Magic went into the weekend last in the NBA in scoring with 92.3 points per game. – by J. Michael

Schedule rough on the Kings
There is a certain amount of doom and gloom in Sacramento after back-to-back losses Thursday and Friday. But the Kings played one of the toughest schedules in the league through the first two weeks of the season with 11 games in 17 nights, including seven of those contests on the road.

The rumor mill has been buzzing regarding both Cauley-Stein and Omri Casspi. According to sources, Cauley-Stein, the team’s first selection in the 2015 NBA draft, is not on the block, and Casspi confirmed to CSN California that he did not request a trade this week despite the decrease in role during a free agency year. – by James Ham

Clippers' defense continues to impress
After several years of teasing their fans in the postseason, the Clippers may have found a formula that will endure. It’s called defense.
 
With center DeAndre Jordan, forward Luc Mbah A Moute and point guard Chris Paul leading the way, coach Doc Rivers’ squad has been the stingiest defense in the league.
 
The Clippers, with a 111-80 win over Portland, are the first team this season to hold Lillard and the explosive Trail Blazers under 100 points.
 
“It kind of breaks the spirit on the other end on their defense because they can’t score and they’re thinking about scoring,” Rivers told reporters afterward. “It’s good. We’ve just got to keep doing it and keep getting better.” – by Monte Poole

Hield heats up, helps Pelicans to first win
The Pelicans finally picked up their first win, stunning the Lakers Saturday night, 126-99. Buddy Hield, who had 18 points on 8-for-13 shooting against the Lakers, was drafted to shoot the ball and that is exactly what the rookie out of Oklahoma is doing through the first 10 games. He’s averaging 10.2 points per game but shooting just 37.6 percent from the field and a woeful 23.6 percent on threes. But shooters gonna shoot, right?

Jrue Holiday’s return is just around the corner. He’s been away from the team while caring for his wife, former Team USA soccer player Lauren Holiday, who just gave birth to the couple’s first child followed by surgery to remove a benign brain tumor. Family first.  by James Ham

Hawks soaring on the boards with Howard
Going from Al Horford to Dwight Howard has elevated the Hawks to one of the NBA’s best rebounding teams and they could be getting closer to getting frontline backup with Tiago Splitter showing signs of recovering from a right hamstring strain that has kept him on the shelf since training camp. 

Though Horford could rebound with the best of them in his nine years in Atlanta, he spent more time stretching the floor from the arc. Howard, a traditional center who might be past his best, is still a force to be reckoned with on the glass. 
 
The Hawks were 24th in overall rebounding last season, when they won 48 games. They were 30th — aka last — on the offensive boards. Through the first eight games, Atlanta is seventh in overall rebounding and fourth on the offensive end. 

Splitter, a backup center, is doing non-contact drills with a time frame of his return to the lineup uncertain. When a player reaches full contact drills, a more accurate gauge can be made regarding his return. – by J. Michael

Paul George: Joel Embiid 'the total package'
Some teams begin tallying their wins in October. For the Sixers, though, winning in November has been an uphill battle. Their last November win prior to this week was in 2013.

On Friday, they snapped the skid with an overtime victory at home against the Pacers.
 
“Happy isn’t the word,” Robert Covington said. “Relieved.”
 
The Sixers entered the game 0-7. They were the last team in the NBA to earn a W this season.
 
“That first win for the group is massive,” head coach Brett Brown said. “I know it’s only one, but you can take a deep breath and go fight again.”
 
The Sixers were led by 25 points and seven rebounds from Joel Embiid. He scored a combined 16 points in the fourth quarter and overtime.
 
The big man played so well down the stretch that he turned the head of Pacers All-Star Paul George.
 
“He’s real impressive,” George said of Embiid. “I think his skill set is similar to Karl-Anthony (Towns). ... What GMs look for now is big men that can essentially do it all: Put the ball on the floor, make plays, step out to the three and protect the rim. I think those are becoming, in our game, the most complete guys. He’s got the total package. It’s good late in games and he already has that mentality of wanting to put games over.” – by Jessica Camerato

Durant's scoring streak ends
For the second consecutive week, a member of the Warriors experienced the end of an impressive personal streak. First Stephen Curry, then Kevin Durant.
 
By coming out in the fourth quarter of a blowout win at Denver with 18 points, Durant’s streak of consecutive games with at least 20 points was snapped at 72, tying him with Michael Jordan for fourth place on the all-time list.
 
“We won the basketball game,” said Durant, who left with 5:51 remaining and the Warriors up 112-86. “That’s the most important thing.”
 
Warriors coach Steve Kerr pulled the star forward two seconds after Durant was whistled for a charge.
 
“I knew about the streak, and I told him that when he came off the floor,” Kerr said. “But I’m not going to mess with the basketball gods. If you want to leave a guy out there to get some kind of record, you’re asking for an injury. The game called for him to come out, he came out. He had no problem with it.”
 
Durant’s streak ended six days after Curry’s streak of consecutive games with at least one three-pointer was snapped at 157 in an 0-of-10 performance against the Lakers.
 
“There’s going to be a lot of that stuff this year,” Kerr said. “There’s going to be people talking about stats and records and who’s scoring and who’s not. The only way this is going to work is if guys throw that out the window. That’s exactly what KD did.” – by Monte Poole

Injuries taking early-season toll on Wizards
The injury front is an issue for the Wizards early on for the second year in a row, but they’re being more cautious and are concerned about later more than now. That means John Wall, Bradley Beal and Ian Mahinmi (who hasn't yet played this season) aren’t being pushed early. 
 
“Health is more important than today,” coach Scott Brooks said after announcing that Beal would miss his first game over the weekend after injuring his right thigh in an awkward fall. 
 
Wall isn’t playing in back-to-backs in the short term coming off surgeries to both knees May 5. Mahinmi had surgery to clean up loose cartilage Oct. 15 and should be practicing soon and on the court by late November.
 
With Beal, this is a team that’s in the bottom five in three-point shooting accuracy. Without him, they’re significantly worse. – by J. Michael
 
On the move
Johnny O’Bryant, whom the Wizards would have drafted had he not been taken in the second round in 2012 by Milwaukee, was among their final cuts. Now he’ll be playing for the Phoenix Suns’ D-League team, the Northern Arizona Suns.
 
League sources tell CSN Mid Atlantic that O’Bryant turned down “several good international options” but declined. O’Bryant appeared to have a good shot at making the final 15 in Washington, but the injury to Mahinmi made a backup center the Wizards’ top priority, which gave rookie free agent Daniel Ochefu from Villanova an edge. – by J. Michael

Health continues to keep MKG M.I.A for Hornets
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist can’t stay healthy, and after a dislocated shoulder ended his time on the court last season he missed a game over the weekend because of his back. 
 
Coach Steve Clifford suggested that when the 23-year-old small forward returns he could be on a minutes restriction, but the Hornets rely heavily on defense and that’s the strength of Kidd-Gilchrist’s game. 
 
The Hornets are thin at his position and have started rookie Treveon Graham in his place. Veteran Marco Belinelli also logged time there off the bench as the duo split those minutes. – by J. Michael

Parker, Green, Popovich updates
San Antonio’s 34-year-old PG Tony Parker is back on the court after missing four of the Spurs' first eight games with a knee issue. He’s starting and once again putting up Tony Parker-like numbers. He had a season-high 16 points in the Spurs’ 106-100 win over Houston on Saturday.

Danny Green has also returned after missing the first eight games with a strained left quad.

Nine different players have started a game for San Antonio through the first 10 games. Their defense is in midseason form (their defensive rating is seventh in the NBA) and they continue to systematically destroy teams with their efficient offensive effort. Their offensive rating of 107.7 is sixth-best in the NBA.

If you haven’t heard Gregg Popovich’s thoughts on the 2016 presidential election, they are must-listen, regardless of party affiliation. – by James Ham

Wade returns to Miami
Dwyane Wade, never one to mince words, finally spoke out about his departure from the Miami Heat to the Chicago Bulls last week. 

Wade didn't deny he thought he would be a member of the Heat forever, but with contract negotiations becoming more and more tenuous over the past several years, it became clear a change was probable last summer — and the Bulls swooped in to take advantage. 

“I thought it was an opportunity I would be there forever, but s--- happens,” Wade said in an exclusive interview with CSN Chicago after the Bulls’ 112-80 win over the Magic on Monday night. “And when s--- happens, you gotta be prepared to (move on). I found out very quickly that this is a business.”

Heat president Pat Riley and Wade haven't spoken since his departure, but on the day Wade returned to Miami as a member of the Bulls, Riley finally pressed send on an e-mail he had addressed to his former star the day he left. 

Wade, wanting to end the back and forth, refused comment on the matter Saturday night. - by Vincent Goodwill

NBA admits mistake that leaves Sixers scratching their heads

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NBA admits mistake that leaves Sixers scratching their heads

CAMDEN, N.J. — The Sixers were right.

The Sixers argued they should have set up at halfcourt, not fullcourt, for a decisive final possession of double overtime in Friday’s game against the Thunder. After a closer look following their triple-overtime loss, the NBA ruled the Sixers were proved correct. 

“After review, it was determined that the 76ers called timeout with 00:01.2 remaining on the game clock, which was prior to Saric's (PHI) dribble. Therefore, they should have been given the opportunity to advance the ball into their own frontcourt for the inbound,” the NBA Officiating’s Last Two Minute Report noted.

The confusion occurred at the end of the second overtime. Dario Saric got a defensive rebound and the Sixers called a timeout before he dribbled the ball. Because of this, the Sixers should have been allowed to set up a final play in the halfcourt, which is exactly what they had practiced and called.

But the referees made a last-second change as the Sixers were setting up. The Sixers were told they had to inbound from fullcourt, which would have been the case if Saric had dribbled before the timeout. The Last Two Minute Report indicated he, in fact, did not. 

“Respect that they are that transparent, but complete disappointment that it can happen,” Brett Brown said Sunday. “You really scratch your head. It’s significant.”

Every play, every basket can make a difference for a team fighting to make the playoffs. The Sixers were confident they could have won the game with the halfcourt play. Instead, they dropped back down to .500 and currently 10 in the Eastern Conference.

“Those things you need to avoid to give yourself every chance to win,” Brown said. “We can point to many other things that were self-inflicted wounds that we’ve got to do better. But when it’s that exposed and that prominent of an environment with 1.2 seconds left, it’s disappointing. But like I say, they’re transparent. I respect the fact they admitted it and we move on.”

Joel Embiid out Monday against Bulls; 2 other Sixers sidelined

Joel Embiid out Monday against Bulls; 2 other Sixers sidelined

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid does not play both games of a back-to-back, but whether he plays in either of the Sixers' next two matchups will have to be determined.

Embiid is not traveling with the Sixers to Chicago for Monday’s game against the suddenly-streaking Bulls, who have won five straight. The big man usually plays at home in these scenarios, and considering he played 49 minutes in Friday’s triple-overtime loss, the decision was expected.

Embiid’s availability for Tuesday at home against the Kings, though, has not been finalized at this point. This is not surprising either being two days ahead of the game. Embiid, who has been dealing with back tightness, did not participate in practice Sunday. The Sixers will evaluate, monitor, and go through treatment with Embiid before making their call.

“Unsure at this stage,” Brett Brown said Sunday. “I do know he’s categorically out tomorrow and we’re going to learn more about him being available when we come back [for] Sacramento, I’d expect in the next 24 hours.”

The Sixers do know they will be without another two players for some time.

Trevor Booker will miss at least the next two games after suffering spraining his left ankle Friday. The newly acquired reserve will be reevaluated in approximately five-to-seven days.

Even though Booker was traded to the Sixers less than two weeks ago, he already made an impact on the second unit. Brown has seen enough over the last four games to know what the team will be missing.

“His toughness,” Brown said. “He’s got a motor. He plays with such a spirit. He’s a man. He’s a pro. He’s been in the league for a while. He gets it. It’s everything that you miss. It’s really everything this team needs.”

Furkan Korkmaz likely will be sidelined even longer. The rookie suffered a Lisfranc injury on his left foot while playing for the Delaware 87ers on Dec. 15 and is out indefinitely. The Sixers recalled Korkmaz from the G League and he is going through evaluation and testing. There is no timetable set for Korkmaz at this point.  

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons described the injury as, “Lisfranc (midfoot) injuries result if bones in the midfoot are broken or ligaments that support the midfoot are torn. The severity of the injury can vary from simple to complex, involving many joints and bones in the midfoot.”

Korkmaz has been going back and forth between the Sixers and their G League affiliate in Delaware to get playing opportunities as part of his development in his first NBA season.