LOS ANGELES – Perhaps nothing is as important this preseason for the Trail Blazers than the acclimation of newcomer Evan Turner to the team and its style of play.
On Thursday, after the Blazers’ 109-108 loss to the Clippers in their fourth preseason game, the consensus within the team that Turner’s transition is a work in progress.
Turner described his acclimation to the team as “decent” while coach Terry Stotts said Turner is “still finding his way.’’
“I think he is figuring it out,’’ Damian Lillard said. “It takes time. You don’t just go to a new team and figure it out in three weeks. That’s why the preseason is necessary.’’
Turner is averaging 9.5 points, 3.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 25.5 minutes a game during the preseason while shooting 12-for-32 from the field (37.5 percent) and 2-of-7 from three-point range.
Thursday’s game against the Clippers might have been his most frustrating game. It was the most the Blazers had used him as a point guard, which was one of his much-ballyhooed skills that led to his 4-year, $70 million free agent contract this summer, but it was a rather unsightly stretch of basketball.
Paired with CJ McCollum, Allen Crabbe, Meyers Leonard and Ed Davis, Turner often brought the ball up the court against the pressure of Chris Paul and tried to initiate the Blazers’ plays. But the team seldom, if ever, got into a rhythm. The first offensive possession was a shot-clock violation and it went downhill from there.
If the Blazers weren’t rushing a shot, they were throwing the ball away. If they got into a set, it was killed by an illegal screen, or a carry. And the shooting was off, from both point-blank range and three-point range.
The harried offense resulted in an 18-0 Clippers run and unquestionably the worst shift of the Blazers’ preseason.
“Stagnant. Very stagnant,’’ Turner said of the second quarter opening. “I have to do a better job calling plays. A better job of retaining, and reading and reacting as a unit … as I get more reps and things like that, I will have a better understanding, a better feel of what we are executing and who we are executing for.’’
A big part of Turner’s transition to the Blazers after spending the past two seasons in Boston is learning the playbook and his new teammates. In Tuesday’s game at the Lakers, Turner became animated when he forgot a play, chuckling to himself and patting his chest to let his teammates know he messed up.
“The biggest thing is just comprehending what we are doing on the fly,’’ Turner said. “Sometimes I made the wrong mistakes in general. We would call plays and I would go to the wrong side, or the wrong guy. So that’s the biggest thing. You know, its just picking it up on the fly and each game I’m recognizing it more and more. When it comes down to it I will be fine.’’
Turner joins a Blazers team that not only returns 11 players and boasts the most returning minutes played in the NBA, but also a team with an established chemistry and style of play.
“It’s a difficult transition when you’ve played in one place for two, three years and coming into a new system where everybody knows things,’’ Stotts said. “I think the toughest thing for him is since everyone out there is so familiar with what we did last year … we’ve put in a lot of things and it’s going to take a little bit of time for him to really feel comfortable with some of the things we are doing that our other guys just take for granted.’’
Part of the process has been complicated by the Blazers’ experimentation with lineups and rotations and the unknown of who will start at small forward. In the four preseason games, Stotts at small forward has started Maurice Harkless twice, and Crabbe and Turner once.
“I think right now it’s going to go how you expect it to go, because we are doing so many different lineups right now,’’ Turner said. “We are testing a lot of different things out, so right now everything is a test run.’’
The good news is the Blazers have three more preseason games, starting with Sunday’s 6 p.m. home game against Denver. Lillard said he thinks the Blazers should allow Turner to handle the ball more in those final games.
“He has to get comfortable,’’ Lillard said.
Turner said that comfort is setting in with each preseason game.
“A week ago I had so much trouble with the new plays,’’ Turner said. “Now, I’m more familiar with the plays, it’s just on the fly decisions, knowing in .6 of a second who to get where and how.’’