NEW YORK – Sometimes, stories take on a life of their own. Just ask Evan Turner about his supposed rivalry with Derrick Rose.
“Blown out of proportion,’’ Turner says.
It stems from 2007, when Turner and Rose were 18 and standout prep basketball players in Chicago. They played two high-profile games – one in front of 7,689 fans at Northwestern University -- during which things were said during and after the game.
Since then, both players have been in the NBA, and some are quick to bring up their comments from the spring of 2007 as evidence that the two don’t like each other.
“I’ve never known him personally. If I heard him on the phone, I wouldn’t know it was him,’’ Turner said. “We don’t speak, we don’t know each other, but it’s not like I’ve ever had any ill will toward him.’’
On Tuesday in New York, the two will meet again – Turner with the Portland Trail Blazers and Rose with the New York Knicks – and Turner chuckles at the story that just won’t die.
“Back then, we were 18 year old kids making statements,’’ Turner said. “I don’t think much of it. People are putting bigger hype into it.’’
So what was the “it” that so many won’t let die? The “it” that keeps coming up every time something happens when their NBA paths cross?
It started from a quote from Turner, in front of a row of press members covering Rose’s No. 1-ranked Simeon Wolverines against Turner’s No. 2-ranked St. Joseph’s Chargers on Feb. 17, 2007:
“Derrick Rose ain’t sh#$@.”
After the game, Turner kept talking.
Rose led his favored Wolverines to a 74-66 win, finishing with 29 points, seven assists and four steals. Turner had 29 points and 11 rebounds and during one stretch scored 20 consecutive points.
“I was better than him,’’ Turner told the Chicago Sun-Times. “With me guarding him, he didn’t do much. He knows that, and I know that.’’
Rose was told of the quotes after the game and responded: “We both know who is better. He’s just doing this to get a little bit of publicity. We’ll see who does more on the next level.’’
From then on, Turner and Rose and their “rivalry” has been a story.
Two of the more notable attempts to retrace the story:
Before the 2012 playoffs, when Turner was with the Philadelphia 76ers, he said his team would probably rather face Chicago than Miami.
“It means we are dodging the tougher team,’’ Turner was quoted by one newspaper.
“They really tried to rekindle that little flame there,’’ Turner said.
Last season, when he was with the Boston Celtics and Rose with the Bulls, Turner stripped Rose and went in for an uncontested dunk. But it wasn’t just any dunk, it was a 360-degree dunk.
Some took Turner’s decision to unveil a flashy dunk as a salvo aimed at Rose and their high-school history.
“Oh, was that a big deal?’’ Turner said, unaware of the stories that followed his Boston dunk. “I was doing it for the sake of taking advantage of an opportunity. It was fun. Big game. On TV … ‘’
In between those two stories, Turner says he has heard about this growing legend of how the two go at each other. How Turner gets up on Rose on defense. How he bangs Rose while posting him up. And how hard he played against Rose in Chicago.
“I’m all up in him, because if you don’t … ‘’ Turner says, unable to finish because he’s laughing so hard at the thought of not playing pressure defense on a player of Rose’s caliber. “And when I come home to Chicago, I want to play well, so yeah. And I hear people say we were ‘going back and forth’ when I was posting him … I post any (smaller) guy.’’
He shakes his head. He’s curious to hear what other stories have been spawned out of something said so long ago.
“I mean, I’m not stupid, I get it,’’ Turner said. “I comprehend certain things that were said and certain things that occurred. But we were 18 then. We are 28 now.’’
Truth is, Turner says he holds Rose in the highest regard, and always has.
“I always knew the kid to be great, unreal,’’ he said. “I heard about him in the 8th grade. He was a big deal. I remember the first time I saw him – sophomore year in the Super Sophomore Showcase. He was obviously the best kid in the state, and I was an unknown sophomore. I left that camp a Top 10 player, but Derrick was unreal.’’
They are from the same city, but they might as well be a world apart. Rose went to school at Simeon Career Academy in the Chatham neighborhood on the south side of Chicago. Turner went to Saint Joseph’s on the west side of Chicago.
Turner said it would probably take him 90 minutes to two hours to get to the south side, not that he ever desired.
“There are a lot of outliers that play a difference in the situation in why you don’t go to the south side,’’ Turner said.
By the time they were seniors, Rose was more than just a big recruit.
“He was a Chicago legend,’’ Turner said.
So when he made the quotes about Rose after their first meeting, to many it was blasphemy.
“They asked me questions about him, and I answered what I felt honestly,’’ Turner said. “And me, as a young kid not knowing regardless of how I felt or what I said, it was going to be taken a certain sort of way because the guy you were kind of going at was the God Son of Chicago.’’
Turner says first meeting between St. Joseph’s and Simeon in front of nearly 7,700 fans is still talked about today. In Boston, Turner said a Patriots player told him he was at that game. And Turner remembers Charlotte forward Frank Kaminsky telling him how Spencer Hawes would always talk about the stories from that game.
“A lot of people still remember it. It was as crazy game,’’ Turner said. “Lot of trash talk.’’
Talk that today has turned into admiration.
“I’ve always been a fan of his, admired what he has done for the city and him standing up and always holding it down from age 13 and then going on and winning MVP in Chicago,’’ Turner said. “That’s huge for Chicago basketball. Huge for the basketball scene there. Because a lot of people there will tell you memories of watching him in this moment, or that moment. That’s the kind of impact he had.’’
Turner said when Rose suffered his knee injuries, he felt it as deeply as anybody.
“Because he was a 22-year-old MVP with so much more to do,’’ Turner said. “As super happy as I was for his success, I was super sad for his injuries, because he was just unreal. He did so many things for Chicago.’’
Now, Rose is with the Knicks. And Turner with the Blazers. And tonight, they will likely find themselves guarding each other in Madison Square Garden. And for Turner, at least, it won’t be with ulterior motives.
“It was a fun story in high school – all competition, all loving – and when you add tons of people outside of it trying to build a rivalry … it’s just never been a rivalry. I've always been a fan for him, just being from Chicago. He’s a high-class player, and I’ve always thought that.''