Hecklers and naysayers have no room in Evan Turner's world these days

Hecklers and naysayers have no room in Evan Turner's world these days

There is a fan at Trail Blazers home games who takes great effort to heckle and chastise Evan Turner.

It reached a head a couple weeks ago, during a blowout win over Sacramento, when the heckler harped on the fact that Turner had only two points as the Blazers were closing out the Kings.

“Hey Evan! I see you got your typical two! Your typical two!’’’ Turner said, recreating the scene.

He shakes his head thinking back to it.

“All year … That’s what you call a true fan, huh?’’  

Turner says he understands he might have to take some ribbing in the give-and-take of a fan-player relationship at a game. But the season-long chiding by this fan had, in Turner’s mind, become harassment.

So, late in that Sacramento game, Turner faced the “dumb redneck,” who sits three rows back from the court.

“When I turned around and cursed him out, he turned bright red,’’ Turner said chuckling.

That Turner stopped absorbing insults and dished back is indicative of where he is in his second year in Portland: comfortable enough in his role and his performance to no longer care what the outside noise is saying.

In telling the middle-aged heckler to “shut the (expletive) up,” Turner might as well been speaking to all who still harp on his 4-year, $70 million contract.

“First off, let me say one thing: Everything I have done, I have earned,’’ Turner said. “My contract – that’s my bread, and I earned my bread. So, kiss my ass. Dead serious. Write that. I earned that (expletive) money.’’

In Portland, his teammates call him one of the smartest players on the team. And his coach says he is invaluable both for his defensive versatility and for his array of offensive weapons, from posting up, to shooting mid-range to passing to running the offense. And above all, they all say he is team first, all the time.

“All I’m doing is what my coach asks,’’ Turner said. “I’m trying to help the team, truly and genuinely help the team. Because I’ve been on teams where I’m putting up 20, and nobody gave a damn because we were losing.’’

Never before has Turner’s wide-ranging value been more on display than during the Blazers’ nine-game winning streak that has vaulted them to third in the Western Conference.

His defense was instrumental late in Friday’s win over Golden State, when got up-close-and-personal while forcing misses from Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson. Earlier in the week, against Oklahoma City, he had 17 points – which included three three-pointers – to fuel the season-series clinching win. And in an important victory against Minnesota, he had a team-high six assists and zero turnovers.

“He doesn’t get enough credit, but we know what he does, and that’s all that matters,’’ Maurice Harkless said motioning around the locker room.

And, perhaps, that’s the key, Turner says. He doesn’t care whether he gets the credit. And he doesn’t care if people think he is worth $70 million.

“At the end of the day, winning matters,’’ Turner said. “Character matters. And what you are willing to sacrifice matters. I think my biggest steps and growth are being able to compartmentalize the things that really matter. I used to waste a lot of time worrying about things that don’t matter. Who gets credit and all that stuff … it doesn’t matter.’’

One thing that does matter: A smile.

**

It is Thursday, the day before the Blazers will play Golden State in a matchup of two of the NBA’s hottest teams, when Turner stops after practice to pose for a picture to model his Li-Ning shoes.

Even though the shot is for his shoes, Turner adorns the biggest and cheesiest of smiles, for which he is playfully ribbed.

“Hey, a smile can mean a lot. I can murder somebody, and if the judge looks at my smile, it can be the difference between 30 years and life,’’ Turner said.

What makes this rationalization even more funny is … he’s serious.

“That’s why I smile on my driver’s license,’’ he said, dead serious. “You never know.’’

His teammates are often left shaking their head, either in confusion or in a can-you-believe-this-dude wonderment.

“He’s the funniest guy on the team, and the funniest guy on the team, accidently,’’ Harkless said. “And we all love him for it.’’

The Blazers are a mostly serious group, very dedicated to their craft, and it is natural over the course of the long NBA season for players to be uptight, or find themselves in moods.

And probably never in the last decade has there been a more off-the-wall personality than Turner to prevent that tension from escalating.

“ET helps us out a lot, not just on the court, but his personality,’’ Ed Davis said. “Every day, he comes in and mixes things up. Little things that you need in a long season, like you come in and are feeling like, damn, I don’t feel like hearing Coach’s mouth today, or I don’t feel like seeing Shabazz … but ET will come in and bring that unique energy and everything changes.’’

Turner’s outlook changed midway through his career, shortly after he contemplated quitting the NBA while he was in Indiana. He was involved in a practice scuffle with Lance Stephenson, fell out of the playing rotation and felt like his career had hit a dead end.

“It was after the Pacers incident,’’ Turner said. “I guess I reached an age when I realized what was important. You start equating that to the real sentimental stuff and you starting putting stuff into perspective.’’

His perspective now?

“This is basketball. It should be fun,’’ Turner said. “Sports are for kids, and adults mess it up. For me, I was one of those people, who overly, overly, overly took it serious. To the point where it wasn’t fun. So now, I make sure I have fun with it. This is a dream. A game.’’

**

Although Turner doesn’t like to admit it, much of the fun of last season was squashed by the burden of his new contract. Fans had expectations for a player making $17 million a season, and Turner couldn’t help but feel those expectations as he tip-toed through acclimating himself on an already established team.

He averaged 9.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 3.2 assists in 25.5 minutes a game while shooting 42.6 percent form the field and 26.3 percent from three-point range.

Both Ed Davis and Shabazz Napier said they have either seen or heard Turner struggle about the burden of his contract.

“A lot of players get judged on their salary,’’ Davis said. “If he was making, let’s say 8 million a year, they would be like, ‘He’s the best player in the league’ … that’s just how life is. But I always tell him: That’s a good problem to have. I’d rather have someone talk (stuff) to me if I was making 17 million a year than 6 million a year. So that’s a good problem.’’

This season, much of that burden seems to have subsided, in part because he says he is “focusing on positivity” and in part because he knows he is an invaluable cog to the Blazers’ machine. 

As a result, he neither has the time nor the energy to waste in justifying his contract.  In fact, he borders on being offended having to defend it.

“I don’t mean to be harsh, but I get tired of it being brought up,’’ Turner said. “And it’s really not my focus. Who am I supposed to prove it to? Some might be of the opinion that I help the team a lot.

“But as long as there are radio personalities who are nowhere near the team, and there’s people who have never played basketball giving their opinion and making up blogs, there will be stuff out there,’’ Turner said.

This season, he is averaging 8.0 points, 3.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists while shooting 44.2 percent from the field and 31.9 percent from three-point range. They are not standout statistics, but coach Terry Stotts and the Blazers players say stats will never capture Turner’s true worth.

“I can talk all day about him. Not a lot of people understand the value he has for this team. And they don’t understand because he is not a conventional player,’’ Napier said. “But he is our best post-offense player. Defensively he is able to guard Kevin Durant, then switch and guard Steph Curry or Klay Thompson. But it’s also his leadership skills, and his charisma, his camaraderie – the things people don’t see. They are the things that make up ET. And it’s those things that make him a great player to us.’’

Napier often refers to “intangibles” when talking about Turner, noting a recent piece of advice he gave to Zach Collins – to spin immediately after getting a pass in the post. Collins immediately implemented the advice and scored.

“He calms guys down, gets guys in right spots … he’s just the leader we need,’’ Napier said.

**

That some Blazers fans, including the third-row heckler, are slow to see what his teammates see, is not surprising to Turner.

He was energized this summer on a trip to China, during which he found a renewed zeal for the game. He filmed one of his workouts, of him shooting 3-pointers, and posted it on social media. He was stung to see negative comments about his shot.

And upon his return, during a conversation on ride with an Uber driver, he was taken aback at the narrative about his game. It caused him to recoil, and it started his obsession to seek only positivity.

So when he was asked if he is appreciated, he was quick to answer.

“From my teammates, of course. Absolutely,’’ Turner said. “I don’t really care outside, nor is it really worth digging into. I get the love. I really only pay attention to the positivity.’’

With the NBA’s longest current winning streak, never have the Blazers been surrounded by more positivity, and Turner has been in the middle of it all.

“We’ve won nine straight. I mean that’s dope as (expletive),’’ Turner said.

Perhaps that’s why he snapped back at the heckler, and why he has become more adamant in standing up for his contract.

“I’ve come from the mud,’’ Turner said. “I had nothing. I had a pair of shoes. My mom worked hard to put me in the situations I’m in. I rejected a lot of negativity and a lot of cop-outs growing up to stay focused and get to situations like this. That’s why I’m fired up about it. I’ve never taken (expletive). I’ve only taken what I’m supposed to take, never tried to dip out on people, and I’ve tried to live life the right way. What’s mine is mine. It’s my (expletive) money. And if it ever got taken away, I’m strong enough to go get more.’’

So the hecklers can heckle, and the voices on the radio can take shots. Turner is busy listening to the positivity of the NBA’s hottest team.

“I know this is just the way sports is,’’ Turner says, thinking back to the heckler. “And to whom much is given, much is expected. But perception is reality, and it takes a while to change perception.’’

Wade Baldwin feels good about his chances

Wade Baldwin feels good about his chances

Wade Baldwin, who earned 2nd Team All-Summer League honors, said his goal was to go ‘full throttle’ and show during Summer League that he deserves to be on this Trail Blazers roster.

The deadline for the Blazers to make a decision on Baldwin’s guaranteed contract is July 18th at 11:59pm, when the clock strikes midnight, his contract becomes guaranteed.

While sporting his Championship shirt proudly, Baldwin told the media he feels good about his chances.

“I think I put myself in the best position possible in terms of accomplishments that I’ve made. In terms of being a winner, coming in here undefeated,” Baldwin said.

One person who will have some say in that is head coach Terry Stotts.
Over the last few years, the final day of Las Vegas Summer League for the Trail Blazers meant Stotts would offer up his thoughts and talk with the media members that were still around, and yes even after the team wins a Summer League Championship.

“I was really pleased with how we played, not how well we played. Obviously, it was a good week, but more importantly, we’re going to have six guys from this team that are going to be on our team and it was how they came together, how they played, they shared the ball. It was different guys, different nights, it was very encouraging,” Stotts said.

Yes, Stotts did say six players from this roster.
So, was that just a subconscious slip or is Wade Baldwin a member of this team next season? Baldwin averaged 13.4 points and 7.4 assists (3rd best in Summer League) in 25.4 minutes per game.   “It’s a team decision and I’ve talked with Neil and obviously the decision has to be made soon. It’s not my position to say what’s going to happen,” Stotts said.

[WATCH: The Scoop Postgame Show]
 

Blazer fans have been wondering who could take backup point guard minutes with Shabazz Napier now heading to Brooklyn.

After Baldwin led this Summer League team on both offense and defense, it would make sense for him to stick with Portland.
“The resume is out there. It’s up for whatever team it is or Portland to make a decision on what they want to do with me. I felt like I left it all out there and did the best I could,” Baldwin said with a smile.

One young guy who will be back in a Blazers uniform next season is Zach Collins, who finished Summer League averaging 8.0 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, but it’s not his play that he attributes a lot of the team’s success to this year.

“We have a really good leader in Wade Baldwin at the point guard position and that’s huge coming into Summer League, being able to control the game. Summer League sometimes is really chaotic, he did a really good job of being our floor general,” Collins said.  

For a Blazers team who has lacked defensive intensity at the guard position, Baldwin would be a great asset to have coming off the bench. 

Let the countdown begin for Blazer fans waiting to see if the guy who gave James Harden fits in the regular season last year and now that same guy who led this summer league team to a championship will be back with the Blazers.

We have just hours left of Baldwin Watch 2018.

 

Trail Blazers Outsiders celebrate the Summer League Title

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Trail Blazers Outsiders celebrate the Summer League Title

Joe, Shain and Dan held a special postgame edition of the Outsiders on Tuesday night to celebrate the Summer League Championship!

If you missed the show, check out the link below, join them in a toast and enjoy the look back at the Summer League run.

Blazers Outsiders

BLAZERS WIN THE LAS VEGAS SUMMER LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP! It’s time to celebrate with the Outsiders.

Posted by NBC Sports Northwest on Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Scoop from Las Vegas as fans react to the Trail Blazer Summer League Title

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The Scoop from Las Vegas as fans react to the Trail Blazer Summer League Title

There may not be a parade for this Championship but the Trail Blazers Summer League Team was very proud of their tournament win on Tuesday night. 

The Scoop was live streaming postgame as fans weighed in what this means, player evaluations, and how any of this might translate to the regular season:

Summer League Scoop Postgame

Your Portland Trail Blazers are the 2018 NBA Summer League Champs!!! The Blazers beat the Lakers, 91-73 #RipCity How you feeling, Scoop Nation!?

Posted by NBC Sports Northwest on Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Trail Blazers waive Georgios Papagiannis

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Trail Blazers waive Georgios Papagiannis

The Trail Blazers have waived big man Georgios Papagiannis.

He plans to sign with Greece's Panathinaikos, which was first reported by Eurohoops. 

According to Eurohoops, "Panathinaikos has already included Papagiannis in the club’s long-term plans and are ready to add him with a three-year contract."

Papagiannis was first acquired by Panathinaikos when he was 17 years old and spent two seasons with the team before joining the NBA.

The 7'1" big appeared in 6 games during the Las Vegas Summer League where he averaged 1.3 points and 1.5 rebounds in just 7.5 minutes per game. 

Portland acquired Papagiannis this past March after he was waived by the Sacramento Kings, who drafted him in 2016 with the 13th overall pick.

Papagiannis appeared in just one game for the Blazers, playing four minutes of a 96-94 loss to the Houston Rockets 

He averaged 4.1 points and 3.2 rebounds over the course of 39 appearances over two seasons in the NBA.

Trail Blazers Are Summer League Champions!

Trail Blazers Are Summer League Champions!

LAS VEGAS - The Trail Blazers got revenge on the LA Lakers to pull out a victory in the 2018 Las Vegas Summer League Championship Game by a score of 91-73. 

It was a rematch of last year's summer league finale, but this time the Trail Blazers came out on top thanks to a strong defensive performance that held the Lakers to just 14.3% from the 3 point line. 

Players and Coaches had talked all week about how winning NBA Summer League was a goal for this team from the beginning, and tonight they finished what they started. 

Summer League MVP Josh Hart was ejected after his second technical with 4:45 to go in the game, but the Lakers trailed big at that time anyways. 

Portland finished the summer league a perfect 7-0 including both pool play and the tournament. 

BOX SCORE: Portland 91, LA 73

Be sure to follow us on social media for all kinds of postgame videos, a special interview with Head Coach Terry Stotts, and photos from the ceremony!

POSTGAME LINKS:
The Scoop Postgame Show
Trail Blazers Outsiders - Live Stream
Trail Blazers waive Georgios Papagiannis
Why did this summer league team click?

 

Wade Baldwin earns All-NBA Summer League Second Team honors

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Wade Baldwin earns All-NBA Summer League Second Team honors

The following is a press release from the NBA:

 

LAS VEGAS, July 17, 2018 – The Los Angeles Lakers’ Josh Hart today was named Most Valuable Player of MGM Resorts NBA Summer League 2018.  The 6-5 guard also headlines the All-NBA Summer League Teams.

 

MGM Resorts NBA Summer League, an 82-game, 12-day event showcasing all 30 NBA teams for the first time, culminates tonight when the top-seeded Lakers face the second-seeded Portland Trail Blazers in the Championship Game at 10:00 p.m. ET on ESPN.  The meeting is a rematch of last summer’s Championship Game, which was won by the Lakers.

 

In this year’s competition, Hart is averaging an NBA Summer League-leading 24.2 points (on 47.1 percent shooting from the field), 5.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals in six games.  He scored 27 points and added six rebounds, three assists and three steals in the Lakers’ 109-92 victory over the New York Knicks on July 10.  In the tournament semifinals on July 16, Hart recorded 37 points and nine rebounds to lead the Lakers past the Cleveland Cavaliers 112-109 in double overtime.

 

Joining Hart on the MGM Resorts All-NBA Summer League First Team are Chicago Bulls forward Wendell Carter Jr., Knicks forward Kevin Knox, Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton and Milwaukee Bucks center Christian Wood.

 

The All-NBA Summer League Second Team is composed of Phoenix Suns center Deandre Ayton, Trail Blazers guard Wade Baldwin IV, Memphis Grizzlies forward Jaren Jackson Jr., Lakers forward Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk and Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young.

 

A media panel selected Hart as MVP and voted for the MGM Resorts All-NBA Summer League Teams.

 

MGM Resorts All-NBA Summer League First Team

Wendell Carter Jr. (Chicago)

Josh Hart (Los Angeles Lakers)

Kevin Knox (New York)

Collin Sexton (Cleveland)

Christian Wood (Milwaukee)

 

MGM Resorts All-NBA Summer League Second Team

Deandre Ayton (Phoenix)

Wade Baldwin IV (Portland)

Jaren Jackson Jr. (Memphis)

Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk (Los Angeles Lakers)

Trae Young (Atlanta)

 

Summer League: If you win it, you can say it matters

Summer League: If you win it, you can say it matters

Some thoughts on the morning of the Trail Blazers' Summer League Championship game vs. the Lakers:

There's really only one reason why winning the summer league matters:
1 – If you win it, you can say it matters. And maybe then it does. You can use it to sell tickets for the upcoming season or just get your fan base geeked up about the future. And if you think I’m kidding, just think back to last year’s summer league when none other than Magic Johnson proclaimed, “The Lakers are back!” after his team beat the Trail Blazers in the championship game. Uh, back? Sure they were – back in the doldrums.

Conversely, there are plenty of reasons why winning summer league does NOT matter:
1 – Each team is a collection of players – many of them key contributors – who won’t even be on your team this season. 
2 – While you may care about winning, many of the other teams do not and they sit key players in tourney games just because they’ve played enough and nobody wants to risk injury. Beating those teams means nothing (such as the Blazers tournament game vs. Atlanta).
3 – Well, it just doesn’t matter, you know. No championship parades or rings, no bonuses, no big deal. Get over it. 
3 – Players do like to win. It’s akin to playground games where you want to keep winning to stay on the court. In summer league, you want to keep winning so you have more games to show scouts and front-office personnel you are good enough to play for their team. But that doesn’t mean front offices and coaches like to win.
4 – How many days in Las Vegas are too many? About the time the tournament starts is the time when people suffer from neon fatigue and get irritated by the strange noises those slot machines make.
5 – If it mattered, wouldn’t all the teams try to win?

The Scoop: Streaming from Vegas as Portland heads to the title game

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The Scoop: Streaming from Vegas as Portland heads to the title game

Another day another win for the Trail Blazers as they have advanced to the Summer League Championship for the second season in a row!

I was live streaming from Thomas and Mack following the game, check out The Scoop Postgame show below:

Summer League Scoop Postgame

The Portland Trail Blazers are heading back to the Summer League CHAMPIONSHIP GAME!!! And now, we can all start tweeting out #BeatLA as we gear up for this rematch vs. the Los Angeles Lakers. Hit me up with all of your NBA Summer League thoughts!

Posted by NBC Sports Northwest on Monday, July 16, 2018

Baldwin's dedication to playing the point paying dividends

Baldwin's dedication to playing the point paying dividends

Wade Baldwin is doing something I really didn't think he could do -- and it's probably doing as much to prove he has a role in the NBA as anything we've seen from him.

I knew he was explosive. Knew that while he isn't yet a big-time shooter, he is certainly a scorer. And we've all seen signs of his defensive promise.

But I had no idea he was going to come out in Summer League and show legitimate point-guard skills. In five games, he's averaged a league-leading 8.4 assists per game while turning the ball over only 1.6 times per game. His willingness to transform from scorer to playmaker also reflects a degree of understanding of what he needed to show in Las Vegas to prove (or improve) his NBA value.

In order to win a roster spot with the Trail Blazers, Baldwin was likely going to have to show that he could serve as a viable point guard option. He's done that, even though it often appears he could score at will in summer league with his ability to get to the basket.

Baldwin has continued to show growth as an all-around player. He's doing his thing as a point guard but still managing to shoot .536 from the field and .385 from three-point range. In two previous summer-league stints while a member of the Memphis Grizzlies, Baldwin shot .286 and .380 from the field and .000 and .333 from three-point territory.

Of course, we temper enthusiasm over those numbers from this summer by reminding ourselves again that this is SUMMER LEAGUE, where mediocre players -- particularly the ones with a couple of seasons in the NBA -- can often look like NBA all-stars. But Baldwin's consistency and patience with the way he's running the team are certainly admirable and promising.

And the big plus he will bring to the regular season is that even if his offensive ability goes off the tracks a little bit, his defense and aggressiveness are going to be there. And that's a very big plus.

He is going to be a very interesting player to keep an eye on this coming season.