For what Evan Turner provides to the Celtics — a reliable bench scorer, capable defender, and locker room comedian — he is remarkably underpaid.
He will earn $3.75 million this season, the lowest-paid Celtic not still under his rookie contract, as president of basketball operations Danny Ainge yet again scored with a valuable signing when he added Turner on a two-year deal.
When Ainge surprisingly showed up last month to Turner’s jersey-raising ceremony at Ohio State University during the All-Star break, Turner jokingly said Ainge can reward him this summer. Turner maintains it was a joke, but it does expose one of Ainge’s many decisions, whether to sign Turner to a long-term deal.
It’s a complicated answer. The 27-year-old Turner has found solace in Boston after being expected to resurrect the post-Allen Iverson 76ers when he was picked second overall in the 2010 draft behind John Wall. Turner was the consensus National Player of the Year at Ohio State and was expected to reach NBA stardom.
Turner was a solid player in Philadelphia but never considered a star and heard from his critics from the moment he took the floor at Wells Fargo Center. Six years later and on his third team, Turner has etched his NBA role.
He is a combo guard who is a brilliant scorer from midrange with his flat-trajectory shot and one who is more equipped at whipping opponents’ second-unit players.
Turner doesn’t take himself too seriously and accepts his weaknesses. He chides himself on his 3-point percentage, but states that he’s damn good at everything else. He averages 10 points per game and the Celtics are 22-11 when he scores in double figures.
While the salary cap will swell this summer because of the new television contract, and dozens of players will cash in with lucrative over-market deals, Turner isn’t all that concerned about free agency and money.
“I don’t too much worry about it,” said Turner. “I think we’ve got a great opportunity genuinely ahead. I’m thinking about April and the playoffs as opposed to [what will happen] this summer.
“I’ve been fortunate. I came into the game with everything I wanted, it’s about respect for me.”
Respect is a touchy subject. Even when he led the 76ers to the Eastern Conference semifinals in 2012 against the Celtics, Turner felt slighted because of the heavy criticism.
He feels not all second overall picks are supposed to turn into superstars and he is content with being a productive NBA player. He wishes his critics would cease.
“What all matters is the game and finding what fits you best and at the same time winning,” he said. “When you’re in college, the stuff I was looking forward to was being able to make money, but now it’s about winning, playing in those big games you see on TV.
“I’m so somewhat consumed with myself to a certain extent, I don’t really care what people think. I don’t worry about what the person up the street thinks. I worry about trying to do what my coaches ask for, and winning.”
Turner admits he allowed the detractors to bother him. But as he matured he learned to ignore outside voices and focus more on improvement.
“It might be corny, but I look in the mirror and like who I am,” he said.
Turner is yet another player who has flourished under Celtics coach Brad Stevens’s system. Jae Crowder, Isaiah Thomas, Tyler Zeller, and Jonas Jerebko were all essentially castoffs who found roles and comfort in Boston.
“I felt like I may never get the just due I [deserve],” he said. “What I can do at 6-7 not many people can do. I think some people look over that. You got great guys who shoot threes and play decent but I can literally do everything.”
And Turner was adamant that he’d like to keep doing it in Boston.
“I like Boston,” he said. “It’s my favorite place to ever play. My career has been on the up and up since I’ve been here. What I respect about Danny is he’s all about winning championships. I respect whatever he thinks. When you leave some of the situations I left, some people aren’t about winning. He’s about winning championships.
“I think I kind of helped get [the rebuild] started. I’m not about to keep playing the lotto and slot machine and let the next dude [come to Boston] and hit the jackpot.”