When Evan Turner spoke to Portland Trail Blazers executives early Friday morning, he believed they were quite interested in him, but the situation and the salary offer remained in limbo.
The former Celtics guard said the Blazers also met with free agent forward Chandler Parsons, and the team indicated that if that overture did not work out, Turner would become their primary focus.
“They said, ‘We’ll give [Parsons] until 6 a.m., and if he doesn’t say yes, we want you for sure,’ ” Turner told the Globe Friday. “I didn’t know how much I was going to make. It was so random. I could make $12 million a year or I could make $18 million.”
Parsons ultimately agreed to a deal with the Grizzlies, and the Blazers stayed true to their word, agreeing with Turner in principle on a massive four-year, $70 million contract. Turner said he was told he will be a starter for Portland, which went 44-38 and reached the Western Conference semifinals last season.
“Much more than the money,” he said, “I’m going to a great fit.”
According to Turner, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told him the team was interested in re-signing him, but that would have to wait until Boston took its shots at luring the two biggest prizes of this free agent class: Kevin Durant and Al Horford.
Turner said Ainge told him Durant might not make a final decision until July 8, but Boston could attempt to match the largest offer Turner received. It is unlikely the Celtics would have given the 27-year-old Turner a $70 million contract.
“I already knew if I came back I’d have to take a pay cut and a cut in role,” Turner said. “It was kind of like a glass ceiling there for me, and I’m entering my prime. If I came back I would have probably made half of what I got.”
Turner said Ainge did not give a sense of where the Celtics stood in the Durant sweepstakes.
Turner said he worked out with Kyle Korver in Santa Barbara, Calif., on Thursday.
Turner said he would have a heavy heart as he left the Celtics. He was rejuvenated over the past two seasons in Boston and made it clear how much he enjoyed his time here after a rocky start to his pro career in Philadelphia and Indianapolis. Last season Turner averaged 10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 4.4 assists and finished fifth in the voting for the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year.
“It’s tough to leave,” he said. “I liked Boston a lot, bro. The organization, and it’s just a sports city and the city is super nice. If you put money and everything aside, I would play in Boston every single day of the week. Seeing all those Hall of Famers come back and everything, that’s a real franchise.
“I was just having fun playing again. When I played in Philly, it was pure hell. But to go to Boston and rock out and play was crazy. And to play in Portland is going to be fun, too.”
Turner said he would greatly miss the bond he formed with his Celtics teammates. They still have an active group text message string.
Turner is extremely close to forward Kelly Olynyk, and All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas said he considered Turner one of his best friends. Turner even traveled to Tacoma, Wash., last month to take part in Thomas’s charity basketball event.
“It was the coolest locker room I’ve been in, to tell you the truth,” Turner said. “When it came down to it, that was the toughest thing. Fun times, blue-collar dudes and the relationships we have.”
Turner said he is looking forward to his return to Boston with the Blazers next season, and he hopes Celtics fans are looking forward to it as well.
“This time, hopefully no one boos,” he said. “When I [went back to] Philly they booed, and when I came back to Indiana they booed, too. So hopefully I’ll get a nice response.”