The thing Evan Turner said surprised him about Portland? The rain. Turner said he was unaware that it rained so much in Oregon, despite being in the Pacific Northwest location and its proximity to Seattle.
Like in his other NBA stops, it's taking time for Turner to adjust to Portland, which signed him to a four-year, $70 million deal this summer after two successful seasons with the Celtics. Turner earned $3.42 million last season in Boston, and he's making $16.3 million this season in rainy Portland. Hence his decision to leave, despite his attachment to the Celtics.
Through 17 games for the Trail Blazers, the versatile Turner was averaging 8.6 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.6 assists, and shooting 40.4 percent from the field. Eventually he'll catch on, but it will be on Turner Time.
"I was just excited about the Trail Blazers and how they ended [last season], and obviously the money was great as well, so I thought it was a great mixture," he said. "I think the culture here is good and we're going to keep getting better and better and hit our stride."
Turner revived his career in two years in Boston. Celtics coach Brad Stevens helped Turner discover his calling as a ballhandling forward who could score, rebound, and distribute the ball. After years of trying to shake the tag of being a flame-out in Philadelphia, Turner became comfortable in his own skin and found happiness with the Celtics' roster of journeymen and afterthoughts from other organizations.
"I was most definitely comfortable there," he said. "Going through certain situations where there were coaches who didn't comprehend my game and I wasn't always in position to be comfortable sometimes. When you finally find that mixture of great basketball and off-the-court [things], you definitely don't take it for granted."
The Celtics have missed Turner in terms of offense and team chemistry. They could use a player besides Isaiah Thomas who is capable of hitting a key jumper down the stretch or pulling down a big rebound. Perhaps it was what he experienced in Philadelphia or even at Ohio State, but Turner was fearless in Boston. He played with no hesitation and no regrets.
But it hasn't come so easily thus far in Portland.
"It's just the comfortability here and I think sometimes I worry too much about stepping on toes," Turner said. "They have reassured me to play how I play and they will adjust. It's always going to be a big adjustment getting the plays down. The pace of it [in the Western Conference] is crazy. The last couple of weeks I am fully getting our plays second nature to me, and once again now it's just building the consistency."
Turner chose to wear No. 1 with the Trail Blazers.
"Well, I couldn't get No. 11, and I was fortunate enough to read The Players' Tribune and the Chauncey Billups [piece], and I admire his story," Turner said. "Where he came from and I didn't know he went through all that [adversity], so I thought that was dope. And how he finished his career and was respected as a class player, a great player, a big-time shot maker. I respected him for that. So I thought that was a great option."
Turner also offered his thoughts on pregame protests or showing team unity during the national anthem.
"Honestly man, if you do those types of things and say something nowadays that goes against the standard, as long as you're accountable for it, stand on your own two feet, I don't knock you," Turner said. "Everybody has their opinion. You have the First Amendment right and you have the platform to really stand up for what you have to say, as long as you're accountable for it.
"We were just making sure what we did, we were unified. Our GM, Neil Olshey, said whatever you do we have your back with it. We're adults and there are tons of things you can't really ignore."
On The Parquet: How do you cover an NBA game?
No complaints with Warriors
When the Warriors added Kevin Durant to their Big Three of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, and Draymond Green, there was speculation that Green would be most affected because his number of shots would be reduced.
Green, already a premium defender, would have to be even better to compensate for the departures of Andrew Bogut and Harrison Barnes. Not only has Green accepted that challenge, but he has strived to be named Defensive Player of the Year after losing out on the award last season to San Antonio's Kawhi Leonard.
Green is attempting 1.2 fewer field goals and 1.2 fewer free throws per game, and his shooting percentage is down overall and on 3-pointers, thus his scoring average has dipped. But his offensive rating has increased from last season, while his player efficiency average has remained roughly the same.
Despite his adjusted role, Green remains invaluable.
"It's been fun from Day 1," he said. "The one thing we knew coming into this is we'd get a lot of criticism, where it's one guy, two guys, the entire team, there's going to be criticism. The way we look at, if it's one guy then it's all of us. It's something that we expected and it's happened, but we enjoy each other. It continues to get better and better as we jell more. The better you get, the more enjoyable it is."
Green, never once to mince words, understood that critics would single him out as the potential divisive one.
"It didn't really [tick] me off because one thing I know is people don't know me anyway and I don't expect them to know me," he said. "I wouldn't necessarily say it [ticked] me off because everything they judge on me is wrong anyway. And I don't expect them to judge that one right."
In his quest to be named Defensive Player of the Year, Green made some minor changes to his offseason conditioning.
"I really just tried to get in better shape," he said. "When you're talking about the defensive end, you can watch some film but there's not much you can do as far as on the basketball court to change that. One thing I focused on is getting my body in better shape, better equipped to guard every position. I know that's something that's been a staple in my career, but being able to do that at the highest level. I feel so much better on the floor. All of a sudden you don't have to take a play off to try your best."
The Warriors were greeted with plenty of cheers in their visit to TD Garden Nov. 18. The Warriors aren't a bunch of bad guys, though they are prohibitive favorites to win the NBA championship and look the part of an elite team.
"Everybody was talking about super villains, but we've been getting a lot of cheers, actually," coach Steve Kerr said. "I'm a big believer in continuity and I think one of the reasons we had a great team the last two years is when I got here, this team had already been together for a couple of years, so we were really building on something where there was a foundation.
"And I look around the league at teams that have that continuity, that foundation, that build year to year, those are the best teams. We have some of that but it's dramatically different when you add a superstar than when you add a role player. We're still figuring some things out. We're not relying on everything that we were able to rely on the last two years, but it's obviously a welcome change because Kevin is that good."
Kerr doesn't have much sympathy for players on his roster who may believe they are giving up roles, playing time, or shots for the sake of team success.
"People talk about sacrifice all the time, but I think our guys are mature enough to understand that it's really not a sacrifice if you're going to win. You may be getting a couple of fewer shots per game, maybe fewer points per game, but is that really a sacrifice?" Kerr said. "I would ask Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade, was it really a sacrifice to win two titles and take a few less shots [with LeBron James] there? I doubt it. That's the attitude our players have, they want to win.
"We have a chance to do something special that outweighs any individual honors or accolades."
The Warriors' opener was sobering, with the Spurs coming into Oracle Arena and whitewashing the home team, 129-100. A team that was projected to potentially challenge its 73 regular-season wins from last season looked stunned and vulnerable. But the Warriors won 13 of their next 14.
"To have all the anticipation coming out for this group and we come out and lose by ? It makes you reevaluate yourself," said Green. "That showed us right away what we needed to do if we want to be successful. So I think that was really good for us."
Timberwolves not there yet
The Timberwolves were a popular choice to reach the playoffs, with new coach Tom Thibodeau and a roster loaded with young talent such as Andrew Wiggins, Karl-Anthony Towns, Zach LaVine, Gorgui Dieng, and Kris Dunn.
Well, Minnesota entered Friday 4-10, but their point differential was 0.5, meaning they are losing a lot of close games. They are the worst third-quarter team in the NBA, averaging just 19.9 points. By comparison, the Warriors average 30.8 points in the third.
On Monday against the Celtics, the Timberwolves picked the fourth quarter to collapse, as Boston won, 99-93. It's still early, but there is a sense of urgency with all of that talent and a top-tier coach.
"Offensive, with the exception of [a 93-71 loss to Memphis Nov. 19], I think we've been very good," Thibodeau said. "I think what Karl is doing, with [Wiggins] and Zach and when we play with speed and sharing the ball, we're hard to guard. We get to the free throw line a lot. We're shooting the three well.
"We have to have an understanding that we can play well when we're not shooting well. We have to find a way to get through tough periods where we can't allow missed shots to take away from our energy defensively. That's probably the biggest thing."
The toughest part of transitioning from a rising team to a potential contender is teaching young players how to win. The Timberwolves have more than enough talent to play with the league's best teams, but they must avoid those pitfalls that can derail progress.
"You have to have a good understanding of what wins in this league, and that's the balance between your offense and your defense, and certainly there's things that we can do a lot better defensively," said Thibodeau. "But there's a lot of work that goes into it. We've had big leads. Now we've got to play tougher with the lead, and I think we have to have a better understanding of that, and I think we will."
Wiggins is averaging 23.9 points per game and shooting a career-best 41.8 percent from the 3-point line. The Timberwolves acquired the former No. 1 overall pick from the Cavaliers to become the face of their franchise, and he's become just that, even if it has yet to result in team success.
"I'm more confident," Wiggins said. "I shoot more and take better shots. It comes from preparation."
Said Thibodeau on Wiggins's improved shooting: "He's put a lot of work into it and it's the unselfishness of his teammates, too. Guys are making plays. They are sharing the ball and making the extra pass. The threes that we are taking, I think for the most part, are very good. There's ball movement. There's penetration. As long as they're rhythm threes, we'll shoot a high percentage. One of [Wiggins's] great strengths is his versatility."
Wiggins was projected to be a superstar because of his athleticism and ability to play three positions.
"He can score so many different ways," Thibodeau said. "In the post, with his cutting. He has the ability to draw fouls. The way he can score different ways reminds me of Paul [Pierce], transition, pick-and-roll, as a screen, as a ballhandler, so many ways he can score."
But the next step is playing a complete game. The Timberwolves have been mired in inconsistency the past few years.
Despite Towns being named Rookie of the Year last season, Minnesota was unable to close out games. Thibodeau was supposed to offer a defensive mind-set and stabilizing force, but Timberwolves are dealing with the same issues.
"We have to tighten up our shell a little bit more," Thibodeau said. "It's constant work. We try to do the right things every day. We have to understand that the intensity of your decision-making is very important. It just shows, you never let your guard down and you have to strive to be a 48-minute team, and we're not doing that right now. We have to get back in it, we've got to work, we've got to concentrate then improve."
When J.J. Barea suffered a torn calf muscle in the fourth quarter of the Mavericks' loss to the Celtics in Boston Nov. 16, it marked the third time in a year that an opposing guard suffered a serious injury in a particular area of the Garden floor. Last season, Brooklyn's Jarrett Jack tore his anterior cruciate ligament and Memphis's Mario Chalmers tore his Achilles' tendon in the same area. Jack and Chalmers are still rehabbing their injuries. With the shortage of quality point guards, teams are calling both, inquiring about when they will be healthy . . . One Piston who has found his way into coach Stan Van Gundy's doghouse is second-year forward Stanley Johnson, whose playing time has been slashed despite a promising rookie campaign. Johnson, a 6-foot-7-inch, 245-pound strongman, is playing just 16 minutes per game and registered his first DNP-coach's decision of the season Nov. 19 against the Celtics. Van Gundy has been giving little-used Reggie Bullock and Jon Leuer Johnson's minutes. Meanwhile, Van Gundy doesn't believe center Aron Baynes, who has a player option for $6.5 million next season, will be back with Detroit because of the salary he will command on the open market. The Pistons, surprisingly, have the third-highest payroll in the NBA with long-term contracts to Andre Drummond, Tobias Harris, Reggie Jackson, and Leuer. Baynes is the Pistons' only potential free agent next summer. The Pistons also will be moving into a new arena next season, becoming the latest Detroit team to move back downtown. The Tigers and Red Wings have remained downtown, but the Lions moved from Pontiac, Mich., to Ford Field in 2002. The Pistons moved in to The Palace of Auburn Hills for the 1988-89 season and at the time it was considered a state-of-the-art arena. But the arena has aged, downtown Detroit has been revitalized, and there was a vacancy at the new Red Wings arena that was perfect for the Pistons.
Vince Carter, in his age 40 season, remains a valued contributor for the Memphis Grizzlies. On Nov. 14 in a win over Utah, the 19-year veteran became the oldest player since 1983-84 to reach the 20-point, five-rebound mark off the bench. Here's who he surpassed:
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.