Former Celtics guard Evan Turner was a healthy inactive Friday for the Hawks in their 109-106 loss to the Celtics. It is the latest sign that Atlanta — which started this season dreaming of a playoff berth — is pivoting toward its youth movement.
Turner, who is in the final season of the four-year, $70 million deal he signed with the Trail Blazers, has appeared in just 18 games for Atlanta this season, averaging 3.3 points, 2 rebounds, and 2 assists per contest.
“We have a lot of young, talented guys that could turn out to be something in time,” Turner said. “It’s just their time to really learn and sharpen their blade in that sense. So it didn’t help in regards to our record [NBA-worst 7-28]. But I think the new blueprint as it has been, as you’ve seen what Sam Hinkie did in Philly, and I guess you could say like the Warriors back in the day, it’s like, we’re better tomorrow.
“And the best thing you can do is be the best pro you can be and the best teammate you can be. And be accountable. So that’s pretty much how I’ve left that, focused on it, and really just enjoyed the other part about it.”
Turner, 31, played a key role for the Celtics from 2014-16, the start of their rapid ascension. He could be a candidate to be traded prior to next month’s deadline, or even to negotiate a buyout. But he said he is not really concerned about any of that right now.
“Everything will work out the way it’s supposed to work out,” he said. “I’m not really too pressed . . . All you can do is stay ready and control what I can control.”
’Tis the season
Celtics point guard Kemba Walker missed Friday’s game because of an illness. Coach Brad Stevens said it was unclear whether Waler would fly to Chicago for Saturday’s game against the Bulls. With Walker out, Tremont Waters was recalled from the Maine Red Claws.
“I don’t know how many games we’ve played with our whole group,” Stevens said. “It hasn’t been very many. Hopefully we’ll get back to that soon. We’ll see.”
Waters registered a steal, assist, rebound, and two missed shots in four minutes of play.
Big fan favorite
The NBA on Thursday released results of the first round of fan voting for starters in next month’s All-Star Game, and Boston two-way contract player Tacko Fall had the sixth-most votes among frontcourt players, despite the fact that he has played just 11 minutes all season.
“I don’t love it,” Stevens said. “I don’t love the idea, when you’re talking about the All-Star Game or any awards, not being based solely on what’s happening on the court and impacting the team and winning.
“He is a wonderful person, he’s done a great job. Obviously, he’s played like 10 minutes here so he shouldn’t be sixth in All-Star voting. I get it. I think sometimes the All-Star Games and things like that become a mix of popularity contests and then really, really subjective voting, so like that stuff is like the least of my concerns, to be honest. I’m not a huge All-Star Game person generally. I think, ultimately, I get it. I get the fan interest and what it draws.”
Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce was an assistant coach for Team USA at the FIBA World Championships last summer, so he got an up-close view of the four-player Celtics contingent, including Jaylen Brown.
Brown is in the midst of an All-Star-caliber season, and Pierce, for one, said he is not surprised by the ascension.
“Blame [Team USA head coach] Gregg Popovich,” Pierce joked. “I think Jaylen said this summer, ‘I like playing [power forward].’ Because we played him a lot at the four with Team USA and now he’s playing at the four and having that leap. So if he does any damage to us, I’m going to have to text Pop and tell him thank you. It’s been a nice opening for him.”
“He was really good as a mid-post, post-up, isolation player for us down there. Bigger guys couldn’t guard him. He’d blow by them with his quickness, and smaller guys couldn’t guard him because he’d overpower them. I think he saw even in some of the pick-and-pop situations, this is a little bit easier.”
No big thing
Put Turner in the camp of those who do not believe the Celtics need to add to their frontcourt prior to next month’s trade deadline. Turner played with Enes Kanter in Portland and is a big believer in his game.
“Besides what you have with Enes and [Daniel] Theis and all them, when you break it down, people don’t even use centers anymore,” Turner said. “Isn’t [Joel] Embiid in Philly 7-5, 400 pounds, shooting 3s from halfcourt? That’s the game, right? So at the end of the day, I don’t think so.”
Adam Himmelsbach can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @adamhimmelsbach.