Evan Turner was one of the many NBA players who benefited from becoming a free agent in July 2016, when the salary cap spiked $24.1 million, and he is not about to apologize for that bit of good fortune.
“First off, let me say one thing: Everything I have done, I have earned,” Turner told NBC Sports Northwest’s Jason Quick of his four-year, $70 million deal. “My contract — that’s my bread, and I earned my bread. So, kiss my ass. Dead serious. Write that. I earned that (expletive) money.”
The comment came weeks after Turner confronted a fan in Portland who heckled him for a two-point effort against the Sacramento Kings: “Hey Evan! I see you got your typical two! Your typical two!” And it comes almost two full seasons into a contract that many considered ludicrous at the time of the deal.
The former No. 2 overall pick was coming off arguably the best season of a much-maligned career, averaging 10.5 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists in 28 minutes off the bench for a Boston team that shockingly won 48 games during the regular season. Celtics coach Brad Stevens had tapped into the playmaking that made Turner so special in college and used it to his second unit’s advantage.
He was making $3.4 million at the time.
Turner was not worth $17.5 million annually. Yet, he was to Portland when most everyone thought the cap would continue soaring to new heights and the Blazers had one last shot to spend space before extensions for Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum barred them from paying up again in the near future.
This is a helpful a reminder to fans that players are most often not to blame for signing the contracts they’re offered. Whether they live up to those contracts is more likely on the front office than it is on the player, unless the player flat-out quits on the team after getting paid. And Turner hasn’t quit.
He’s the same player he’s always been. His per-36 numbers have leveled out, save for less playmaking opportunities on a team with a pair of score-first guards, and he’s shooting more efficiently than ever. The defense is no longer a disaster when he’s on the floor, and coach Terry Stotts has finally found lineups that fit his unconventional style. The Blazers’ most productive lineup this season features Turner, and he’s once again found himself contributing to one of the league’s most surprising teams.
Meanwhile, in conversations with Quick, Turner’s teammates lauded his veteran presence on and off the court, just as they did in Boston. Evan Turner is doing Evan Turner, and he’s not apologizing for it.
“I’ve come from the mud,’’ he told NBC Sports Northwest. “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.’’
It’s not his fault the Blazers decided to spend $227.8 million on him, Allen Crabbe, Mo Harkless and Meyers Leonard a couple summers ago. They are what they are. And we don’t expect hecklers to get it.
But the next time someone like Los Angeles Lakers president of basketball operations Magic Johnson mocks Luol Deng’s contract and the next time the NBA cries foul about players making more than their worth, remember it was the team that opted to overpay them. You wouldn’t turn it down, either.
As for whether the National Basketball Players Association should have gone along with the league’s years-long cap-smoothing idea rather than one significant bump followed by a leveling out in the seasons since, that’s a story for a different day. But Evan Turner got his bread, and he’s not sorry.
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