Whatever jitters Evan Turner might have had, he suppressed them in a flash.
Appearing relaxed and comfortable in Tuesday night’s debut with the Indiana Pacers, he sure didn’t look like a new guy playing in his first game with his new team.
Rather, the versatile swingman looked very much ready to play a meaningful role in the Pacers’ bid for an NBA championship.
A handful of practices apparently was all he needed to feel right at home.
“Just taking it one day at a time and understanding each situation,” said Turner, who contributed 13 points, six rebounds, two assists and a steal during a 118-98 win against the visiting Los Angeles Lakers. “Coach (Frank Vogel) kept calling my play.
“I wanted to make sure he felt comfortable doing it in the future, so I had to make shots.”
Turner made his first shot of the night Tuesday and, in the process, quickly won over a capacity crowd at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.
Filling the role vacated by Danny Granger, Turner relieved starting small forward Paul George early in the second quarter and finished the period with a bench-high six points. By game’s end, he had a bench-leading 13 points in a bench-high 26 minutes.
Although it was only one game, the former Ohio State star did nothing to make the Pacers regret the Feb. 20 trade that sent Granger to Philadelphia in exchange for Lavoy Allen and Turner.
“Obviously, Evan looked comfortable with his new teammates and new system,” Vogel said. “He’s a good basketball player, good savvy, good IQ.”
Turner’s better-than-good first impression was in line with what teammates expected. The second overall pick of the 2010 NBA Draft by Philadelphia, he was averaging 17.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game for the 76ers prior to the trade.
“We know what he can do,” point guard George Hill said. “(He is) a midrange laser, a great creator, good on the defensive end and things like that. It’s easy (for him to fit in) when a guy has a high IQ and can play basketball. The offensive side of us will get him open looks and get him to where his sweet spots are.
“I think he did a good job of not forcing things and letting the game come to him.”
Backup point guard C.J. Watson embraces Turner, who started 54 games this season in Philadelphia, as a particularly effective weapon in what was a already-formidable bench.
Luis Scola, Ian Mahinmi and Watson have been solid all season. And Turner, a fourth-year pro, is a substantial upgrade from the 30-year-old Granger, who has been slowed by injuries the past two seasons and was still working his way back into form at the time of the trade.
Though it was only one game, Turner brought instant energy and instant results.
“A great debut,” Watson said. “I think he adds a lot to our game and makes us play a little faster, another person who can handle the ball, (execute) pick and rolls and create shots for himself and others.”
His scoring abilities notwithstanding, Turner insists he’s already bought into the Pacers’ philosophy of winning with defense and plans to contribute accordingly.
Indiana (43-13) has the NBA’s best record and is its No. 1 defensive team heading into tonight’s game against the visiting Milwaukee Bucks.
“I understand they’re big defensively,” Turner said of the Pacers’ approach. “That’s pretty much it. It starts with defense.”