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December 21 Philadelphia Daily News columnist Bob Cooney:
“At this time of the year, homecomings are about as customary as live, decorated Christmas trees filling front windows.
Getting to reunite with some family and friends is coming at the perfect time for 76ers rookie Evan Turner. The Chicago native, who grew up only 5 miles from the home of the Chicago Bulls and his idol, Michael Jordan, will play his first game as a pro at the United Center tonight at 8 as the hot Sixers (11-16) take on Turner’s favorite childhood team.
If you talk history of the game with Turner, it pretty much begins and ends with Jordan. Like many others of his generation, Turner said he patterned his game after Jordan’s, though his game became more comparable to that of Jordan’s sidekick, Scottie Pippen.
He attended St. Joseph High School, the same school that produced Isiah Thomas and was chronicled in the movie “Hoop Dreams.” What makes this homecoming even more special is that Turner will face Bulls point guard Derrick Rose, who also hails from Chicago and whose Simeon High School team beat Turner’s in the state playoffs their senior years. Rose was named Illinois’ Mr. Basketball, while Turner came in third.
Turner, of course, took his basketball talents to Ohio State, where he was named the national college player of the year after his junior season, while Rose played 1 year at Memphis with coach John Calipari, then bolted for the NBA, where he was the first overall pick in 2008. Last year, he was named to his first All-Star team.
After being taken by the Sixers with the second overall pick last summer, Turner has largely struggled with the pro game. A horrible showing, by his own admission, at the NBA Rookie League in Orlando in July startled Sixers fans – and Turner. He appeared slower than his days at Ohio State, not as fluid with his all-around game and lost at his new position of shooting guard.
December 21 Philadelphia Inquirer:
“He isn’t the Elton Brand most 76ers fans thought they were getting.
He isn’t the 20-point, 10-rebound power forward that is leading them to the glory-filled promised land.
But through 27 games this season, Brand has been much better than he’s ever been as a Sixer, a guy providing reliable scoring and a bruising inside presence for a team that is playing much better than expected.
This season, Brand is averaging 15.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, and is shooting 51.3 percent from the floor. Excluding the year he played only eight games and tore his Achilles tendon, those are Brand’s highest numbers since the 2006-07 season with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Brand signed with the Sixers in July of 2008 for about $80 million. He missed all but 26 games of the subsequent season with a shoulder injury.
The Sixers practiced in Chicago on Monday and play at the Chicago Bulls on Tuesday night. The Sixers, 11-16, are 8-3 in their previous 11 games, a stretch that could be Brand’s most successful with the franchise.
“I have gotten healthy and he is calling my number and calling the plays that I can be effective in: pick and pops, rolling to the basket, and putting me in position to succeed,” Brand said of Sixers coach Doug Collins. “It’s a lot of fun.”
During Saturday’s 97-89 win over the Orlando Magic, Brand finished with 20 points and 13 rebounds. After the game, Brand explained how he approached the second half of the game – in light of the team coming off of Friday night’s fourth-quarter letdown against the Los Angeles Lakers.
“I was disappointed in myself and my aggressiveness [against the Lakers],” Brand said. “I wanted to be aggressive once the game got close.”
December 20 Philadelphia Daily News:
“Never give up, and believe.
Doug Collins has been preaching that to the 76ers since the beginning of the season, and yesterday the Eagles proved that doing both of those things can lead to tremendous results.
The Sixers started their eight-game road trip on Saturday night in Orlando with a thoroughly impressive, 97-89 win over the Magic, their eighth win in 11 games. Although Orlando was shorthanded due to making two trades that, among others, brought them Gilbert Arenas, the Magic still had all-everything Dwight Howard roaming the middle and Jameer Nelson running the point.
The Sixers didn’t shoot well (34-for-77, 44.2 percent), got crushed on the boards (53-39) and were playing the back end of another back-to-back. But they found enough energy, got key contributions from their bench and started the long road trip on the right foot.
“This was our fourth game in 5 days, and that’s tough,” Collins said. “Really, this grind started after we played Boston [a one-point loss on Thursday, Dec. 9]. We practiced Friday and Saturday, then played at noon on Sunday, practiced on Monday, had a back-to-back against New Jersey and the Clippers on Tuesday and Wednesday, took off Thursday, then played the Lakers Friday and Orlando Saturday. That is a very, very tough road. But you know what I love so much about our guys is that they always compete. I have always had pride in having a well-conditioned team, and against Orlando we were playing harder at the end than at the beginning of the game. That was a real tribute to our conditioning.”
Lou Williams led the Sixers with 24 points off the bench, making 13 of 14 foul shots. Andre Iguodala contributed 21 points and seven assists while Elton Brand collected 20 points and 13 rebounds, his ninth double-double of the season.
As good as Brand played, it was something that happened while he was on the bench that impressed Collins most and proved to him that his team is starting to go in the direction he has paved for them.”
TALKIN BOUT PRACTICE: Sixers blog
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