The Atlanta Hawks introduced Evan Turner to the media on Friday morning. The former Trail Blazers wing touched on a variety of topics, including his excitement to play on the East Coast and the splendor of Waffle House. He also examined his role, his new teammates and the upcoming season.
Most expect Turner to take on the role of backup point guard, an area of need for the Hawks. At 6-foot-7, he has the tools to defend multiple positions, but is at his best offensively as a playmaker and ball-mover — something the Hawks are equipped to tap into.
Turner said he envisions a “blue-collar” role in Atlanta, one where his top priority is taking pressure off other pieces. He likened it to his time next to Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum in Portland and his two seasons next to Isaiah Thomas in Boston.
Atlanta lacked reliable playmakers outside Trae Young last season. That’s where Turner enters the picture — not only as a backup point guard, but as someone who can limit the burden for others. He helps Lloyd Pierce slide younger players into more comfortable roles.
Here are highlights from Turner’s media availability.
Q: What were your initial thoughts on joining the Hawks?
ET: Super hyped, honestly. I was super excited for personal reasons. On top of that, I always thought if there was a move, a different option, Bazemore and I had the same deal … I thought Bazemore would’ve fit better [in Portland] and I thought I could probably fit a little better here. So, I got a call from Neil [Oshley], a missed call, and I called my agent; “Yo, did I get traded?” He called me and I said, “Well, let’s hope it’s the East Coast” and he said, “Atlanta.” For a moment then, I was like “Oh, shit, that really worked.” I was hoping for it.
Q: Why did you feel like you’re a better fit for Atlanta?
ET: I thought, when it came down to it, [the Hawks] need a little bit better playmakers … They need some playmakers and obviously we had such a strong backcourt in Portland, two of the best guards in the league; when it came down to it, Bazemore was more of a spot-up shooter than I was.
Q: What personal reasons drew you to Atlanta?
ET: I have a beautiful little daughter, she lives in South Carolina. So, in Portland, it’s tough to get her out there. As I get older, you know, basketball is GOAT, but being a parent and influencing her the right way and being around her and loving her is number one … I think that helps [me] focus more, because half the time I was worrying about my career and stuff, but I was also trying to make sure I was around her. Basketball’s dope, but it’s not bigger than that.
Q: Can the Hawks make a playoff push?
ET: I think so. Last year, they did so great the second half of the year. Like I said, one thing I noticed was [John] Collins, the leap he made; you know how Trae got so much better. With the core we have, we just got [Allen] Crabbe, it makes me excited. You add a couple pieces, you have the right culture … we’re trending in the right direction.
Q: What was Lloyd Pierce’s impact on you the first time around [in Philadelphia]?
ET: With Lloyd, I think, he worked hard, he’s really diligent, he’s really poised. He never got up too high or too low. I thought he had a lot of great knowledge … He was real. There was no nonsense. He let us know what he thought. He wasn’t afraid to voice his opinion, but the bigger thing was the unit … how can people get better each day, how can he help you get better each day?
Q: Were there aspects of your game you weren’t able to show in Portland?
ET: Nah, you know, everything’s up and down. In a basketball season, sometimes you’re not the focal point, so you have to show it in waves. I think there are aspects and times where I show my defense, there are aspects and times where I show my playmaking abilities, and there are some times where I show my scoring. I guess here, we’ll see how I’ll be set up and how I’ll be used. I guess maybe I can show it all at once as opposed to certain parts. But the biggest thing, like I said, when it comes down to it, all that doesn’t matter unless you win. I’ve been on teams where I put up 20 and we lose and it doesn’t matter …
Q: Are you open to bringing the ball up and acting as a point guard?
ET: Oh yeah, of course. I think sometimes, as a player, you have to be realistic in a sense of why you’re here and what you do. Sometimes you get in trouble when you step out of bounds, in a sense. I comprehend whatever the plays are, who needs to get the ball, what I need to do. I’ll be used, for the most part, to take pressure off people. I did that in Portland, I did that when I played with Isaiah Thomas in Boston … It’ll be like a blue-collar role.
Some notes …
Turner unlocks several options in the rotation. He’s a natural wing, but is set to take on the mantle of backup point guard. The Hawks need playmakers, which is something Turner referenced directly. He said Bazemore is a better fit in Portland and he’s a better fit in Atlanta — a sentiment I tend to agree with.
When asked about his leadership role, Turner refused to accept the label of ‘senior’ in the locker room. He noted his distaste for older players who force their status on younger players, saying he prefers to find common ground and build relationships organically.
Living on the East Coast now, it’s clear Turner is much more comfortable on a personal level. He’s close to his daughter — within driving distance, whether it’s visiting her in South Carolina or driving her to games downtown. He also wants to embrace the lower cost of living and is very much open to an endorsement deal from Waffle House.
In the middle of the press scrum, Turner was treated to appearance from Lloyd Pierce and his young daughter. After a brief discussion about toys, Turner joked to Pierce about getting 15-20 shots per game. Pierce then mentioned a coaches meeting to discuss his role.
Along with his on-court obligations, Turner expressed a desire to enjoy the city — something he hasn’t done a great job of in the past. He specifically pointed to Tom Brady, saying he missed out on the legendary quarterback during his two-year Boston stint. He wants to catch a Braves and Falcons game before the season.
The Hawks are adding personality, leadership and an on-court fit at very little cost. While Turner’s contract seems exorbitant, the same can be said for Bazemore. While the latter is the better player, the best talent doesn’t always constitute the best value.
Turner plugs several holes for Atlanta, at the same time opening up minutes for De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and the Hawks’ young core. It’s a natural fit and one that should yield benefits throughout the 2019-20 campaign.