|ALSO: ANALYSTS SPLIT ON PACERS-SIXERS TRADE|
The Sixers gambled on Evan Turner and Andrew Bynum to be franchise cornerstones, and lost.
Now, the Pacers are gambling on Turner and Bynum to be role-players.
There are few people more familiar with Turner and Bynum than their former coach in Philadelphia, and despite the outcome with the Sixers, Doug Collins is confident both will help the Pacers – largely because the stakes, and the players’ expected roles, are dramatically different.
“They have more talent,” Collins, now an ESPN analyst, said in a phone interview Friday afternoon. “Any time you upgrade your talent base, it’s like in real estate they say location, location, location; in professional sport it’s talent, talent, talent.”
Collins coached the Sixers for Turner’s first three NBA seasons. Though the two had an occasionally tempestuous relationship, Collins had nothing but good things to say about the former No. 2 overall pick from Ohio State.
“They got a really, really good all-around basketball player,” Collins said. “I had the pleasure to coach him for three years. I watched him grow every year. He is a big-time competitor – a tough, tough competitor – and he is a winner.
“I know it was a very difficult time for him to be going through the rebuild. For him now to get to a winning situation, I think he’s going to thrive. I think Frank Vogel will be a great coach for him, I think he will be great for their team. He’s a great teammate. He will stand up for his teammates.”
The Pacers gave up Danny Granger and a future second-round pick to acquire Turner and Lavoy Allen from the Sixers just before the NBA trade deadline Thursday. With the second unit struggling for scoring punch, Turner is expected to fill the vacated sixth man role.
They signed Bynum, who bounced from the Sixers to the Cavs to the Bulls before signing with the Pacers on Feb. 1, for the remainder of the season in hopes he can provide quality backup minutes behind Roy Hibbert.
Though some analysts are skeptical Turner will thrive in the Pacers’ slower-paced offense, Collins believes the player, coach and team are a perfect fit.
“People forget, when I went back to Philadelphia that team had won 27 games and we went plus-14 that year (2010-11) and Evan was a huge part of a rotation on the perimeter that had Andre Iguodala, Jrue Holiday, Lou Williams, Jodie Meeks and himself,” he said. “He’s used to playing winning basketball and having very good teammates with him.
“I think it got lost a little bit because so much was put on him this year with the rebuild and all they were doing in Philadelphia but this is a guy who played 28 minutes a night on a team that was three minutes away from being in the conference finals (in 2012). And Evan was a huge part of that.”
Turner does have a sensitive side, and Collins said it will be important for the Pacers to make him feel wanted and needed. He also has a tendency to get down on himself if he makes mistakes or struggles to score.
“The one thing about Evan is he is a little hard on himself,” he said. “He’s such a perfectionist and he’s such a competitor, it was one thing I always talked to him about: you’re going to make some mistakes along the way, just play through those. As he got older, he got much, much better at doing that. The Pacers got themselves a really good player.”
As for Bynum?
Though the decision to give up Andre Iguodala, Nik Vucevic, Moe Harkless and a first-round pick in the four-team trade to acquire Bynum re-directed the Sixers from playoff contention to the lottery – and ultimately led Collins into retirement after the 2012-13 season – he believes Pacers could offer the former All-Star center the perfect environment in which to resurrect his career.
“The guy worked every day, he came into the gym, he got onto that treadmill and did his job every day. I admire how hard he worked. I think the big question for him is getting in condition,” Collins said. “The guy is huge and if you throw him the ball in the post he’s going to deliver for you. He’s a very skilled player, he can shoot the ball, he’s a good free-throw shooter.
“And the way the Pacers defend with Hibbert, he brings that same kind of defender in the way they play the pick-and-roll with the drop-and-plug and they don’t get out aggressively and Roy defends the restricted area. Those are the things Andrew will bring. If Roy is out and you put Andrew in, it’s not such a huge change in how they want to play.”
Though rumors circulated out of Cleveland that Bynum simply lacked the desire to play, Collins said he never saw any such indication.
“The guy wanted to play,” he said. “When we traded for him he was incredibly excited to come in and be a part of the team and help us be one of the best teams in the East. I felt sympathy for him. When you go through all that rehab, all that therapy, and you can’t play, it wears on your psyche, it wears on your soul. You’re a young kid that wants to play basketball and you have to remember, when he came to the Sixers if we’d have signed him to a five-year deal he could’ve signed for like $100 million, so this guy had a lot weighing on his shoulders and in his heart.
“He just needs to be able to play and the beauty of this is in Indiana, he’s got a team there in place. They’re going to tell Andrew, ‘This is how we do things.’ With David West and Hibbert and Paul George and George Hill and that core of guys they have, ‘We’ll embrace you, we’ll put our arms around you, but this is the way we do things in Indiana.’ And I think he will thrive in that.”
The Sixers needed Turner and Bynum to carry the team. The Pacers just need them to lift the bench.