Evan Turner will face his former team for the first time tonight in Philadelphia. (Photo: Frank McGrath/Pacers)

Evan Turner will face his former team for the first time tonight in Philadelphia. (Photo: Frank McGrath/Pacers)

20130429-135523.jpgAs he prepares for a glimpse into his past, Evan Turner prefers not to think of the future.

The present is challenge enough.

The Pacers face Turner’s former team tonight in Philadelphia. When he was traded from the 76ers on Feb. 20, Turner was enjoying the best statistical season of his career, averaging 34.9 minutes, 17.4 points, 6.0 rebounds and 3.7 assists as the focal point of the offense.

Since joining the Pacers along with Lavoy Allen in exchange for Danny Granger and a second-round pick, he has come off the bench, averaging 22.8 minutes, 9.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.1 assists.

So why is this man smiling?

Even though the Pacers have been a modest 5-4 since his arrival, that’s miles from where the Sixers reside. He left a team on a nine-game losing streak that has since grown to 18, and joined one that has credible championship aspirations.

“Anybody that steps into our culture has to understand that the team comes first and that’s clear the moment they set foot in our building and get around our players and our leaders,” said coach Frank Vogel. “I think he sees that very clearly and obviously that’s the right way to approach free agency, to just help the team win. And when a team wins, everybody gets their individual rewards.”

Therein lies the rub for Turner. Though he is more than willing to sacrifice individual glory for the collective good, he may well be costing himself millions of dollars in the process. In the final season of his rookie contract, he could become an unrestricted free agent if the Pacers do not make a qualifying offer of $8.7 million by June 30.

Even if they do, there seems little chance he will be back in Indiana next year, given the Pacers’ bloated payroll and their desire to re-sign Lance Stephenson.

“I really haven’t thought about, it to tell you the truth,” Turner said. “Everybody keeps bringing it up. I have confidence, regardless. When I was playing in Philly, I said I thought I was one of the best perimeters, in general, so it doesn’t really matter. I think people who know basketball know that. The biggest thing is winning. I’m all about winning. I don’t care; when you have an opportunity like this it doesn’t matter.”

His transition into fabric of the Pacers has been relatively seamless and he does seem happy here. But he is stopping just short of professing a desire to return because now is not the time for such things.

“The whole thing is how I would fit in next year and everything and that’s a talk for a later date,” he said. “I have things I want to do personally and as a whole but that’s at a later date and it doesn’t really matter right now. What matters is the golden opportunity of going deep in the playoffs and doing that.”

To gauge the value and importance of winning, Turner need only glance at his old teammates tonight. They’re 15-49, already losers of a franchise-record 14 in a row at home, circling the drain.

Not only have the Sixers not won since Jan. 29, they haven’t led in the fourth quarter. Their average margin of defeat is 18.8 points. Just three of the losses have come by single digits, while four have come by more than 30.

“Everybody on that team is a competitor and nobody likes to lose,” Turner said. “They’re a young group of guys so sometimes you’ve got to pay your dues in that sense but it’s never good to see anybody lose, at least in the headline for that type of rap but I think good things are going to come for them.

“Like Larry Bird said, life always balances itself out and I think there’ll be great things coming for them, eventually.”

The same may be true for Turner.

But eventually can wait, because now is too much fun.


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