Blazers' Turner tells critics he's earned his contract: 'So, kiss my a--'
Evan Turner was one of the many beneficiaries of the NBA's salary-cap boom in 2016, cashing in as an unrestricted free agent that summer to the tune of four years and $70 million with the Portland Trail Blazers.
Turner isn't quite halfway through that contract, but with the way he's played - offering solid, if inefficient, bench production - and the way the cap has leveled out and spending money around the league has dried up, the possibility of Turner playing up to it are increasingly remote. That's not really his fault, though - he didn't offer himself $70 million - and he's tired of hearing about how he's not worthy of what he's being paid.
"First off, let me say one thing: Everything I have done, I have earned," the former No. 2 overall pick told NBC's Jason Quick, of those who would call him overpaid. "My contract - that's my bread, and I earned my bread. So, kiss my ass. Dead serious. Write that. I earned that (expletive) money."
Turner is far from the only player whose cap-spike-era contract is already looking like an misbegotten albatross. Luol Deng, to name but one example, has played just 13 minutes in the second year of his four-year, $72-million deal with the Lakers, and team president Magic Johnson is openly wishing he could find another team to take Deng off his hands.
At the time they were signed, it seemed like the cap would continue to rise and the deals would look better, not worse, with time. Less than two years later, the market is such that a borderline All-Star like Lou Williams signed an extension for less than the mid-level exception before even testing free agency.
Turner had two strong years with the Boston Celtics before signing in Portland, but he's struggled badly at the offensive end as a Trail Blazer. He's currently posting a 9.5 PER and 51.5 true shooting percentage, making him one of the league's least efficient scorers. Perhaps more notably (given that Turner was never signed to be a sharpshooter), his assist rate has cratered, from 30 percent in his first year with the Celtics to 12.6 this season. He ranks 81st among 89 small forwards in real plus-minus, and the Blazers have been 4.8 points per 100 possessions better with him on the bench.
Both he and his teammates, however, point to his subtler contributions - namely, his defense and basketball IQ - as markers of overall success for a team that's won nine straight games and sits third in the Western Conference.
"He doesn't get enough credit, but we know what he does, and that's all that matters," Blazers forward Moe Harkless told Quick.
Turner, for his part, is just focusing on team-oriented results.
"All I'm doing is what my coach asks," Turner said. "I'm trying to help the team, truly and genuinely help the team. Because I've been on teams where I'm putting up 20, and nobody gave a damn because we were losing.
"... At the end of the day, winning matters. Character matters. And what you are willing to sacrifice matters."
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