A recent appearance by Andre Iguodala and Evan Turner on JJ Redick’s podcast, “The Old Man and the Three,” has inspired a great deal of conversation, and not without reason. In the course of 99 minutes, the three former Sixers chopped it up about several topics, not the least of which was why James Harden didn’t deserve to be fined for calling Daryl Morey a “liar.”
But the crux of their conversation was about the fine line between success and failure in the NBA. How there’s an element of “Darwinism,” as Turner put it: Survival of the fittest, etc., etc. How such things as preparation and professionalism go a long way toward determining who makes the grade, but circumstances surely do so as well.
“Everybody’s good in the NBA,” Iguodala said. “It’s just who’s locked in, and who’s not getting the most out of themselves.”
“The separator in the league is not talent,” said Redick, who retired in 2021 after playing 15 seasons, two of them with the Sixers.
Rather, he said, it is such things as basketball IQ and “obsession with the game.”
Also being in the right place at the right time.
The 39-year-old Iguodala, chosen ninth overall by the Sixers in the 2004 draft, spent the first eight of his 19 seasons in Philadelphia. But it is his eight years with Golden State that have defined his career. During that time he has come to be viewed as the ultimate glue guy, as the consummate winner. He has earned four championship rings with the Dubs, and in 2015 he was named Finals MVP – though Turner needled him on the pod about the way he “held” LeBron James, then with Cleveland, to a 40-point triple-double in one of those games.
Iguodala insisted that he’s not a Hall of Famer, though he has a case. (He also remains coy about retirement, though it is expected he will announce it soon, likely on the pod he co-hosts with Turner, “The Point Forward.”)
The 39-year-old Redick, one of the greatest snipers of his generation, enjoyed his two most productive seasons in Philadelphia, averaging 17.1 points per game in ‘17-18 and 18.1 in ‘18-19. That was due in no small part to his mesh with Joel Embiid. Again and again they ran dribble handoffs, to devastating effect.
Then there’s Turner. The second overall pick in 2010, he played for five teams over 10 seasons. He expressed some frustration on the pod about how his career played out, about how his opportunities to shine were few. Whether he had earned those opportunities is the question.
Here are his career numbers: averages of 9.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 26.9 minutes a night, over 705 games. Shooting splits of .434/.294/.782. Other than the 3-point shooting, not horrible. But not what might be expected of the second overall pick, either. And it was Turner himself who mentioned the word “bust” on the pod, if only in passing.
“I don’t think you were a bust, Evan,” Redick reassured him.
Iguodala approached it another way.
“I always say, you were set behind, the moment you got drafted,” he told Turner. “There’s absolutely no way Philadelphia should have drafted you.”
There’s a great deal of truth in that. It was an open secret that then-coach Doug Collins wanted to use the No. 2 pick in 2010 not on Turner, the National Player of the Year his final season at Ohio State, but rather Georgia Tech forward Derrick Favors. (Kentucky point guard John Wall went first, to Washington.)
Collins was overruled, and the Sixers tabbed Turner.
It was a weird fit in terms of coach and player – Collins is, to say the least, a fiery, quirky guy – as well as role. Even now Turner views himself as a point guard, but the Sixers already had a good one in Jrue Holiday. Turner was miscast as a wing – note, again, his 3-point percentage – and toward the end of his three-plus seasons in Philadelphia he found himself part of The Process, which he viewed as a frustration unto itself.
“You go up to (general manager) Sam Hinkie and it’s like, ‘Yo, I’ve been working my whole career to battle to get here. I give a fuck about winning,’” Turner said on the pod. “I call up (then-Ohio State coach) Thad Matta and go, ‘Yo, should I leave and go overseas?’ I didn’t know what to do. I said ‘Bro, I can’t go if we’re trying not to win.’ I was sitting at home, crying.”
Turner actually got off to a strong start in ‘13-14, averaging over 17 points through the first 54 games, but was then traded to Indiana. He landed in Boston the following season, and two years after that, Portland. After three seasons there he finished up with Atlanta in ‘19-20.
Turner, now just 34, labeled himself “a second-unit guy” on the pod, and indeed that was the case most of his career. At the same time, he said, “I embraced my role so much, I diminished my career.”
“True story,” Iguodala said.
“Eventually,” Turner said, “you listen to the coach, you keep buying in, keep buying in. Before you knew it, I literally diminished my career. What do you want me to do? Pass it here? Cool. I’ll set a screen. Hey, big dog. I came in as a 6-7 point guard. When we talk about the NBA and shit, and we go into the game, I’m not wrong for saying, ‘Yo, I shot four shots that day. No, I didn’t play basketball that day. I went and got cardio and wrestled with some of the top talent in the world.’”
Put another way, Turner told Iguodala and Redick, “I lost the fuck-you that I needed to play.”
And once more: “Bro, you can still do your job wholeheartedly and say, ‘I’m tired of showing up to this bitch shooting four times in 38 minutes.’ When I was 14, I saw myself getting 38, so I will still do my job, but at the end of the day you can’t tell me as one of the top 400 players I can’t get one goddamn play a half, after guarding one through four every night.”
In the end, Turner agreed with Redick and said he didn’t view himself as a bust. But certainly he has reason to wonder about the way his career played out. Certainly there are some what-ifs. There almost always are, in a league where there is a fine line between success and failure.