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updated: 4/26/2012 11:34 PM

Sixers' Turner helps set tone for series

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  • Bulls center Joakim Noah battles for a rebound against Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson Thursday during the first half.

      Bulls center Joakim Noah battles for a rebound against Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson Thursday during the first half.
    Associated Press

 
 

When it comes to the Bulls and playoff rivals, being from Chicago doesn't grant a player any sort of immunity. Just ask Isiah Thomas, Mark Aguirre or Dwyane Wade.

So Philadelphia's Evan Turner will be an interesting case study when the Bulls and 76ers play their first-round series, with Game 1 set for Saturday at noon at the United Center. Game 2 is Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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Turner has been in the news because he told the Delaware County (Pa.) Times last weekend he thinks the Bulls would be a better playoff matchup for the Sixers than Miami.

"I think we'll be able to compete well against Chicago and have an opportunity to win the series," Turner said. "It means we're dodging the tougher team. That's what I think."

That statement in itself isn't a big deal. The vast majority of Bulls nation preferred Philadelphia to New York in the first round, anyway. The Sixers made their preference public by resting their top five scorers in Thursday's lopsided loss at Detroit, which sealed the No. 8 spot.

The Bulls already had the top seed in the East wrapped up, but their 107-75 romp over Cleveland at the United Center clinched homecourt throughout the playoffs. Derrick Rose, Luol Deng and Kyle Korver were given the night off.

Turner's history with the Bulls goes beyond the playoff comment. When he played at St. Joseph's High School in Westchester, he unleashed some trash talk toward Rose during a game against Simeon in 2007.

A story on Yourseason.com claimed Turner stopped at the media table during halftime to critique Rose. Turner had more to say after Simeon won the game at Northwestern's Welsh-Ryan Arena.

"I was better than (Rose)," Turner said that day. "With me guarding him he didn't do much. He knows that and I know that."

Turner later apologized and the personal rivalry never gained any steam. Rose spent a year at Memphis, while Turner went to Ohio State and became the No. 2 pick of the 2010 draft.

Turner took to Twitter to defend his comments about the Bulls, saying only portion of his comments were quoted in the paper. He called the Bulls the best team in the East and pointed out that he simply felt the Sixers don't match up as well against the Heat.

"I love it," Richard Hamilton said of Turner's quotes. "We've just got to give them what they ask for. It's going to be a challenge for us. It's going to be a challenge for them."

This season, Turner is Philadelphia's sixth-leading scorer at 9.4 points per game and he shot 27.3 percent from the field in three games against the Bulls, averaging 4.7 points. He's not always on the floor during crunchtime, so there's no telling if he'll be a significant factor in this playoff series.

One of Turner's Ohio State teammates, Mark Titus, wrote a book chronicling his adventures as a Division I walk on. Turner is mentioned frequently and was dubbed "The Villain" by Titus.

The book recounted a conversation Titus had with his high school coach in Indiana. "I told (the coach) point-blank, 'We all think you're a (jerkface) and you're taking all the fun out of basketball,'" Titus wrote, before adding, "which, coincidentally, is the exact same thing I told Evan Turner just about every day at Ohio State."

Turner deserves the benefit of the doubt. Needing a better read, the best source I could find Thursday was Cavs guard Manny Harris, who played against Turner many times at Michigan.

"I got to know him. He's a good guy," Harris said. "I never got that (negative) impression from him. I kicked it with him several times. I never got that impression."

Anyway, the Bulls and Philadelphia should provide some interesting storylines. Besides Turner, there's the return of coach Doug Collins and former Bulls' No. 1 draft pick Elton Brand. If only Andres Nocioni were still playing for the Sixers, then things could really get interesting.

mmcgraw@dailyherald.com

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