So Mel Turpin is alive and, well, still looking like Mel Turpin. The overweight Jazz center showed up in the third-place game of the Utah Pro-Am Summer League Saturday night and managed to play 32 minutes.
Turpin's line: 10 of 23 from the field, 3 of 4 from the line, 19 rebounds, five blocked shots.Those numbers sound good, but Associated Business Products teammate Steve Hayes, the journeyman center, had almost identical statistics. And this was against the same Salt Lake Community College team that gave up 52 points and 29 rebounds to Danny Schayes Wednesday. SLCC's Melvin Love had 26 points and 11 rebounds against Turpin in ABP's 139-128 victory.
Associated had taken a 136-92 win over the same team Thursday, with Jim Usevitch instead of Turpin.
"I'm not in real good shape," noted Turpin, who was informed of the appearance only Thursday.
"It looks like he hasn't played very much basketball," Jazz president-general manager David Checketts guessed correctly. "He looks bigger than you'd like him to look."
Fitted in an oversized uniform, Turpin claimed to weight 280 pounds, admitting he was over 290 last month. So the crowd at East High saw plenty of Turpin, leaving one question: Just who was in the crowd?
According to Checketts, one NBA scout and at least one international scout was in the gym. Turpin reportedly told a friend that a Miami Heat coach was in the stands; the one recognizable figure was ex-BYU great Kresimir Cosic, the new coach of a team in Athens, Greece. Cosic plans to sign Danny Vranes to a contract this week. Asked about Turpin, Cosic said, "I was just watching the game."
Spain is reportedly another possibility. Checketts was divulging nothing, and Turpin said he'd know more in a week. Asked if he'd consider being farmed out to a European team with two years left on his NBA contract, Turpin said, "If it comes down to it, yeah."
As of last month, Turpin figured he would avoid all this and sign with Washington as a free agent via a provision in his complex contract. But the Bullets backed off after the physical exam and, says Checketts, Bullets GM Bob Ferry has spread the anti-Turpin information around the NBA.
"That's what hurt me when I went to Washington," Turpin said of his weight. "That scared them."
Considering he'd not played basketball since early in the Jazz-Lakers playoff series, Turpin held up decently in his so-called showcase. "I just hope I last," he'd said before the game.
He could say the same about his basketball future. Of his career, he said, "I don't think it's ended . . . I've just got to change a few things."
- Kurt Kragthorpe