Could Turner Settle Churning Pacers?

The Pacers have turned a chapter on their season, with their last four-game road trip behind them and a schedule that tilts toward Bankers Life Fieldhouse in 22 of their remaining 38 games ahead.

That's a good thing.

Coach Frank Vogel, however, says his team remains in a state of flux regarding its starting lineup and playing rotations, and might remain that way for the rest of the season.

That's not a good thing.

"Hopefully we settle into who we are," Vogel said following Monday's practice. "We'll see how it plays out."

There's one man, it seems, who could step in and resolve the dilemma that has led Vogel to start 10 different lineups. One man who could put the pieces in place for the starters and help resolve the bench rotations as well. One man who has yet to start a game, but figures to start a lot of them in the future.

Myles Turner.

The rookie was a sensation on last week's road trip to Denver, Phoenix, Golden State and Sacramento, averaging 20.5 points on 65 percent shooting while playing 30 minutes per game. He was the silver lining of a trip in which the Pacers lost three of four games and struggled to win the one they did, at Phoenix, helping shift some of the focus toward future possibilities rather than present woes.

The 6-11 teenager, who turns 20 on March 24, has the makings of a dominant player. He's backing up Larry Bird's preseason claim that he's the best shooter on the team, and showing more and more skill around the basket. He's having the typical rookie tribulations on defense, but is already an effective shot-blocker. He averaged 3.3 blocks on the recent trip.

Vogel's starting lineups, meanwhile, have been more stable than it might appear. Many of the changes have been due to injuries to Ian Mahinmi and C.J. Miles, or George Hill's absence due to the birth of his son last week. Four of the spots have been stable, with Hill, Mahinmi, Paul George and Monta Ellis the constants. Sometimes C.J. Miles starts when Vogel wants to go with a small lineup. More recently, Lavoy Allen has started in a bigger lineup.

The thought of plugging Turner in alongside Mahinmi, George, Hill and Ellis is enticing. Vogel wonders about it, too. In fact, he tried pairing them together in the second quarter of last week's game at Phoenix, only to have it go awry. Mahinmi re-entered the game with 3:23 remaining in the half. Turner re-entered at 1:44. They played together for 52 seconds on the game clock until Mahinmi sprained his ankle and left the game.

He has yet to return, although Vogel said there's a 50-50 chance he'll be able to play in Tuesday's game at the Fieldhouse against the Los Angeles Clippers.

"Definitely want to look at that," Vogel said.

"(Mahinmi) getting hurt the first minute might have been a karma thing, like maybe I shouldn't be doing that," he added, smiling. "I like the idea of those guys playing together."

So does Mahinmi, who would appreciate having another big body to help with rebounding and shot-blocking, especially one who also can score. Lavoy Allen has started 20 games at the revolving four position, but is two inches shorter than Turner and not as good a shooter.

"I think it could be very scary," Mahinmi said when asked about playing with Turner. "Defensively we have the length, and all the stuff he's capable of doing offensively is something special."

Meanwhile, Turner will continue to come off the bench. So will fellow rookie Joe Young, who played well in the first three games of the road trip. He averaged 14 points on 51.5 percent shooting, with 6.7 assists and 2 turnovers until dropping off in the last game at Sacramento. Those two only complicate personnel matters for Vogel in the short-term, but offer optimism for the long term.

"It might make it more difficult to settle," he said. "But as long as those guys are earning minutes they're going to stay in there."

George also contributes to the Pacers' state of flux. He's struggled since earning NBA Player of the Month honors in November, fighting leg fatigue resulting from last season's 76-game layoff while waiting for his broken leg to heal. He averages 23.7 points, has hit 38 percent of his 3-pointers, and will start in the All-Star game, but is shooting just 41 percent from the field and averages 3.8 turnovers – tied for fifth in the league.

He's also not been as good defensively as in previous seasons, such as when he was a first all-defensive team selection two years ago, and he and Vogel agree that defense has been the Pacers' primary shortcoming lately.

The question remains, does he try to push through the fatigue and get stronger or pull back and find opportunities to rest. He sat out two days last week between the games in Phoenix and Golden State, but was a full participant in Monday's practice and one of the last players off the court.

He's attacked shortcomings in the past, getting in the gym for extra work when struggling, but has gone the other direction most of this season. Although he'll play in the All-Star game, he said he'll find a warm place to take a few days off afterward, and believes that will help.

"I'm trying to be smart, take a different approach," he said. "More rest, more massages, more cold tub. I'm doing the other side of it.

"I was aware it would take up to two years before I get everything back."

He, Vogel and the training staff communicate daily on the issue, seeking the proper work/rest ratio.

"We'll take it day by day, week by week, month by month," Vogel said. "It definitely is something limiting him now, and limiting us, and we have to keep a close eye on it."

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