Practice: Pacers on Makeup Game, Health, Matchup with Pelicans

March 20, 2018 - Pacers head coach Nate McMillan and guards Victor Oladipo and Lance Stephenson discuss Wednesday's makeup game against the Pelicans and the Pacers' health.

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Practice: Pacers on Makeup Game, Health, Matchup with Pelicans

March 20, 2018 - Pacers head coach Nate McMillan and guards Victor Oladipo and Lance Stephenson discuss Wednesday's makeup game against the Pelicans and the Pacers' health.
Mar 20, 2018  |  03:03

Makeup Game Not All Bad for Pacers

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

If not for a leaky roof in New Orleans, the Pacers would have had a day off on Tuesday. Would have had a free day to rest, catch up on personal matters, and take a mental break from the late-season NBA grind.

Instead, they had a light workout at St. Vincent Center and boarded a flight for New Orleans, where they'll play the Pelicans on Wednesday in a makeup of the game originally scheduled for Feb. 7. A leak in the roof at Smoothie King Center drained water onto the playing court, forcing postponement after a two-hour delay.

Making a second trip to New Orleans is not anyone's preference, with a couple of possible exceptions.

"We're pretty mad that we got to go, so we've got to take it out on them," Lance Stephenson said. "We're going to kick their butt."

Stephenson laughed as he said that. Actually, nobody within the team has made a big deal about having to make a second trip to New Orleans. Still, they would have welcomed the break they were supposed to get amid their run of playing every other day. The NBA's original schedule called for three days between Monday's home game with the Lakers and Friday's home game with the Clippers, a luxury they haven't had since November.

Coach Nate McMillan would have appreciated having two days of practice as much as anything but has been around too long not to have seen (almost) everything. Besides, the Pelicans will bear the brunt of the rainout as well. They played a home game against Boston on Sunday, were to play home games with Dallas, the Pacers, and the Lakers on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and then a road game at Houston on Saturday. That amounts to a rare five-game week, including three on successive nights.

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"It's a challenge for everybody," McMillan said. "What we try to do is focus on ourselves and manage our guys and keep them fresh."

All things considered, this is a better time for the Pacers to play the Pelicans. Back on Feb. 7, Darren Collison had just had arthroscopic knee surgery because of an injury suffered four days earlier, and Victor Oladipo was compromised by an illness that had kept him out of a home game with Washington two days earlier. The Pacers also had no momentum, having lost two of their previous three games.

"That was beneficial for me," Oladipo said of the postponement. "I was struggling a little bit."

Two days later, the Pacers won at Boston, with a perkier Oladipo scoring 35 points and grabbing 10 rebounds, a victory that began a four-game winning streak.

Now, other than Domantas Sabonis, who is recovering from a sprained left ankle — he participated in a halfcourt scrimmage on Tuesday but is not expected to play Wednesday — the Pacers are healthy. They've also won seven of 10 games this month and are in a positive frame of mind.

Still, they would have appreciated staying home all week and getting a day off.

"It would have been extremely nice," Darren Collison said. "Especially around this time."

Tougher Turner Enjoying More Consistent Success

Myles Turner has made a dramatic in-season transformation, evolving from a jump-shooting, shot-blocking center to a physical big man willing to attack the basket and mix it up for rebounds.

He gives credit to some self-evaluation and a verbal nudge from a teammate.

Turner points to Jan. 31 as the turning point. The Pacers defeated Memphis at Bankers Life Fieldhouse that night, and Turner played well with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Up to the point, he had averaged 6.3 rebounds. Since that point, he has averaged 7.8. He's also shooting better, hitting 53 percent of his field goal attempts and 44 percent of his 3-point attempts.

Turner was discussing his makeover following Monday's victory over the Lakers and mentioned that a teammate had called him soft. Oladipo, who had just emerged from the shower while singing along to the music coming out of his Bluetooth speaker, overheard him and said, "Who called you soft, bro?"

"Not you, bro," Turner said.

"If you want me to handle that, I can handle that," Oladipo joked. "Just send your goons on them; send your goons on them."

"Yo, Vic, what's up?" Turner said, laughing because of the interruption to his media interview.

Turner would not identify the teammate who called him soft on Monday, other than to say it wasn't Oladipo and confirm it wasn't Al Jefferson. Twitter speculation focused on Stephenson, but Turner said on Tuesday it wasn't him, either.

"I'm not going to rat nobody out," Turner said.

Turner isn't angry at anyone. He said the "soft" accusation was made in a joking tone, but with "some serious intent behind it." Besides, the outcome has been positive.

The other part of his inspiration came from a telephone conversation after the Jan. 31 game with someone from back home. Later, he went to Los Angeles for a few days during All-Star break, then went home to Texas. He got away for awhile there, at a remote basketball facility he referred to as a "farm" on Monday.

"I took a look at myself and knew I had to step it up," he said.

Turner also sat down with McMillan after the break, before regular season play resumed, and talked about the need for more physical play. Monday's game was typical of his evolved style of play, as he had two two-handed rebound-dunks in traffic off missed shots.

"It's a mental adjustment he had to make," Collison said. "It had nothing to do with his physical skills. He's going to be a very good player for a long time. Once he made that change mentally, he's going to be just fine."

"It's been very obvious," Oladipo said. "He's been huge for us. We're going to need him for the rest of the year."

Sole Survivor: Stephenson Shrugs Off Shoe Issues

For four seasons, beginning during his first chapter with the Pacers, Stephenson had a shoe deal with And1. He has none now, but is trying to make the best of it by wearing a different pair of shoes each game.

"I'm trying to get Shoe Champion of the Year," he said Tuesday.

"I'm having fun with it. I can wear (any brand). When I was a rookie I was all panicked I didn't have a shoe deal. Now I have a chance to show off all the shoes and also show all the companies I can market their shoe."

Stephenson went a step too far in Monday's game, however, wearing a pair of Kobe Bryant-branded shoes that were released in 2004. He bought them from "a dude out here," but didn't read the instructions not to wear them in a game because of their age and paid a penalty for it.

"They were made in 2004 and weren't (supposed) to be played in," he said. "I took it upon myself because it was such a good shoe. I didn't think it was going to break or nothing. Kobe, don't get mad at me for wearing your shoe and messing it up. I was told not to wear it and I still wore it."

One of the shoes ripped early in the second quarter, but Stephenson played on until he could put on a different pair.

"As soon as I did a cut the whole thing came off," he said. "I was like, Uh, they did tell me not to wear it.

"I didn't want to get subbed out so I played with half a shoe until we got a timeout. I'm just happy the other team didn't know. It was very slippery."

Stephenson finished with 16 points off the bench. The previous game was even more notable, as he scored 25 points in Saturday's game at Washington. Stephenson has been a far better player at home than on the road this season, so that game amounted to somewhat of a breakthrough.

What happened?

"You know what it was, my fan section came to the game, so I felt like I was at home," he said. "They were yelling 'Born Ready,' so they got me a little hyped."

Stephenson doesn't plan to have a fan section in New Orleans. But he will have a good pair of shoes.


Have a question for Mark? Want it to be on Pacers.com? Email him at askmontieth@gmail.com and you could be featured in his next mailbag.

Mark Montieth's book, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," covers the formation and early seasons of the franchise. It is available at retail outlets throughout Indiana and online at sources such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Note: The contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Indiana Pacers. All opinions expressed by Mark Montieth are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of the Indiana Pacers, their partners, or sponsors.