Turner Does More Than Host Block Party
FOX Sports Indiana ran a graphic before the broadcast of the Pacers' game against the Lakers on Tuesday showing the five franchise players who have reached 500 career blocks the quickest. Jermaine O'Neal led with 201 games, followed by Herb Williams (251), Myles Turner (253), Rik Smits (281), and Roy Hibbert (307).
The case can be made for Turner having become the franchise's all-time best shot-blocker, however, even if his numbers aren't necessarily the greatest. And that's only part of the story.
Teams don't play inside-out on offense nearly as often as they once did, preferring to fire up 3-pointers rather than drop the ball into the low post. That limits block opportunities for a modern-day player such as Turner, unlike the other four Pacer leaders. It also requires today's centers to defend on the perimeter more often, taking them away from many shot-blocking opportunities.
Turner also gets style points for the nature of his blocks. Rather than clogging the lane and getting a hand on driving layups now and then, he chases down and swats shots from the weakside and backside, executing sneak attacks on unsuspecting opponents driving to the rim that often initiate points at the other end.
"Those are the best blocks to get – when the guy doesn't see you coming," Thad Young said. "We double down on his man, then we're off to the races (after the rebound). And most big men aren't going to run.
"He has the ability to change the game with his shot-blocking."
Those blocks, along with blocks of attempted dunks, also add drama to a game by firing up fans and teammates alike.
"Blocks give a team a lot of energy," Turner said. "I think it's big for the team and it's good for my confidence as well."
Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images
Turner had four blocks against the Lakers – the 40th time in his career he's reached or surpassed that plateau – and leads the NBA with an average of 2.67. Only one player in franchise history has exceeded that single-season average: O'Neal averaged 2.8 blocks in 2000-01 and 2.6 in two other seasons.
Turner could make a good living doing nothing more than blocking shots at his current pace, but he offers the added luxury of 3-point shooting, a skill foreign to previous shot-blockers. Consider that Williams, O'Neal, Smits and Hibbert combined to hit 27 3-pointers in their Pacer careers, in 191 total attempts – 14 percent accuracy. Turner has hit 42 this season alone, shooting 38.5 percent. He's the embodiment of the expanded skill set of the modern big man.
Turner's versatility brought several of the highlights of the Pacers' 136-94 victory over the Lakers.
There was the play in the first quarter when he came from the weakside to block Rajon Rondo's layup, then brought the ball upcourt, drove into the lane and fed Bojan Bogdanovic in the left corner for a 3-pointer. Bogdanovic missed that one, but Turner had fulfilled his job description, and a little more.
Late in the second period he blocked Ivaca Zubac's shot at the rim after giving help defense on Rondo on the baseline. He completed that possession by hitting a 3-pointer in front of the Pacers' bench at the other end.
Early in the third quarter he slid around Zubac underneath the basket in time to meet Kyle Kuzma at the rim and block a dunk attempt. Turner doesn't tend to celebrate his blocks, but he swept his arm from right to left after that one, as if thinking, get that outta here! The possession gained from that block concluded with Collison's 3-pointer in the left corner.
The Pacers stole the ball on the ensuing possession, and Turner completed that one with a dunk off of Tyreke Evans' penetrating feed.
The Pacers have other 3-point shooters. Bogdanovic and Collison are hitting better than 40 percent of those shots and even Domantas Sabonis has hit seven of his 12 attempts. They have other rebounders and low-post scorers, too. But they have no other shot-blockers.
He has 131 so far, nearly half of the team's total of 266. That makes him the Pacers' most important defender, and, perhaps, their most important player since Victor Oladipo's season-ending injury. It goes beyond blocks, however. His mere presence is an asset for the defense because it encourages teammates to defend more aggressively on the perimeter, knowing Turner can clean up their mistakes at the rim. He also discourages some opponents from even trying to get there.
"He's a big force down low," Cory Joseph said. "I definitely think guys think twice before going in there to challenge him. Many have tried and many have failed."
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Mark Montieth's book on the formation and groundbreaking seasons of the Pacers, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," is available in bookstores throughout Indiana and on Amazon.com.
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