Turner Hoping to Regain Niche in Offense

This obviously is not what Myles Turner was expecting when he was enduring all those hot yoga workouts in the heat of that isolated basketball "ranch" in Texas over the summer. A scoring average (11.3) just a point above his rookie output three years ago and a career-low rebound average (4.8) weren't the goals for a season that brought him such high expectations, not to mention a four-year contract extension.

But while cyberspace buzzes with criticism, including calls for him to be demoted to the second unit to make room for the more productive Domantas Sabonis, Turner remains calm in both word and action.

"You can't be frustrated," he said following Thursday's practice at St. Vincent Center. "If I allow myself to be frustrated right now it's going to be a long year for me. It's early. I'm still making adjustments. We're still a fairly new team trying to figure it out a little bit. We're all going to figure it out, myself first. I'm going to figure it out as well. It's not time to get frustrated."

The drop-offs in scoring and rebounding don't reflect reduced effort. Turner is tied for fourth in the NBA in blocked shots, he's been more willing to engage in the physical battles around the basket and he's displayed the benefits of his off-season work with agility not seen in previous seasons.

The issue that needs to be "figured out" is how to get him open shots where he likes them. A 36 percent 3-point shooter last season (46 percent in the playoffs), he's hit just 2-of-14 attempts in the Pacers' first 11 games. More and more NBA defenses are switching to defend screens, sometimes at all five positions. That means Turner often winds up with a smaller defender after setting a screen, which leads to the desire to take advantage of the mismatch by force-feeding him the ball near the basket, which doesn't play to his strengths.

It didn't take long for that to become evident in Wednesday's loss to Philadelphia. He failed to score on a post-up move over Robert Covington less than a minute into the game, missed a defended driving shot a minute later, and missed a post-up shot against Sixers center Joel Embiid late in the quarter. Ben Simmons blocked his low post attempt on the Pacers' first possession of the second half. His only perimeter shot came on a squared-up 18-footer over Embiid.

He wound up hitting just 2-of-8 shots overall, with the only successful attempts coming on dunks.

"I rushed a little too much," Turner said. "I had some favorable matchups, but watching the film a lot of my shots were rushed. That's a big thing for me this year, taking my time in everything I do. I have to get back to that."

Coach Nate McMillan also would like to get back to Turner shooting more perimeter shots, including 3-pointers. They tend to draw big defenders away from the basket and create open lanes for penetration or offensive rebounds, but McMillan says the defensive switches are preventing them – or, at least inducing post-up shots instead.

"When they're switching like that you have to take advantage of your matchups," McMillan said.

If the Pacers need a template about how to run their offense, the video from last season's game at Miami – where they play on Friday – should do just fine. Turner scored a season-high 25 points on Nov. 19 in the Pacers' 25-point victory, with most of his damage coming from the perimeter. He hit 11-of-14 shots, including 2-of-3 3-pointers, and added four assists and four blocked shots.

The best part of that game, however, was that six Pacers scored in double figures, with Sabonis adding eight points, and the five starters took between nine and 15 shots.

Myles Turner

Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images

That sort of balance has worked for the Pacers this season as well, but has been sorely missing from their previous two games when Victor Oladipo took more than twice as many shots as any of his teammates. Oladipo took 21 shots in Monday's loss to Houston and 30 in the loss to Philadelphia. He shot well other than the final quarter of Wednesday's game, but the Pacers scored just 94 points in each of those losses – not enough to win most games in today's NBA.

Given his lack of post-up skills, Turner relies on open perimeter shots to score most of his points, which usually come after screens in which his defender moves toward the ballhandler. Whether defenders switch or not he needs ball movement to score, as do most of the players other than Oladipo.

It's not like the Pacers haven't already done it this season. Nine players scored in double figures against Brooklyn, seven did so against Memphis and San Antonio, and all five starters reached double figures against Cleveland.

"We have our best games when multiple guys are in double figures and we're moving the ball," Turner said. "We didn't have that (Wednesday) night."

The hopeful thing for the Pacers is that they don't appear to be splintering along offensive lines. While some players want better balance in the offense, nobody seems to be blaming Oladipo. And Oladipo continues to support his teammates, Turner most of all.

"He shouldn't concern himself about what people are saying or thinking," Oladipo said following Wednesday's game. "He just has to play within himself. He'll figure it out. He's still young. I'm not making no more excuses for him. The truth of the matter is, he has to find it within himself.

"Everybody's so quick to judge someone when they don't play well. Nobody's in his shoes, nobody's putting on the jersey, nobody's out there playing the game he's playing, so you can't really judge him. You have no right to. But people are going to. Me personally, I don't care what people say about him, I love him to death. He's going to keep getting better, and when he figures it out, watch out. Simple as that. Drop the mic."

Turner and all of the non-Oladipo players would benefit from more tempo, which would bring more possessions. Toward that end, McMillan sat down most of the game on Wednesday rather than standing and watching on the sideline. The objective was to prevent players from looking at him for direction and just move the ball.

He'll continue that approach.

"It's an opportunity to listen to my coaches a little more," he said. "I'm still going to do it - sit down a little more and allow these guys just to play. A lot of times when I'm standing there I'm not saying much, but I'm going to take a look at this."

Turner, meanwhile, can find direction from looking downward. At his shoes. He wrote "TYT!" on one of each pair in training camp, a reminder to "take your time" and avoid rushing on the court. Thursday, the Velcro strap on his right shoe also included the letters "SIYS."

"Stay in your shot," he explained. "I have a tendency to back out of my shot."

He knows, however, it's not as simple as turning shoes into memo pads.

"You can write on your shoe, you can say it all you want, you have to actually go out there and do it," he said.

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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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