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NBA Daily: Turner Sees Pacers Reaching New Heights

Spencer Davies chats with Myles Turner about the Indiana Pacers getting to the next level and playing with expectations in a Basketball Insiders exclusive.

Spencer Davies

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Year three was supposed to be Myles Turner’s time to shine.

Following an impressive sophomore campaign the season beforehand, he was pegged to become the face of the franchise and make that leap from good to great.

Instead, Victor Oladipo took a new opportunity and ran with it, earning honors as the league’s Most Improved Player and vaulting the Indiana Pacers into a winner-take-all Game 7 with the defending Eastern Conference champion Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round of the playoffs. He, in turn, took his place as the team’s leader in one season.

Turner, to some, didn’t quite look like the same player as he did in 2016-17. While his three-point rate and percentage increased, the rest of his average numbers dipped across the board.

There are a few possibilities as to why. Maybe it had to do with the departure of Paul George. Perhaps the arrival of Domantas Sabonis and his natural grasp of the Pacers’ system rewarding him with big minutes had an effect. It could have even been a style change within the team due to the roster turnover.

Whatever the reason was, Turner just didn’t jump as high as other young talents have in their third year—which is typically when you find out a guy isn’t meant to play at this level or has the potential be good, great or elite.

But make no mistake about it: Myles Turner could be the exception to the rule.

Going into his fourth season, Turner is laser-focused. He’s lost weight. He’s changed his diet. He’s constantly working. It should be a breakout year for him.

With that said, though, the 22-year-old is not concentrating on what he does individually, but rather what Indiana does collectively.

“I don’t look at it that way,” Turner told Basketball Insiders. “I’m looking to come out here and just play for my team. If I have a great season, then so be it. But my main focus is to look at the Pacers and new heights.

“Been in the league for four years now, haven’t passed the first round for three years – so that’s where all my focus lies.”

As one of seven players on Indiana’s roster playing in the final season of his current deal, some feel Turner will hit the floor with an extra drive and motivation to command a hefty payday in the summertime. While it has given a push to players in similar situations in the past, he doesn’t think it should change anything.

“For me, it’s not necessarily about playing for my contract,” Turner told Basketball Insiders. “I need to do what my team needs me to do. If that’s rebounding, cool. If it’s scoring, score. But it’s all about what my team needs me to do in that aspect.”

So what does head coach Nate McMillan want him to do better? When asked about it, he doesn’t want to single him out. As a whole, first and foremost, he wants the Pacers as a whole to crash the glass. It’s not only on the two players in the frontcourt, either.

“That’s a challenge to our entire team, to be better rebounders, and, as a group,” McMillan said. “Certainly our bigs know that we want them to do a better job of rebounding the ball. But it’s not on just our bigs.”

McMillan indicated that the increased spacing in today’s game means everybody has to be involved.

“Sometimes, you’ve got your five-man spread or they’re at the top of the key,” he said. “It’s not ‘old-school basketball’ where the center’s sitting in the paint all game long.”

In order to address Indiana’s shortcomings on the boards, McMillan is going to try out a Sabonis-Turner pairing in the frontcourt. It’s a combination that hasn’t practiced together at all during training camp, but will be tested out until the season tips off.

Last year, the two didn’t play much alongside one another, and when they did, the numbers weren’t too pretty. Among two-man lineups that played at least 50 games for the team, the duo ranked dead last in offensive rating (93.2) and net rating (-9.9) in 269 minutes together.

As pundits and local media debate if a successful Sabonis-Turner partnership is possible, they spent some time with each other this past offseason to bond over yoga and taking care of their bodies.

When asked why McMillan wants to try both of them on the floor simultaneously, Turner’s reasoning was two-fold.

“I think me and Domas work well together,” Turner told Basketball Insiders. “We haven’t gotten the opportunity to do it too much, but I think it’ll be a good opportunity for us.

“One, for rebounding purposes to be able to kind of dominate the boards. Two, our offensive prowess. There’s a lot of setting the table, especially the high-low kind of set. And then just being able to kind of, not to say intimidate teams, but just make teams match up to us.”

Regarding what he’s worked on personally, Turner told Basketball Insiders he’d like to become a better perimeter defender and move more on the defensive end. He’s “always had” a reliable jump shot, but he’s looking to improve that every day as well to hone that skill.

Away from the court, Turner has slimmed down tremendously. He admitted to ESPN that he was “pudgy” last year and wanted to do everything he could to better his conditioning. He revealed that healthier eating habits, not just the concentration on yoga, has helped accomplish that and he already feels the bodily improvement in practice.

“I’ve had pretty good sustained energy,” Turner told Basketball Insiders. “The hugest difference for me is just the way I feel out there. We’ll see how it impacts me over the course of the season—gotta be able to stay in shape and gotta be ready for a long season.”

Indiana has a real shot at making more noise this year than they did before. With Lance Stephenson and Trevor Booker off doing their own thing, team president Kevin Prichard acted and brought in three new veteran faces in free agency—Tyreke Evans, Kyle O’Quinn and Doug McDermott.

Turner has his own predictions for the trio, each of whom he believes has already shown they’re all in with what the Pacers are trying to accomplish.

Evans will be the leader of a dangerous second unit, utilizing the pick-and-roll and being a “maestro.” O’Quinn will benefit Turner and Sabonis to work against and with, coming off the bench, providing energy and not trying to do too much. And McDermott is going to shoot the ball and force defenders out to the perimeter to open up the lane for his teammates.

“They have the right attitude,” Turner told Basketball Insiders of his new teammates. “I think everybody’s bought into their roles, so it’s gonna be good.”

As for who’s already there, Turner sees Oladipo picking up where he left off and capitalizing on his incredible season with a better one.

“Just being able to adjust what teams throw at him,” Turner told Basketball Insiders of Oladipo’s next step. “Some teams are gonna double him. Some teams are gonna send guys to trap him. I mean, he’s gonna be able to adjust to different defenses. And once he’s able to master that, the sky’s the limit.”

To be clear, everybody—especially the returning players—is looking forward to building on those accomplishments and progressing further.

“We have to, all of that momentum that we had last year, create that again this year,” McMillan said. “We’ve turned the page on all of that that has happened last year. We’re building kind of a new system, new style again this year.”

In contrast to a season ago, Indiana isn’t going to sneak up on anybody this time around. Teams are going to be prepared to take on a ball club equipped with more than enough talent to claim the Central Division, and, potentially, the Eastern Conference.

McMillan understands the chatter and excitement that comes with what his team previously did, yet he won’t allow those things to divert his team’s attention from the task at hand.

“Well, we was here last year, too,” McMillan said. “We don’t pay attention to outside noise and we don’t pay attention to people telling us who we should be. Last year, they kind of wrote us off and, this year, they’ve got us winning it.

“So it’s all up to us to take it one day at a time and to try and improve one day at a time, one game at a time. That was our focus last year, that’ll be our focus again this year.”

Turner acknowledges the same and doesn’t expect anything to change too much.

Playing with expectations isn’t easy, especially if it gets in your head and the competition sees it—but that won’t be happening to these Pacers, who are starving for much more than just an appearance in the postseason.

“We have the same goals,” Turner told Basketball Insiders. “Guys are more aware of who we are now, but that doesn’t change what we’re about.

“We’re gonna come in here with the same mindset, same approach that we did last season and just elevate it.”

Spencer Davies is an NBA writer based in Cleveland in his first year with Basketball Insiders. Covering the league and the Cavaliers for the past two seasons, his bylines have appeared on Bleacher Report, FOX Sports and HoopsHype.

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NBA Daily: Three-Point Champion is Just a Regular Joe

Joe Harris had his league-wide coming out at All-Star weekend when he shocked fans across the globe in upsetting three-point shootout favorite-Steph Curry.

Drew Maresca

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Joe Harris’ fortunes and those of the Brooklyn Nets appear to be traveling on the same trajectory. Harris’ personality and approach embody the softer side of the Brooklyn Nets’ team persona: he is loyal, hardworking and humble. And while Jared Dudley and DeMarre Carroll provide veteran leadership and Spencer Dinwiddie and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson offer personality, Harris provides a grounded approachability.

No one would blame him, though, if he develops a small ego. After all, Harris just received his formal introduction to the world, having won the NBA’s three-point championship last weekend in Charlotte, North Carolina. It’s hard to deny that his star is rising.

And yet, Harris seems unaware that his status is rising.

“To be honest, I am solid in my role. That’s what I’m about,” Harris told Basketball Insiders before the Nets’ January 25 game against the Knicks. “I’m pretty realistic with where I view myself as a player. And I have the self-awareness to realize that I’m not a star player in this league by any means. I mean, I’m good in my role and I’m trying to take that to another level and be as complete as I can in my niche role that I have.”

While Harris’ comments could be misinterpreted as a humble brag, they shouldn’t be. He is simply a hard-working player who perhaps doesn’t quite realize everything he adds to his team. But let’s be clear, Harris’ presence absolutely improves the Nets’ play.

Harris boasts the second-best three-point percentage in the NBA (.471) through the first four months of the season; he trails only Victor Olapido and J.J. Reddick for top three-point percentage of all 48 players who have at least 10 “clutch” attempts from long-range and he’s ranked tenth in points per clutch possession (1.379).

He helps space the floor for teammates D’Angelo Russell and Spencer Dinwiddie, who take advantage of his long-range acumen by attacking an often less congested pathway to the hoop — and drives account for 53.4 percent of the Nets’ points (third in the entire league).

It is no surprise then that the Nets are currently in sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

“At the end of the day we’re just trying to go play good basketball.” Harris said. “The wins are a byproduct of that. It’s about staying locked into this process and how it’s gotten us here regardless of who is on the court.”

Harris’ dedication to the team and its process is becoming more unique each year as players hop from franchise to franchise more frequently than ever before. While Harris only joined the Nets in 2016, he was immediately seen as a key player by the Nets’ leadership, albeit one on a minimum deal – according to Kyle Wagner of the Daily News, Coach Kenny Atkinson saw a lot of Kyler Korver in his game and GM Sean Marks wanted him to study Danny Green.

And while Harris’ 2018-19 stats reflect similar production to the career highs of both of Korver and Green (13.2 points per game with an effective field goal percentage of .622 for Harris versus 14.4 points with an eFG% of .518 for Korver and 11.7 points with an eFG% of .566 for Green), at only 27 years old, he should only continue to improve.

A lot has changed in the two and a half seasons since Harris signed a free agent deal with the Nets, but one thing that hasn’t changed is his character.

“We had various deals that were shorter for more (money),” Harris said. “And some were longer and roughly the same, but this is where I wanted to be and I’m happy it ended up working out.”

Harris ultimately signed a two-year deal for approximately $16 million, which can be viewed as both cashing in, given where he was only two years ago (out of the league), and betting on himself, considering the short-term nature of the contract and his relative youth.

And what’s more, Harris will probably go down as a value signing for the Nets considering his versatility. After all, he is not merely a one-dimensional shooter. In fact, he is actually shooting slightly better than 60 percent on 3.2 attempts per game from the restricted area – which is better than All-Star teammate D’Angelo Russell (53 percent on 2.8 attempts). Further, Harris shoots a fair amount of his three-point attempts above the break, which is to say that he does not rely heavily on the shorter corner threes – which tend to be a more efficient means of scoring (1.16 vs. 1.05 points per possession league-wide from 1998-2018) as they are typically a spot where specialist players lurk awaiting an opening look.

The question is, how much more can we expect to see from Harris in the future? If you ask him, he’d probably undersell you on his ceiling and allude to steady progress that ultimately looks similar to what he’s done recently. But the only thing similar about Harris’ career production is that it has steadily improved – and that’s partially due to his process-oriented approach.

“We talked about it in the midst of the losing streak,” Harris said. “What are you going to change, what are you going to do (when you’re in a slump)? Not that we were going to do the exact same thing, but we felt like we were very process oriented. We felt like we were right there. Our whole thing was about being deliberate and doing it as consistently as possible.”

Harris sees the validity in repeating what works. And he’s figured that out, partially with the help of his teammates. Harris clearly values veteran input and team chemistry.

“You look at our team right now and we have really good veteran presences with Jared and DeMarre and Ed (Davis),” Harris said. “That’s the voice from the leadership standpoint. I’m learning from them just like DLo is. And all the other guys in the locker room are. They’re the guiding presence of what it is to be a professional and they keep everything even keel. They don’t go too low when things are tough, and they don’t let us get too high when things are going well.”

Harris is clearly a little uncomfortable taking credit for his team’s success, and he shies away from the spotlight a bit. He seems to prefer anonymity. But Harris should probably get used to the attention he’s received this season because it will only increase as his profile continues to rise as we enter the 2019 NBA Playoffs.

“He’s not just a shooter,” Atkinson told NBA.com last April. “He’s worked on his drive game, he’s worked on his finishing game. I think he’s worked on his defense. So just a complete player who fits how we want to play. He’s one of our most competitive players. Not a surprise watching, from the first day we had him, how locked in he was, how hungry he was. On top of it, he’s a top, top-ranked human being.”

So expect to see more of Joe Harris this April and beyond, but don’t be surprised by his humility. It’s one aspect about him that won’t change.

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NBA Daily: Danuel House Optimistic About Future

David Yapkowitz speaks to Danuel House about life as a two-way player for the Houston Rockets & what he hopes comes out of his time in the G League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

David Yapkowitz

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Opportunity is everything in the NBA. Last season’s implementation of two-way contracts gave a lot more players potential opportunities in the league that may not have been previously available.

One player who has used two-way contracts to showcase himself and really prove that he belongs in the NBA is Danuel House Jr.

House actually began his career two years ago as an undrafted rookie with the Washington Wizards. However, he suffered a wrist injury only about a month into the 2016-17 season.

He was subsequently cut by the Wizards and used the summer to heal up before joining the Houston Rockets for training camp prior to the start of last season. He ended up being one of the final cuts in camp, and he joined the Rockets’ G League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

His strong play earned him a two-way contract with the Phoenix Suns after only two months of G League play. This year, he rejoined the Vipers, only to earn another two-way contract with the Rockets. Having had some experience now with a two-way, it’s something that House sees as being beneficial.

“It’s got its good perks and its bad perks. But then the NBA is just trying to open more doors for more guys to be seen and have an opportunity,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I think it’s a good idea, it’s gonna work the kinks out so it can be more beneficial to the players. It’s still new and it’s still trending and working itself through the NBA.”

This season has been a bit of a whirlwind for House. He initially joined the Golden State Warriors for training camp, only to have them cut him before the start of the season. After spending about a month with the Vipers, the Rockets called him up, only to cut him and then eventually re-sign him to a two-way deal.

Due to injuries in the Rockets lineup, House saw meaningful minutes right away, even being placed in Houston’s starting lineup. He had some solid performances down the stretch of last season with the Suns, but this season he really looked the part of a legitimate NBA rotation player.

When a player signs a two-way deal, they are allotted a maximum of 45 days of NBA service, meaning that the rest of the time they must remain in the G League. If a player exceeds the 45-day limit, they must be sent back down to the G League unless they’re able to reach an agreement on a standard contract with the NBA team.

Because of the Rockets’ necessity of House in the rotation, he used up his NBA days last month. He and the Rockets were unable to agree on a contract, so he returned to the G League with the Vipers. While there haven’t been many updates as of late, he’s still hopeful that something can work out with the Rockets.

“Hopefully I can go back to Houston and compete for a title. There’s nothing like learning from James [Harden] and Chris Paul, Gerald Green, Eric Gordon and those guys,” House told Basketball Insiders. “And now with the additions of [Iman] Shumpert and Kenneth Faried, I’m just excited to hopefully get something done so I can be out there and competing with those guys.”

Initially, House wasn’t playing with the Vipers upon returning to the team. But he made his return to the court a few weeks ago on Feb 8. In that game, House shook off some initial rust and ended up having a solid performance including hitting the game-winning free-throws.

In the past, the G League was often times seen as a punishment for NBA players. The league didn’t have that great of a reputation, but over the past few years that image has started to change. The competition has gotten a lot stronger, and according to House, there are plenty of guys who are that close to making it to the NBA.

“The competition here is real. There’s a lot of dudes out here that got a lot of talent that they can showcase. They just want their one opportunity, their one chance that I was so fortunate and blessed with,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I know not to come out here and take it for granted, that’s why I’m playing hard and of course still trying to be a student of the game and learn.”

Recently, during a media availability session, Rockets star and perennial MVP candidate James Harden expressed hope that the Rockets and House could work something out. Harden told reporters that they all know how good House is and what he brings to the team.

In 25 games for the Rockets this season – including 12 starts – House put up nine points per game while shooting 45.8 percent from the field and 39 percent from the three-point line. He’s in the mold of a three-and-D type player, but he also moves well without the ball on cuts to the rim and can attack the basket as well.

“My role was to play defense and make the right read,” House told Basketball Insiders. “Shoot when I’m open, drive, attack the rack, and run the floor. Of course, defend and rebound and make good reads. It was easy.”

As it stands, the Rockets have 12 players on their roster, and a pair of two-way deals for House and Vincent Edwards. House is not eligible to rejoin the Rockets until the G League season concludes. Even then, he won’t be eligible to play in the playoffs as per two-way deal restrictions.

The Rockets will need to add at least two players to get up to the league-mandated 14 players on the roster. House would appear to be a good candidate for one of those spots, but that remains to be seen. But regardless of whether or not it works out in Houston, House is confident that he’s done enough to prove he belongs in the NBA.

“It gave me the utmost confidence, but my hard work, my passion, and my faith in the man upstairs gave me the ability. I asked him to guide me through the journey and he’s been taking care of me,” House told Basketball Insiders. “I’m so grateful that the opportunities and I used my ability to perform and do something I love to take care of my family.”

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PODCAST: Checking In On Clippers & Lakers, East Arms Race, Warriors’ Challengers

Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte evaluate the L.A. teams after the trade deadline, break down the Eastern Conference contenders, and look for the Warriors’ biggest challengers.

Basketball Insiders

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Basketball Insiders Deputy Editor Jesse Blancarte and Writer James Blancarte evaluate the L.A. teams after the trade deadline, break down the Eastern Conference contenders, and look for the Warriors’ biggest challengers.

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