Turner Getting Acclimated With Pacers
Evan Turner understands his role on the Indiana Pacers.
For the first half of the 2013-14 season, the former No. 2 overall pick was the Philadelphia 76ers’ go-to scorer. He was averaging a career-high 17.4 points and consistently putting up solid numbers in losing efforts. Philadelphia was putting the ball in his hands and showcasing him in an effort to raise his trade value before the Feb. 20 deadline.
Now, after being traded to the Pacers in exchange for Danny Granger and a 2015 second-round pick, he’s adjusting to the new situation. For the first time in three years, Turner isn’t a full-time starter. He’s coming off of Indiana’s bench and he’s far from the team’s top option; he’s now below Paul George, Roy Hibbert, David West, Lance Stephenson and George Hill in the Pacers’ pecking order.
Turner has been tasked with creating offense in the second unit, playing passable defense, providing energy as a reserve and spelling Indiana’s starting core. The 25-year-old is thrilled with the change of scenery because he’s once again winning games, something that didn’t happen all too often in Philly this season.
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“It’s always great to win,” Turner told reporters. “That’s why you play. I’m a competitor. It’s great to win, man. I’m definitely happy. When you go through rough patches like we did in Philly, sometimes you appreciate every little one you get. … Hopefully I’ll earn my minutes and be able to play. I’m going to keep my eyes and my ears open. Try to walk the way they walk and get used to their foundation and standards. I’m just going to try to fit in and earn minutes.”
Turner’s new teammates are excited about his arrival and believe that he can help them in their quest to hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy this year. The Pacers are determined to get past the Miami HEAT this year and win the team’s first NBA championship (to go along with the franchise’s three ABA titles).
“Evan Turner’s a hell of a player, man,” West said. “I think he’s going to help us tremendously. He adds a shot-creator and he’s a big-moment guy. People overlook that about him. He’s hit some game-winners. He’s not scared of those moments. … He is a creator and a shot maker and really he’s not even forcing shots. We are going to need everybody. One of the strengths of our team is having a bunch of guys that can make plays. … I thought we already had (the NBA’s deepest bench) and we just got a little bit stronger. We got a little more heady, IQ-wise. ET’s a high IQ guy in terms of his basketball sense. It’s just (getting better) for us.”
“He’s a creator, just like me,” Stephenson said of Turner. “When we play together, something’s going to happen. I like the second unit like that. He’s got a little shake and bake in his package. It’s going to be fun. There’s going to be a lot of highlights. As long as we do it within the game and we’re winning, Coach is all for it.”
“It’s really important,” George said of having Turner to strengthen the bench. “We went through a little struggle (scoring) last season with the second unit. It’s just tough. … It’s going to be huge for us going forward, deep into the playoffs.”
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A number of Pacers made it clear that Turner must be willing to make sacrifices, just as his teammates have done in Indiana in order to contend. Turner must put the team above his himself and accept his slightly diminished role.
So far, that hasn’t been an issue. Turner is ecstatic to be suiting up for a championship-caliber team for the first time in his career. He has played five games with the Pacers, averaging 9.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.6 assists in 22.2 minutes. He hasn’t been shooting the ball particularly well, but he has shown flashes. For example, in a recent win over the Boston Celtics, he contributed 17 points off of the bench.
Turner knows that he still has a lot to learn as he gets used to his new team, city, system and role. Fortunately for him, the Pacers are a close-knit team that is very welcoming. They have one focus in mind – winning a championship – and they’re very accepting of players who can help them achieve that goal.
Head coach Frank Vogel has been impressed with Turner. Having such a talented player coming off of the bench gives Vogel some options during games, and it’s something he’s looking forward to playing with.
“He’s a good basketball player,” Vogel said of Turner. “He has good savvy, good IQ, he understands his teammates and picks things up quickly. He looked comfortable. [We have] good balance amongst the starters and Evan Turner [gives] us a big lift throughout the whole game, but in particular down the stretch.”
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“He does a little bit of everything,” Pacers team president Larry Bird said. “He can play multiple positions. I like the way he handles the ball, moves the ball. … I think it’s a good fit for us. The more we go along, the more you’ll see what he can do for this team.”
Turner has admitted that he’s been “kind of shocked” with how often Vogel has called his number and put the ball in his hands, but that just shows how confident the head coach is in his new player.
Indiana could’ve rested on their laurels and entered the playoffs with the same team, but instead they chose to bolster their roster with Turner, Andrew Bynum and Lavoy Allen and go all-in on this season.
Mike Woodson Defends Himself
This season, New York Knicks head coach Mike Woodson has been a lightning rod for criticism, and deservedly so. The team has underachieved (to put it lightly), and they currently sit at 21-40, which puts them in the awful Eastern Conference’s 11th seed. Missing the playoffs in the dreadful East with the league’s second-highest salary is almost impressive.
While Woodson admits that he has “failed” this season, he defended himself and said he still thinks the job should be his.
“I still think I was the guy for the job and I still think I’m the guy for the job,” Woodson told the New York Post.
When asked if he was no longer reaching the players, Woodson seemed to put the blame on his players, saying that his message is getting through but that the guys aren’t delivering on the floor.
“When you lose, everybody tends to reach,” Woodson said. “Sometimes you might send the wrong message. I think you learn a lot about your basketball team when you do lose. They learn a lot about each other. The character changes a little bit. We’ve had some struggle, a lot of struggles. I don’t think they’re tuning me out. They’re still listening, but just not getting it done on the basketball floor.
“That’s the frustrating part of it. We’re in games. We’re competing. Then all of a sudden we forget how to compete. That’s strange as hell from a coaching standpoint. We got to keep working through it. I’m not going to quit. That’s just not my nature. I hope these guys don’t quit. I don’t think they are quitting.”
The Knicks weren’t supposed to be a bottom feeder in the East this season, after winning 54 games last year and finishing with the conference’s No. 2 seed. That’s why this season has been so frustrating for Woodson.
“It’s a major challenge,” Woodson said. “There’s no doubt about that. You come into the season after experiencing two wonderful seasons, which the Knicks haven’t done in some years and go through a season like this, it’s been very, very challenging for me. I’m a realist. I look at all the different things that’s happened. I try to put it in proper perspective.
“I’ve tried to deal with it on a day-to-day basis and still try to get the team up to speed and where they need to be as a team on the floor. I feel like I’ve failed somewhat in that area. But again, at the end of the day, we still have a shot. My thought process will never change as far as me being a coach here.”
Middleton, Bucks Aiming To ‘Lock In’ As Season Comes To Close
Spencer Davies catches up with Milwaukee Bucks swingman Khris Middleton in a Basketball Insiders exclusive.
Basketball Insiders had the chance to chat with Khris Middleton about the direction of the Milwaukee Bucks as the season comes to a close.
You guys won three out of four before you came into Cleveland. What was working during that stretch?
Just being us. Doing it with our defense, playing fast-paced offense. Just trying to keep teams off the three-point line. We haven’t done that. We didn’t do that [Monday] or two games ago, but it’s something we’ve just gotta get back to.
With the offense—it seems like it’s inconsistent. What do you think that’s got to do with mostly?
Just trying to do it by ourselves sometimes. Standing, keeping the ball on one side of the floor. We’re a better team when we play in a fast pace. And then also in the half court, when we move the ball from side-to-side it just opens the paint for everybody and there’s a lot more space.
For you, on both ends you’ve been ultra-aggressive here in the last couple weeks or so, does that have to do with you feeling better or is it just a mindset?
I’ve been healthy all year. Right now, it’s the end of the season. Gotta make a push. Everybody’s gotta lock in. Have to be confident, have to be aggressive. Have to do my job and that’s to shoot the ball well and to defend.
Have you changed anything with your jumper? Looking at the past couple months back-to-back, your perimeter shooting was below 32 percent. In March it’s above 45 percent.
I feel like I got a lot of great looks earlier this year. They just weren’t falling. Right now, they’re falling for me, so I have the same mindset that I had when I was missing and that’s to keep on shooting. At some point, they’re gonna go down for me.
Is knowing that every game at this point means more an extra motivator for you guys?
Definitely. We’re basically in the playoffs right now. We’re in a playoff series right now where we have to win games, we have to close out games, in order to get the seeding and to stay in the playoffs. Each game and each possession means something to us right now.
Is it disappointing to be in the position the team is in right now, or are you looking at it as, ‘If we get there, we’re going to be alright’?
I mean, we wish we were in a better position. But where we’re at right now, we’re fine with it. We want to make that last push to get higher in the seeding.
Lots of changes have gone on here. Eric Bledsoe came in two weeks into the season. You had the coaching change and lineup changes. Jabari Parker’s been getting situated before the postseason. How difficult does that make it for you guys to build consistency?
Yeah, it was tough at first. But I think early on we had to adjust on the fly. We didn’t have too many practices. There was a stretch where we were able to get in the film room, get on the court, and practice with each other more.
Now it’s just at a point where we’re adding a lot of new guys off the bench where we have to do the same things—learn on the fly, watch film. We’re not on the court as much now, but we just have to do a great job of buying in to our system, try to get to know each other.
Does this team feel like it has unfinished business based on what happened last year?
Definitely. Last year, we felt like we let one go. Toronto’s a great team. They’re having a hell of a season this year, but I feel like we let one go. This year’s a new year—a little add of extra motivation. We’ve been in the playoff position before, so hopefully, we learn from it when we go into it this year.
Would you welcome that rematch?
I mean, we welcome anybody man. We showed that we compete with any team out here. We can’t worry about other teams as much. We just have to be focused on us.
What has to happen for you guys to achieve your full potential?
Lock in. Just play as hard as we can, play unselfish, and do our job out there night-in, night-out.
NBA Daily: Raptors Look To Fine-Tune The Defense
The Toronto Raptors’ defense had a letdown against the Cavaliers, but has been outstanding overall.
The Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors engaged in an offensive shootout on Wednesday that could be a playoff preview. The Cavs protected home court with a single-possession, 132-129 victory. Afterward, the Raptors spoke about the types of defensive adjustments the team needs to make as the postseason rapidly approaches.
“That’s how a playoff game would be,” said DeMar DeRozan, who missed a three at the buzzer that could have forced overtime. “This is a team we’ve been playing against the last two years in the postseason. Understanding how we can tighten up things defensively, how to make things tougher for them [is key].
“[It’s] little small things that go a long way, and not just with them … with every team.”
Raptors coach Dwane Casey concurred with DeRozan that fine-tuning of the defense is needed. He also pointed out that, with young contributors such as center Jakob Poeltl and power forward Pascal Siakam on the roster, defensive experience against the league’s best player, LeBron James, is something they will have to gain on the fly.
“I don’t think Jakob Poeltl played against him that much, and Siakam,” said Casey. “This is their first time seeing it. I thought Jak and Pascal did an excellent job, but there are certain situations where they’ve got to read and understand what the other team is trying to do to them.”
Poeltl was outstanding, leading the bench with 17 points and tying for the team lead in rebounds with eight. Casey praised the diversity of his contributions.
“I thought he did an excellent job of rolling, finishing, finding people,” said Casey. “I thought defensively, he did a good job of protecting the paint, going vertical. So I liked what he was giving us, especially his defense against Kevin Love.”
Basketball Insiders previously noted how the Raptors have performed vastly better as a team this season when starting point guard Kyle Lowry is out of the game. Much of that is due to Fred VanVleet’s emergence as one of the NBA’s best reserve point guards. VanVleet scored 16 points with five assists and no turnovers against Cleveland. It’s also a reflection of how good Toronto’s perimeter defense has been up and down the roster.
According to ESPN’s defensive Real Plus-Minus statistic, three of the NBA’s top 15 defensive point guards play for the Raptors. VanVleet ranks seventh while Lowry is 12th and Delon Wright is 14th. Starting small forward OG Anunoby ranks 16th at his position.
The Raptors also rank in the top five in offensive efficiency (third) and defensive efficiency (fifth). Having established an identity as a defensive team, especially on the perimeter, it’s perhaps understandable that Lowry was the one player in the visiting locker room who took the sub-standard defensive showing personally.
“It was a disgraceful display of defense by us and we’ve got to be better than that,” said Lowry. “We’ve got to be more physical. They picked us apart and made a lot of threes. We’ve got to find a way to be a better defensive team.”
Lowry continued the theme of fine-tuning as the regular season winds down.
“I think we’ve just got to make adjustments on the fly as a team,” said Lowry. “We can score with the best of them, but they outscored us tonight. We got what we wanted offensively. We’re one of the top teams in scoring in the league, but we’re also a good defensive team.”
Lowry was clearly bothered by Toronto’s defensive showing, but Casey downplayed the importance of a single regular-season game.
“We’ve got to take these games and learn from them, and again learn from the situations where we have to be disciplined,” said Casey. “It’s not a huge thing. It’s situations where we are that we’ve got to learn from and be disciplined and not maybe take this step and over-help here. Because a team like that and a passer like James will make you pay.”
While the Raptors continue to gain experience and dial in the fine defensive details, Casey was insistent that his players should not hang their heads over falling short against Cleveland.
“Hopefully our guys understand that we’re right there,” said Casey.
The Raptors host the Brooklyn Nets tonight to open a three-game home stand that includes visits from the Clippers Sunday and the Nuggets Tuesday. After that, Toronto visits the Celtics March 31 followed by a return to Cleveland April 3 and a home game against Boston the next night. With three games in a row against the other two top-three teams in the East, the schedule presents plenty of opportunities for the Raptors to add defensive polish before the playoffs begin.
NBA Daily: Jaylen Brown Set To Return For Celtics
The Celtics finally got some good news on Thursday. Jaylen Brown’s return is imminent.
Finally, some good news for the Boston Celtics.
Jaylen Brown is set to return to action.
Brown has been M.I.A. since sustaining a concussion during the team’s 117-109 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves back on March 8, but has traveled with the team to Portland and is expecting to return to the lineup on Sunday when the Celtics do battle with the Sacramento Kings.
As the Celts gear up for a playoff run, which they hope will result in them ending LeBron James’ reign atop the Eastern Conference, they’ve picked the wrong time to run into injury issues. Along with Brown, both Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart have each been conspicuous by their absences, and the team could certainly use all of their pieces as they attempt to enter the postseason on a high note.
Fortunately for Boston, with the Toronto Raptors leading them by 4.5 games in the standings and the Celts ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers by a comfortable six games, Brad Stevens’ team is enjoying the rare situation of having a playoff seed that appears to be somewhat locked in.
Still, with the team only able to go as far as its young rotation will carry it, Brown addressed the media on Thursday.
“I’m feeling a lot better. I’m just trying to hurry up and get back,” Brown said, as quoted by Celtics.com.
“I’m tired of not playing.”
Stevens is probably tired of him not playing, too.
As we head into the month of April, playoff-bound teams and conference contenders begin to think about playing into June, while the cellar-dwellers and pretenders begin to look toward the draft lottery and free agency.
What’s funny is that in the midst of the Raptors and their rise out East, the Celtics and their dominance has become a bit of a forgotten storyline. When Gordon Hayward went down on opening night, the neophytes from the Northeast were thought to be a decent team in the making whose ceiling probably wasn’t anywhere near that of the Cavs, the Raptors and perhaps even the Washington Wizards.
Yet through it all, with the impressive growth of Jaylen Brown, impressive rookie Jayson Tatum and the rise of Irving as a franchise’s lynchpin, the Celtics stormed out the games to the tune of a a 17-3 record. What made the strong start even more impressive was the fact that the team won 16 straight games after beginning the season 0-2.
Although they weren’t able to keep up that pace, they began the month of February having gone 37-15 and turned a great many into believers. With their spry legs, team-first playing style and capable leader in Irving, the Celtics, it was thought, were a true contender in the Eastern Conference — if not the favorite.
Since then, and after experiencing injuries to some of its key cogs, the team has gone just 11-8.
In the interim, it seems that many have forgotten about the team that tantalized the Eastern Conference in the early goings of the season.
Brown’s return, in one important respect, will signify a return to Boston’s prior self.
With Marcus Smart having recently undergone surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right thumb, he is expected to be out another five weeks or so, meaning that he’ll likely miss the beginning of the postseason.
As for Irving, although reports say that his ailing knee has no structural damage, everything the Celtics hope to accomplish begins and ends with him. FOX Sports 1’s Chris Broussard believes that it’s no slam dunk that Irving returns to action this season, but he’s in the minority. This team has simply come too far to not give themselves every opportunity to compete at the highest level, so long as doing so doesn’t jeopardize the long term health of any of the franchise’s cornerstones.
Make no mistake about it, the Celtics are far from a finished product. With their nucleus intact and flexibility preserved, they will have another offseason with which to tinker with their rotation pieces and plug away at building a champion.
But here and now, with what they’ve got, the Celtics are much closer than any of us thought they would be at this point.
And on Sunday, when Jaylen Brown rejoins his team in the lineup, to the delight of the Boston faithful, the Celtics will be that much closer.