Myles Turner of the Indiana Pacers was recently a guest on the Basketball Insiders podcast on January 24. Michael Scotto interviewed Turner and the Q&A transcription can be found below. To listen to the podcast in its entirety, click the play button above.
Michael Scotto: If you look at the way you’ve played individually in January, you’re shooting 51 percent from the field, you’re shooting 56 percent from three-point range, 80 percent from the foul line thus far. You’ve got about nine rebounds, two blocks a game and 16.6 points. What’s been the biggest factor for that, in terms of your individual play, to start off the new year here in 2017?
Myles Turner: I think the biggest thing is just getting comfortable. I’m more comfortable with the guys on the floor. I’m more comfortable with our system and just playing the right way. I’m really excited to be out here on the floor with these guys, we’re doing a good job.
Scotto: In terms of your own individual development, I know we’ve spoken previously about the level that you want to get to ultimately at some point in your career, where do you feel that you are on that road to becoming the player you ultimately want to be?
Turner: To be honest, I feel like I’m not even close. I feel like I’m just scratching the surface right now and, hopefully, I can get there soon but I’m working hard every day trying to get there.
Scotto: What is that, I don’t want to say ‘ceiling’ because I don’t think that’s the correct word, but where is that type of level that you think that you can be as a player?
Turner: I feel like, one of these days, I can be top five in the league, if not the best. That’s the sights I set for myself, those are the goals that I have and that’s where I’m trying to get to. But, I know I’m a long way from getting there, so I can’t view the long term. I’ve got to take everything day by day.
Scotto: Nothing wrong with striving to reach your full potential, certainly don’t mind that. I’m also curious, you’re one of the few big guys that’s a five, a center, that can shoot the three ball, we’ve seen that with Brook Lopez a little bit more. I’m just curious if you think that, with the way both you guys are transitioning, I don’t want to say a full stretch-five because you guys can both post-up on the block but adding that element to your game with the ability to be a stretch-five, do you think that we could see that as a bit of a trend in the league with the way the floor spacing has been so prevalent?
Turner: Undoubtedly. I think a lot of guys coming in are just working on all aspects of their game. I know that’s what I did and I know that’s what, I think, is being taught throughout a lot of the college programs and even in high school. Guys are just starting to be basketball players, not be just defined to one position. I know that’s what I did with my pops, he really worked hard with me every day after practice and even before practice some mornings just to work on all aspects: dribbling, shooting. He just made it possible for me to get here.
Scotto: Now, I’m going to take you away from yourself, individually, and we’re going to talk a little bit about the Indiana Pacers overall. In the month of January, you guys are six and three thus far. Just curious, what have you seen, so far, since the calendar has flipped to 2017 from the core group, collectively?
Turner: We had that stretch where we won five games in a row and we were just playing well together and the ball was just rolling the right way, but we’ve had a little bit of a downfall these past couple games. There’s no doubt in my mind we’re going to get it back, it’s just, I think, coming back from this London trip and having to go to the West Coast right away messed with our bodies a little bit, but we’re starting to get back in rhythm.
Scotto: Now, I’ve joked with you about this before, but it seems like, with the team, you guys do a little bit of a cha-cha. You guys take a step forward, you guys take a step back. I’m just curious, why do you think it’s been, at least to this point in the season, a little bit inconsistent thus far, almost half-way through, or a little bit over, actually, half-way through the season?
Turner: I think it’s mostly because we’ve got new guys on this team so we’re all trying to figure each other out. We’re at the halfway mark of the season so we need to start figuring it out soon, but, like you said, we have stretches where we look like we’ve finally turned that corner and we just fall back a little bit and a lot of that fall back comes on the road. We really need to figure out what’s going on on the road and get these road wins back up to par and I know we’re at the bottom of the league in that aspect but I still have all the confidence in the world in this team. We have so many great players and so many great playmakers that the sky’s the limit for us once we figure it out.
Scotto: Now, I remember earlier in the season you had mentioned to me when we did an interview for a feature story that you thought the team could be, potentially, a top-four team. As it stands right now, when you look at the Eastern Conference, the number 6-11 seeds are only separated by about 3.5 games. What have you seen just from this conference overall and how clustered it’s been through the halfway mark in the east thus far?
Turner: Well to say it’s competitive is an understatement. Guys are just winning and dropping games but, once we play each other, it’s just like a dogfight. We’re all fighting for those three positions and it’s just interesting to see how it just volleys up and down throughout the season. You’ve got a team that has a bad loss or a really big win like Miami beat Golden State last night, the Pelicans beat Cleveland, stuff like that just happens. It really just messes with the entire thing. You can go from the No. 3 seed to the No. 6 seed just like that. It definitely makes it a lot more interesting and I feel like it makes things a lot more fun, knowing that you have to go out there and win some key games.
Scotto: What do you think is in store for you guys as a team overall and yourself individually for the second half of the season?
Turner: Well, like I said, I’m nowhere where I want to be. I feel like I still have more strides to make and I feel like I can make those strides throughout the rest of this season. I had a decent start to the season, not necessarily where I wanted to be, I wanted to be contributing a little bit more, but I think this team could really make the right steps. Jeff [Teague] is really starting to come into his own, PG [Paul George] has had a pretty good past couple of games and we’re all figuring each other out day by day and that’s just our biggest thing.
Scotto: Now, I’m going to take you off the court for a little bit and, for those who may not know, you’re a pretty active guy within the community and doing charity work. Do you have anything, in terms of that for Indiana specifically, coming up over the next few months?
Turner: Not anything coming up over the next few months here in Indianapolis that I know of right now. I’m still planning that stuff out. It’s hard to just get here, get in and get out, throughout the rest of the season. I know that around All-Star, I’m trying to get out to the community as much as I can. I think I might visit a high school and talk to the kids about giving back to the community, how important that is and how good it’s going to be for their futures. But, anytime I can help out the community, I try. It’s not even necessarily events that I plan, I just try to get out there on my own and make a difference.
Scotto: As a 20-year-old young man, did you ever foresee yourself having that type of impact not only just in the community for yourself individually and trying to help out others but just having that platform?
Turner: To be honest with you I did. I really thought that … with some kind of voice. I think I was that voice in my community growing up in high school. I tried to carry or transition it to Austin, Texas and, bringing it to Indianapolis, it’s just who I am, it’s a part of how I was raised and you’re never too young to have a voice. I encourage any younger guys that listen to this, to be that difference to their community. You’re never too young to start.
Scotto: Now you being a 20-year-old young man, for a lot of people they’re still in college at this point and you’re living a grown man’s life and having a lifestyle of your own off the court. What has that been like for yourself, adjusting into the real world, more or less?
Turner: It’s had its ups and downs. You still want to be that college kid you were, just hang out with your friends and just live the life, but it’s definitely work. Every day, day in and day out, you have something to do, you have certain responsibilities. It’s not college and that’s the biggest thing I had to learn last year. You can’t just do the same stuff you were doing, make the same decisions you were making. Everything you do is now looked at as a business. The organization that drafts you, you’re they’re multi-million dollar investment, that’s how you have to view it. You’ve just got to take care of your business and, obviously, you have fun while you’re doing it, but that’s the biggest thing that I learned.
Scotto: Certainly a good head on your shoulders from that regard and knowing you personally. Before I let you go, obviously, being a guy that went to Texas [the University of Texas at Austin], I’m curious what you think of them adding, I don’t know if you still follow them as much, but they did add a pretty good point guard in Matt Coleman and they’ve got some young pieces there at the program. What do you think of Texas’ future going forward as a program?
Turner: We’re just so young right now. I think we’re the seventh or eighth youngest team in the NCAA. They had such a great win over OU [University of Oklahoma] yesterday and I can see them growing real well. I’m actually really impressed by this Coleman kid. I watched a couple of highlights of him after he committed and I’m really glad that we got him. He’s the kind of guy that can come in and make a difference right away. We’re going to have a lot of sophomores next year, a couple juniors and that’s a young team. The sky’s the limit for them, for sure. I really think they can make a big difference and, hopefully, they play Kansas [the University of Kansas] in the Big 12. I’d love to see for that to happen.
A Few Good Free Agents Left
David Yapkowitz looks at several free agents still remaining on the market ahead of the season.
The start of the 2017-2018 NBA season is finally here, and teams are required to have their 15-man roster (plus two possible two-way contacts) finalized. Every year there are players that are left off a roster. Some are younger guys who maybe haven’t proven they belong in the league just yet. Some are older veterans looking for that one final hurrah.
A few of these players might take open gigs in the G-League or overseas in hopes of attracting the attention of NBA front offices as the year goes on. Others remain at home, working out and waiting for that call that might never come. And sometimes, the waiting and anticipating pays off as playoff teams come looking for veteran help and tanking teams are on the hunt for unrealized potential.
For most of the veteran guys, their opportunities will likely come later in the season when teams gear up for the playoffs. Here’s a look at a few of the top veteran free agents left that could certainly help a team at some point during this season.
Since being traded from the Golden State Warriors to the Boston Celtics three year ago, Lee has adapted to his new role as a veteran big man helping to anchor second units. He is no longer the automatic double-double machine and borderline All-Star he once was, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have anything left in the tank.
He didn’t really fit quite right in Boston, but in his stops with the Dallas Mavericks and San Antonio Spurs, he still showed he can be a solid contributor off the bench. In 25 games with Mavericks in the 2015-2016 season, Lee put up 8.5 points per game on 63.6 percent shooting while pulling down seven rebounds per. With the Spurs last year, he averaged 7.3 points on 59 percent shooting to go along with 5.6 rebounds. For a playoff team that needs a little big man depth, he is a solid option.
Much was made about Williams’ disappearing act in the Finals last year, and rightfully so, but lost in all the chatter was the actual solid job he did with the Cleveland Cavaliers leading up to that point. Once in the conversation for best point guard in the league, injuries and poor play in Brooklyn sort of made Williams a forgotten man. The Nets bought out his contract and he joined his hometown Dallas Mavericks.
After a so-so first year in Dallas, Williams looked rejuvenated last year to the point that he actually drew some interest around the trade deadline. With the Mavericks looking to get younger and head closer to that rebuilding path, they cut Williams and allowed him to join a contending team. Over the final 24 games of last season, including four starts, he averaged 7.5 points per game on 46.3 percent shooting, 41.5 percent from the three-point line, and 3.6 assists. Of course, his Finals performance is all anyone cares to remember, but if a team needs a veteran backup point guard, they could do a lot worse.
Last season in Indiana, Ellis posted some of the lowest numbers of his career since his rookie season. Heading into a rebuilding year, the Pacers waived Ellis and his name barely came up in free agent rumors during the summer. At his best, Ellis was a borderline All-Star talent who could put up points in a hurry. Despite his reputation as a gunner, Ellis was a bit of an underrated playmaker and was never as bad defensively as most made him out to be.
He never really seemed to find his groove in Indiana. In his first year with the Pacers during the 2015-2016 season, he posted 13.8 points per game, down from 18.9 the previous year in Dallas, and his shooting dropped from 44.5 percent from the field to 42.7 percent. His playoff numbers with the Pacers were down even more than his regular season numbers, despite exploding in the postseason a few years before with Dallas. His starting days are almost assuredly behind him, but as a sixth man type scorer bringing energy off the bench, he’s probably better than a lot of the players currently in that role.
The Brazilian Blur’s best days are behind him, but similar to Ellis, he can still help a team in need of additional scoring punch off the bench. It was only two years ago that he was a key contributor off the Warriors bench. Firmly on the rebuilding track, the Suns waived Barbosa during the summer. Despite still being a capable player, his name also rarely came up in the free agent rumor mill.
He didn’t play all that much last season for a Phoenix Suns team that is clearly rebuilding, but he still was able to average 6.3 points per game in only 14.4 minutes per. His role on a rebuilding team would be a veteran mentor, but for a playoff team, he’s not a bad option. He showed that he can still play at the NBA level despite losing a step or two. Perhaps later on in the season when teams start looking for playoff help is when he may find his phone starting to ring.
The former No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft hasn’t quite lived up to the expectations that come with being drafted that high. He’s only averaged double figures (12.0) in scoring once in his career and that was during the 2012-2013 season. When he came into the league, he didn’t really have much of a set position. He was a tweener, somewhere in between small forward and power forward. That was prior to the changes occurring in today’s NBA with more of a premium on stretch big men.
During Williams’ time in Cleveland last season, he played in 25 games and averaged 6.2 points per game. What stood out most, however, was his shooting. He shot 50.5 percent from the field, including 40.4 percent from the three-point line, both career-highs. Shooting from long range was always a bit of a weakness for him and prior to last season, he had never shot higher than 33.2 percent from downtown. He also didn’t register much chatter by way of free agent rumors, but if he can reproduce shooting percentages like that, he fits right in with the direction of the league.
With league rosters pretty much set, there likely won’t be much roster movement, if any at all, for the next few months. Teams are looking to see how their new summer acquisitions work out. But after a few months of real game action, other roster needs start to become more apparent. Don’t be surprised if come the new year, teams start knocking on a few of these player’s doorsteps.
NBA PM: The Wizards Are “More Than Ready” For A Big Year
Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal says his team is “more than ready” for the start of the NBA season.
With several teams in the Eastern Conference taking a step back, the Washington Wizards will be one of the beneficiaries due to roster continuity. Shooting guard Bradley Beal, one of several key Wizards signed to a long-term contract, said the team is “more than ready” for the season and has large expectations.
“This is going to be a big year for us,” said Beal after a Monday practice. “We’re healthy. There’s no excuse for us [not to] get off to a good start.”
Beal added that, while health is a key for the entire roster, it’s especially important for him after struggling with injuries in the past.
“It’s really a confidence booster, realizing my potential, what I can be, the type of player I can be when I had a healthy season,” said Beal of last year’s campaign. “That’s probably what I was more proud of than anything, playing 70-plus games and then playing in the playoffs every game.”
In Basketball Insiders’ season preview for the Wizards, we noted that Beal was Washington’s most efficient ball handler in the pick and roll last season. Beal said that creating for teammates is something he’s worked on in the offseason and will continue to be a point of emphasis.
“That was great for me and the strides I made throughout the year, working on my ball handling, working on creating for other guys and getting my own shot,” said Beal. “Those are the primary things I’m focused on … being able to create better, getting guys easier shots than before, getting more assists and improve everywhere.”
Wizards coach Scott Brooks said after Friday’s preseason finale in New York that he’s been encouraged by the ball movement he has seen since the start of camp.
“I thought a lot of good things happened in training camp,” said Brooks. “The ball movement was outstanding. Guys were sacrificing for one another on the offensive end.”
One thing that should help the ball movement of the second unit is the arrival of backup point guard Tim Frazier, who missed most of the preseason due to a strained groin. Frazier had nine assists and no turnovers in his preseason debut against the Miami HEAT.
“I feel very comfortable with Tim,” said Brooks. “He finds corner threes, which we like.”
Beal added that one area he hopes to improve, both individually and as a team, is rebounding.
“I think I only had like three rebounds [per game] last year,” said Beal. “I obviously love scoring the ball. That’s something I never worry about. I want to continue to fill up the stat sheet a little bit more and contribute to the game in different areas. I think rebounding was something that hurt us a little bit last year.”
The Wizards host the Philadelphia 76ers to open the season Wednesday, and Brooks said it will take a team effort to defend emerging star Joel Embiid.
“He’s a problem,” said Brooks after Sunday’s practice. “His athleticism is off the charts. We’re going to have to do a good job of staying in front of him. You’re talking about a guy that can put the ball on the floor, that can get to spaces and spots that normally a 6-10 guy doesn’t.”
With a revamped bench, roster continuity and good health entering the season, the Wizards look like a team that could challenge the Cavaliers, Celtics and Raptors for supremacy in the East. Beal certainly seems to think so.
NBA Opening Night Storylines
Hours before the 2017-18 season gets set to tip off, here are some storylines to follow for Tuesday’s games.
The long summer is over. We finally made it. NBA opening night is upon us.
Rejoice, hoop heads.
Because the NBA is a perfect concoction of chaos at all times, Tuesday’s opening night slate has some can’t-miss built in headlines that the entire league is going to be glued to.
With a new year set to begin, everyone is on the same page. Whether that page includes the likes of Kevin Durant and Steph Curry or Doug McDermott and Tim Hardaway Jr. is a different story. But still, Tuesday marks day one for all teams and as it stands they’re all equal.
As we get set to sit down and dissect these opening game matchups on Tuesday, let’s highlight the most intriguing storylines that will be followed for the rest of the season. There’s nothing like watching a story grown in the NBA from its inception, right?
Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers — 8 p.m. ET (TNT)
This is the game we’ve all been waiting for since late June, when Kyrie Irving let it be known to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert that he wanted out from under LeBron’s shadow.
Three years of NBA Finals appearances, the greatest comeback in basketball history, and a ring to show for was all Irving wanted to walk away from. For him, he felt it was his time to shine.
And because the NBA is the perfect mix of beautiful insanity, it would only make sense that Irving would get dealt to the very team that is jostling for position to unseat the Cavs and King James.
The Irving-led Boston Celtics will have to wait a grand total of one second in the new NBA season to begin their matchup with their point guards old teammates and the team that stands in between them a Finals appearance. With Gordon Hayward and Irving together for the first time against meaningful competition, there’s no better way than to check their fit from the jump than by challenging the conference champions in their building.
But Irving’s homecoming isn’t the only storyline heading into the first game of the season. There are some changes on Cleveland’s end as well.
While the main return for Irving — Isaiah Thomas — won’t be suiting up for the Cavs anytime soon due to injury, there are still plenty of new faces to keep an eye on Tuesday night. First and foremost, Flash is in town. After having his contract bought out by the Chicago Bulls, Dwyane Wade joined forces with his buddy in The Land in hopes of recapturing some of the magic that led them to two championships in South Beach.
By teaming up once again, James and Wade provide some of the best chemistry in the league. Yes, Wade isn’t the player he once was when he and James were winning rings. But something is to be said for knowing exactly where someone will be on the court at all times, and that’s the trait exactly that Wade and James share.
Along with Wade, James and the Cavs are hoping to get some type of resurgence from Derrick Rose and Jeff Green off of the bench. Once Thomas returns to the court for Cleveland, this is arguably the deepest team James has ever been around in Cleveland.
Even with Irving and Hayward on board, Boston will be relying on some role players of their own — namely Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The back-to-back third overall picks will occupy most of the time at the forward spots opposite of Hayward. As the season moves on, the development of both of these wings will be crucial to how dangerous the Celtics can be past their two star players.
Tuesday night will be must-see television at Quicken Loans Arena. New eras for the Eastern Conference heavyweights are about to begin.
And as James told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, “The Kid” will be just fine.
Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors — 10:30 p.m. ET (TNT)
On the Western side of the basketball landscape Tuesday night, the potential conference finals matchup will see its first act when the revamped Rockets head to the Bay Area.
Last season at this time, the basketball world was bracing for what the Warriors would look like after adding Kevin Durant to a 73-win team. And as expected, they dominated. Not even LeBron James could put a stop to them, managing just one win in their finals bout.
This year brings in more of the same questions. Can anyone stop the Warriors? Will Golden State just steamroll their way to another championship, effectively sucking the fun of competition out of the entire league?
Well, a few teams this offseason did their best to try and combat that narrative. One of them being the Rockets, who they added perennial all-star point guard Chris Paul to their backcourt.
Putting Paul in the same backcourt as superstar James Harden has the potential to create some of the biggest headaches for opposing teams. The constant ball movement and open looks the two star guards can provide are nearly endless.
While the league swoons over the Warriors’ ability to hit shots from well beyond the arc, it should be noted that it was Houston last year that led the NBA in three-point shooting, not Golden State. It’s certainly not wise to try and go toe-to-toe with the Warriors at their own game, but if there’s ever a team equipped to do it, it’s Houston. Tuesday night will provide a nice preview look at how things in the Western Conference could shake out in the coming months.
Aside from the barrage of scoring that will take place in this matchup, what would a big game be for the Warriors without a little Draymond Green trash talk?
After Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni told ESPN that, “You’re not gonna stop them. It’s just not gonna happen. They’re not gonna stop us, either,” Green clapped back with a comment of his own, as he always does.
“I don’t know how serious they take defense with that comment,” Green said. “But they added some good defensive players.”
It’s true, the Rockets aren’t considered a defensive stalwart by any means. Last season, Houston was 26th in points allowed, compared to second in points scored. Green may be onto something when it comes to questioning how serious his opponents take defense.
That being said, last year’s Rockets didn’t feature Paul. Even at the age of 32, Paul is still one of the league’s best on-ball defenders. And no matter his age, he’ll always possess that competitive fire he’s been known for over the last 12 years.
Going up against the Warriors at Oracle is usually nothing short of impossible, but if there’s going to be a team to challenge their supremacy this season, we’ll get a good look at how they stack up on night one.
With all of this in mind, let’s not forget that the world’s best league is finally back in action. Give yourself a pat on the back, you made it. Now, go enjoy some basketball.