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Having Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis a luxury for Indiana Pacers

While the NBA as a whole may be getting smaller, the Indiana Pacers have the rare luxury of two superb options at the center position in Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis.

“The dynamic duo of bigs that we have is phenomenal,” Victor Oladipo told reporters after the win against the Chicago Bulls. “It just goes to show you. … Myles protecting the rim like he did today, Domantas carrying us the way he did the other day coming off the bench and doing a great job like he always does, there’s no drop-off. That’s hard to find in this league.”

The Pacers pair of centers have come up huge at different points in the last three games thanks to their varying strengths.

On Wednesday, it was Sabonis and his rolling to the basket and rebounding that led the way as he scored 30 points with perfect shooting from the field at 12 for 12 in only 21 minutes before fouling out.

“He got in foul trouble and only played seven minutes in the first half,” Pacers coach Nate McMillan said of Domas after the Knicks game. “In the second half, he continued to be aggressive and make plays for us. When we have a combination like that, guys playing well, we’re going to stay with them. He did an excellent job on both ends of the floor not only scoring for us but rebounding the ball.”

McMillan likes to roll with the hot hand and in the last three games it’s alternated between Sabonis and Turner down the stretch at the center position with each game coming down to the wire.

On Friday, it was Myles Turner’s turn as he made all of his 2-point attempts on his way to 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting. The spacing his jump shot added to the team was a big factor but his biggest contributions came on the defensive end as he protected the rim as well as he has all season and blocked six shots, including the Bulls final attempt at the buzzer to win it.

“Protect the rim and be the best shot blocker in the NBA that I know I am,” Myles Turner said of what he was trying to do when he came in during the fourth quarter against the Bulls on the post-game interview.

“That’s what we wanted him to do is to defend the basket,” McMillan said after that one. “Tonight, he had to come out and defend the perimeter. Their guards are scorers, and those guys have the ability to shoot behind that 3-point line and they were knocking down some shots. We stayed with our defense trying to pressure those guys, keeping our bigs up, and he had the game-winning block at the end there.”

On Saturday, both players had their moments as Turner played well in the first three quarters scoring 12 points on only six shot attempts, but Sabonis got himself going in the fourth quarter playing alongside Tyreke Evans. After Turner came in a little later than he normally does in the final quarter, things simply weren’t going his way on either end as he committed a double dribble, got called for an illegal screen (questionable) and missed a midrange attempt, and McMillan went back to Sabonis quickly for the rest of the game.

“It’s part of the game,” Turner told Mark Montieth of Pacers.com afterwards. “Coach goes with what he feels is working. It’s not my job to sit back and complain. Just because I get subbed out, I’m not going to hope for guys not to do well. That’s not the way I’m built and that’s not the way this team is built.”

And that’s an important factor for both of these players to the team’s chemistry and success, they’re always putting the team ahead of themselves. Neither sulks on the bench after they get replaced by the other in the game.

While it might eventually be an issue with both players wanting more time on the court than they are currently getting, neither center is complaining at this point. The easiest solution to this would be the pair playing together, but it’s been at best a very mixed bag so far this season.

To be blunt, the overall numbers when they share the floor are terrible. Turner and Sabonis play on average just under five minutes per game together. Those lineups have a net rating of negative 17.5. The offense has simply gone to a halt at a abysmal 83.8 offensive rating.

There are some glimmers of hope buried in the numbers however while looking at specific lineups. When Sabonis replaces Thad Young and is playing with the rest of the starters including Turner, the Pacers have a net rating of 26.3. It’s an extremely small sample size of only eight minutes on the season, but that’s the third highest net rating of any lineup that has played at least that long this season.

Sabonis’s perfect shooting night against the Knicks also began by him dominating against smaller defenders while playing as the power forward alongside Turner. He scored on his first five offensive possessions that night starting with some offensive rebounds and putbacks and ending by abusing Enes Kanter’s pick-and-roll defense.

All of the statistics this year are still small sample sizes but if the Pacers want to give their pair of young centers their best chance at success, they may want to find ways to use them together more effectively on offense. Right now, both players have much higher net ratings when they play without the other player (Turner 7.1 and Sabonis 10.2).

The good news is that there is plenty of time for both players to improve and we’re seeing a lot of improvement from both Sabonis and Turner already this season.

One of Turner’s biggest struggles at times has been letting himself get rushed in his eagerness when opportunities come his way on the offensive end.

“Players who play with each other a couple of years, they know where they’re going to be,” Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard said at the beginning of this past offseason. “That makes the game come slower. Domas, the game already comes slow. He can make reads. Myles, he gets a little frantic. And that makes a difference. He’s got to calm down a little bit.”

He’s started writing “TYT” (take your time) on his shoes and has made noticeable strides with his patience especially in the post where he has calmly made many moves with success that were rare last year.

He makes that dribble to the side often when a defender flashes towards him. Last season, he would have been much more likely to either take a quick shot or pick up his dribble and pass the ball at the first sign of a double team.

After struggling to finish inside after suffering a concussion early last season as he shot just 57% around the rim, he’s been very strong at that area this season at 72%. His patience a possible reason for that uptick in improvement this year as well.

While Turner’s rebounding numbers haven’t improved yet, his primary job on that end is to protect the rim. If he’s going to block a shot by helping on someone else’s man, that’s going to leave him out of position for a potential rebound. With how well he’s been defending at the basket, it’s not overly concerning that his rebound totals are stagnant as the team defense remains strong while he’s out there.

Most of the weaknesses for Sabonis are on the defensive end. While he’ll never be able to block shots like Turner, he’s been good on that end this season when playing at the center spot. According to NBA Math, Sabonis has the third-best DPS (Defensive Points Saved, Turner ranks first on the team in the same metric) on the Pacers and is actually the 17th-highest ranked player overall in TPA (Total Points Added) so far this season.

You’d still like to see Sabonis turn the ball over less (six turnovers in the same Knicks game where he didn’t miss a field goal) but he has improved in another area of his game that at times caused turnovers as defenses sat on his strong hand, especially in the post. You’re way more likely to see him use his right hand down low than in his first two seasons in the league where he earned the nickname Reverse Zoolander.

Both players have already dealt with foul trouble on a few occasions so far this season and have certainly committed a few fouls that they’d each like to have back, but that again showcases the value of having both players available when one is having issues with whistles.

The Indiana Pacers are very fortunate to have both of these dynamic, young big men in the present. With Turner locked up with his extension, the question will he whether they can afford to keep this luxury after next season when Sabonis’s rookie deal ends. For now, the Pacers get to enjoy the strengths of both players.

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Victor Oladipo reminds everyone that this is his city

Victor Oladipo did it again. This time with a pull-up 3-pointer with 3.4 seconds remaining with Kyrie Irving chasing and Al Horford contesting that gave the Indiana Pacers the lead and the victory after he stole the Celtics final inbound pass on the next possession and gave his signature This is My City gesture to the crowd.

It’s not like anyone could forget that fact but no one is going to mind being reminded like they were tonight.

“I’m going for the win,” Oladipo told reporters after the game. “Not because I’m saying I have to every time, but you’ve got to give yourself the confidence to do it and believe that you can do it. I’m not going to say every time we’re down two in a home game that I’m going to shoot a 3 but I’m just going to make the play that’s there.”

It was just over one year ago when Oladipo first laid claim to his city after making the game winner against the San Antonio Spurs. And oh, how he’s quickly endeared himself to the fanbase with relentless positivity and countless clutch moments in his relatively short time as a member of the Pacers.  Continue reading Victor Oladipo reminds everyone that this is his city

Victor Oladipo comes up clutch while dealing with bronchitis

The Indiana Pacers All-Star guard Victor Oladipo struggled on the one of the biggest stages in the basketball world at Madison Square Garden during the first-half with just five points against the New York Knicks on national television.

He went on to score 19 points in the second half including 9 points in the game’s final minutes including a go-ahead steal and two clutch 3-pointers to clinch the win for Indiana.  Continue reading Victor Oladipo comes up clutch while dealing with bronchitis

Tyreke Evans gets a wake up call from the Pacers

Maybe Tyreke Evans hasn’t been around an organization that holds its players accountable much in his career to this point, but the Indiana Pacers aren’t looking to play any games. Evans was late to practice and will not play in tomorrow night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“This is the most professional and team-oriented organization I have been with in my career,” said Evans in the team statement. “They deserve my best every day and I am disappointed in myself for causing a distraction that prevents me from being able to help my team tomorrow. I will do better.”  Continue reading Tyreke Evans gets a wake up call from the Pacers

Notes & Numbers: Pacers have been up and down in first four games

The Indiana Pacers have been on a roller coaster start alternating between blowing opponents out and getting blown out in their first four games, winning twice easily at home and losing while not playing well twice on the road.

The most important thing to remember about these games: it’s early. It’s a long season. The Pacers will have good nights and bad ones. It’s important to not overreact to any single one of them in a negative or positive way.

Here are some interesting statistics and notes from the first four games in no particular order:

Myles Turner leads the league in screen assists per game:

In only 25 minutes per game (due to foul trouble and blowouts), Myles Turner leads the league in screen assists at 6.8 per game. The next four players coming right after him (Rudy Gobert, Steven Adams, Tristan Thompson, Enes Kanter) are all playing over 30 minutes per game. The next closest Pacer to Turner’s 6.8 is Domas Sabonis at 3 per game.  Continue reading Notes & Numbers: Pacers have been up and down in first four games

Updated: Myles Turner pulls haircut prank

UPDATED: Myles Turner still has the dreads. Consider us pranked. Though he didn’t fool everyone as included in the original article below.

Myles Turner has sported the same hair style for the entirety of his career with the Indiana Pacers. Until today.

Turner’s former hair style origin story came during some downtime in Orlando during Summer League his rookie season.

“I just wanted to try something different,” said Turner told ESPN during his first season with the Pacers. “For now, this is it. I feel like it makes me stand out and keeps it fresh.”

He seemed a little bummed out about the haircut telling a fan on Twitter that it “had to be done.”

His old hairstyle used to stick straight up but it’s been too long to stand up like it originally did for last couple of seasons.

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Turner’s original look from the Orlando Summer League. (Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images)

Some have suggested that he may have just pulled the hair back and it’s still the same look. You can see something similar to his (maybe not) former look sticking up in the first picture, so it’s possible this isn’t as big of a change as Turner has made it appear.

Turner changed his body with a fantastic summer with an intense workout routine that included yoga and he’s had a successful start to the season showing improved form on defense and more patience on his post moves. While he’s averaging 11.7 points and 6.7 rebounds and 2 blocks this season, none of the Pacers games have been close so he’s been limited to only 24 minutes per game.

Davon Reed worth taking a chance on for the Indiana Pacers

The Indiana Pacers are expected to add second-year guard Davon Reed to a 2-way contract after he has officially cleared waivers.

Reed was drafted early in the second round at pick 32 last season by the Phoenix Suns, who waived him earlier this week in order to make room for their new acquisition, Jamal Crawford.

After having knee surgery last offseason, Reed struggled once he returned to action with the Suns as he made just 28.9% of his shots in his 21 games and didn’t shoot any better while playing for the Suns G-League affiliate either.

So why are the Pacers interested in a guy who played poorly in limited minutes for one of the worst teams in basketball last season?  Continue reading Davon Reed worth taking a chance on for the Indiana Pacers

Tyreke Evans looks like exactly what the Pacers needed

Last season, the Indiana Pacers were in trouble at any point with Victor Oladipo on the bench. This year, that problem’s been solved by the addition of one player: Tyreke Evans.

The Indiana Pacers had a net rating of 6.0 last year with their All Star on the court. Without him, they had a net rating of -8.2.

In the season opener against the Memphis Grizzlies, Oladipo was +9 in his 25 minutes. In the 23 minutes he was on the bench, the Pacers were even better at +19.

“If there’s no drop-off when they get in the game,” Oladipo said of the second unit, “we could be really special.”  Continue reading Tyreke Evans looks like exactly what the Pacers needed

Indiana Pacers impose their will on the glass in blowout season opener

Indiana Pacers Head Coach Nate McMillan’s focus all training camp was on rebounding. After one game, it appears that it’s already paying major dividends for the blue and gold.

“In training camp, it was a big penalty if you gave up rebounds in the paint,” McMillan said after the Pacers destruction of the Memphis Grizzlies by a final of 111-83. “I gave the other team three points every time you missed a rebound.  It was just a way to get our guys focused on this part of the game. I liked what we did tonight.”

Continue reading Indiana Pacers impose their will on the glass in blowout season opener

Reports: Myles Turner and Indiana Pacers agree to extension

In a bit of surprise news, Myles Turner and the Indiana Pacers agreed to a contract extension ahead of today’s 6 p.m. deadline with a 4-year, $72 million deal that could go as high as $80 million with bonuses according to ESPN and The Athletic.

This avoids the Pacers needing to deal with restricted free agency next summer and avoids someone coming in with a mammoth offer to try and pry the big man away from Indiana. And for Turner, it puts to rest any worries about getting his next contract.  Continue reading Reports: Myles Turner and Indiana Pacers agree to extension

Pacers Edmond Sumner is ready for his opportunity

After an impressive preseason for the Indiana Pacers 2-way player, Edmond Sumner could be poised for a big second season if the opportunity comes.

“”Just stay ready,” Sumner said of what the coaching staff has told him of his role. “Whenever my number is called just be ready.”

There might not be minutes for Sumner immediately when the season begins but if any injury to a guard or small forward occurs, it’ll likely be Sumner that steps up.

“It gives us another look with our depth,” said Darren Collison after practice on Saturday. “It’s such a long season that you never know whose going to have an opportunity to perform or play well or go down with injury God forbid. He can step right in and fulfill a role that we might need down the stretch of the season. He can play some point guard, play some two, maybe even some three. I thought he played well.”

Sumner was the first choice for Nate McMillan in the preseason when both Tyreke Evans and Cory Joseph were out with an injury. With Evans’s injury history, having a capable replacement is paramount and Sumner looks up to the task if needed.

“He’s been playing extremely well in preseason and in training camp proving that he is an NBA basketball player,” said Thad Young after practice. “… He can provide significant help to a team that needs him to step in and spot some guys some minutes and he’s shown the capability to run a team also.”

Sumner showed exactly how he can help the team in preseason with his aggressive drives to the rim. Here he snakes by Jaren Jackson Jr. on the pick and roll and dunks on multiple defenders.

It’s the type of play he couldn’t quite make last season while recovering from a torn ACL and playing in the G-League. Now that he’s fully healthy, he’s showing why he was considered a first-round prospect while at Xavier before the injury.

“I just wanted to do whatever the coaching staff asked of me,” said Sumner of his preseason success. “They wanted me to go out there and defend–that was the biggest thing–and stay aggressive so those were the two things that I was focusing on.”

Not only is he healthy, but he also worked hard over the summer training with Joey Burton, who has worked with Glenn Robinson III and Yogi Ferrell among others. Here’s an example of him translating his workouts to an actual game with the over-the-head swim move on the drive and a tough finish.

Sumner knows he still has plenty of work to do. He says that shooting is “probably one of my biggest weaknesses,” but he shot the 3-pointer fairly well in preseason play on his limited attempts making two of his five shots over four games.

“It’s more about being in the game and knocking down shots,” said Sumner. “I can go out and do a workout do whatever, but I got to go out into the game and translate it and make shots.”

Perhaps the biggest reason that McMillan was so comfortable using him in the preseason was his strong defense. Sumner’s length gives him the versatility to defend the 1, 2 and 3 spots and he averaged 1.5 steals per game in just 15 minutes. You can see his athleticism paying off in a big way on this defensive play.

“I can check multiple positions and I’m willing to defend,” said Sumner, who felt like defense was an overlooked part of his game.

His ability to get into the paint on offense was beneficial to his teammates as well as he was a willing passer when the defense focused on him, setting up Domantas Sabonis and others on many occasions averaging 1.3 assists in his time on the floor. You could see his ability to play point guard while directing traffic in the half court including one play where he waved off Evans so he could initiate the offense.

The Edmond Sumner Hype Train may take a moment before it’s full steam ahead during the regular season but if he gets an opportunity it’s going to be hard to derail it once he gathers momentum.

Sumner is currently on a 2-way contract that gives him only 45 days with the NBA team, but it’d be surprising to see him spend too much time in the G-League this year. He simply looked too good in the preseason. The Pacers may use up his days quickly before converting his deal like they did with Alex Poythress last season.

 

 

Victor Oladipo appears on HBO’s The Shop

Victor Oladipo showed up on the second episode of The Shop on HBO, LeBron James’s new show where athletes and celebrities have an open conversation in a barbershop.

The Indiana Pacers star showed off his singing voice to start the show off.

He also talked about his experience over his first four seasons in the league, the struggles in his only season in Oklahoma City and being traded twice in a year.  Continue reading Victor Oladipo appears on HBO’s The Shop

Ben Moore remains on roster as Pacers waive Elijah Stewart and Omari Johnson

The Indiana Pacers announced today that they’ve waived Elijah Stewart and Omari Johnson. This trims down the roster to the required 15 players before Wednesday’s season opener.

Ben Moore is (most likely) the 15th player. It’s possible that this means he made the team but recent history suggests that he could still be waived before the regular season opener.

Last season, the Pacers decided that instead of keeping Jarrod Uthoff, who was in a similar position to Moore at this time last year, as the 15th man, they would keep that roster spot open to start the regular season to have flexibility in case they wanted to add someone down the line.  Continue reading Ben Moore remains on roster as Pacers waive Elijah Stewart and Omari Johnson

Preseason Takeaways: Pacers look ready for the regular season against Cavaliers

The Indiana Pacers won their third preseason game against the Cleveland Cavaliers 111-102. As said previously, the results don’t really matter but not everything from these preseason games is without value.

This game was an entertaining one from the start. Here are some takeaways that we can look for when the regular season starts in just 9 days.  Continue reading Preseason Takeaways: Pacers look ready for the regular season against Cavaliers

Preseason Takeaways: Lessons from Pacers overtime loss to Grizzlies

The Indiana Pacers lost to the Memphis Grizzlies in their second preseason game last night, but the result of the exhibition match doesn’t matter. With the Pacers resting all five starters, it was a chance for the young guys to get lots of minutes and show whether or not they belonged, and it was an opportunity for the bench unit to develop some chemistry with each other.

Here’s what we learned from Game 2:

Tyreke Evans and Domas Sabonis pick and rolls will be a delight:

These two have quickly developed a rapport on these type of plays in practice and it showed in their first game action together. Domas Sabonis repeatedly got great looks at the basket thanks to Tyreke Evans’s patience on the play, waiting until the right moment to make a quick pass to the Lithuanian big man.

Sabonis struggled to finish many of these looks but finished with an impressive 17 points (7 of 18) and 14 rebounds in only 21 minutes. Evans struggled to make shots as well but still finished with 12 points (3 for 11), 6 rebounds and 3 assists. It should be a blast watching these two run the pick and roll all season.

Evans had some chemistry miscues early with expecting players to go one way and going another or not being ready for a pass from Sabonis but it was good to get those kind of mistakes out of the way in preseason.

Continue reading Preseason Takeaways: Lessons from Pacers overtime loss to Grizzlies

What mattered in the Indiana Pacers preseason win over the Houston Rockets

Drawing conclusions from a preseason game is dubious, but after the Indiana Pacers preseason win over the Houston Rockets (110-100), we can all agree on one thing: it’s good to have Pacers basketball back.

Though much of the preseason is meaningless there are still a few takeaways that could be meaningful once the games actually matter.

Edmond Sumner looks like an NBA player

Easily the highlight of the game for Indiana was the play of their second-year, two-way contract guard Edmond Sumner.

Sumner filled in for Tyreke Evans, who missed the game with a sprained ankle and played 19 minutes that showed off his athleticism and potential.

Sumner played Evans’s role well and made some impressive drives to the rim throughout the game. His biggest highlight a dunk along the baseline in the first half as he got his first poster of his NBA career.  Continue reading What mattered in the Indiana Pacers preseason win over the Houston Rockets

Pacers Victor Oladipo wants to start a campaign to be in Space Jam 2

Indiana Pacers star guard Victor Oladipo wants to be in the Space Jam sequel.

“Yes, let’s start a campaign,” said Oladipo at media day when asked about his desire to be a Monstar in the LeBron James-led Space Jam sequel. “Let’s make this happen. I would be a crazy Monstar. I think that would be pretty dope.”

Oladipo wants a campaign. Let’s give him a campaign.

It may have helped his case if he said one of the four movies he watched every night before going to sleep was Space Jam instead of Home Alone 1 & 2, Shrek or Mulan, but I digress.

The first step to any online campaign has to be the hashtag, so here are some possibilities:  Continue reading Pacers Victor Oladipo wants to start a campaign to be in Space Jam 2

How Alize Johnson could help the Indiana Pacers this season

As the 50th overall draft pick, the Indiana Pacers rookie Alize Johnson has an uphill climb to make an impact on an NBA roster.

That’s nothing new for him. He’s been the overlooked underdog throughout his high school and college career. His story of small high-school guard as a freshman to junior college to Missouri State is well known by Pacers fans by now.

“I have to do things different,” Johnson said before Summer League play. “Being the underdog I have to show some things that I can do consistently. Rebounding is effort. I’m all about hard work and getting into the gyms. Not really being the most athletic person, but just having the grit to go up there every time and get it is something that’s still in my blood. I have siblings back home and a family rooting for me, so when I’m up there grabbing rebounds, that’s what I’m doing it for.”

If you watched him play in Summer League, you were likely to get at least a little caught up in the Alize hype as his high-motor rebounding was on full display and his ability to start the fastbreak was a highlight of the Pacers play in Las Vegas.

“When you’re picking that deep in the draft, the likelihood of that player succeeding, the percentages are certainly working against him,” Pacers GM Chad Buchanan said after the draft, “so you look for like one trait or one skill that a guy possesses that would give him a chance. And Alize has two things for me; he has tremendous motor, and he just has an innate ability to track down rebounds.”

Pacers coach Nate McMillan caught Alize fever during the exhibition games in Vegas.

Continue reading How Alize Johnson could help the Indiana Pacers this season

Indiana Pacers chemistry only getting stronger with new acquisitions

The Indiana Pacers greatest strength last season may have been their chemistry and to this point it looks like it’s only improved over the offseason.

“You know it when you see it,” Myles Turner said of the team’s chemistry after the first training camp practice. “You just feel it.”

Indiana hasn’t played a game yet and you can feel it already. Whether it’s the above picture from media day with most of the returning players laughing together or Bojan Bogdanovic giving Victor Oladipo a huge hug when he first saw him.

Last season was the first year the majority of the team had been with the Pacers as they quickly grew a unique bond. With most of the core contributors returning from last year’s roster, Pacers President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard thinks those relationships will continue to grow.

Continue reading Indiana Pacers chemistry only getting stronger with new acquisitions

Managing Expectations: Is this the year it all comes together for Myles Turner?

Myles Turner put in work this summer to be ready for this upcoming season with the Indiana Pacers.

Whether he was doing yoga with Domantas Sabonis, working on his strength in the weight room, boxing on a gym floor, playing 1-on-1 after team USA practice with Kevin Durant, Paul George, Devin Booker and Victor Oladipo or showing off some impressive skills in pick-up games with Monta Ellis, that much has been clear; he’s been productive this offseason.

Now, it’s almost time to see how his labors will translate to the court as training camp quickly approaches.

Last year at this time, it was widely expected that Turner would be set for a much bigger role offensively, but Oladipo became a superstar while Turner’s statistical output per game went down in almost all categories as he struggled to find a rhythm through a series of small injuries while playing less minutes per game than in his second season.

Continue reading Managing Expectations: Is this the year it all comes together for Myles Turner?