all along he wasn’t focused intently on reaching an agreement and says now he
would have played just as eagerly this season without one, he feels better having it.
“Some sense of relief,” he said.
“A huge confidence boost,” he added.
To which Turner’s coach, Nate McMillan, couldn’t resist another joke.
“What is it?” McMillan asked. “Eighty-two (million)? Seventy-two? It would
boost my confidence.”
Although Turner can now play completely confident of the franchise’s faith in
him and not have to be distracted by constant questions about his impending free
agency, he says his mindset hasn’t been altered by the raise he’ll be receiving.
His mindset was established when training camp began, the result of his yoga
sessions and on-court workouts. He added five pounds of weight while dropping
his body fat from 14 percent to eight, and improved his endurance and agility.
Among other things, he says he feels “less wobbly.”
The end result is that he plans to be more aggressive, particularly on defense,
while playing more relaxed as well. He has written “TYT!” with a black marking
pen on his left shoe, a reminder to “take your time.”
“There’s a lot of times I rush,” he said.
Turner has indeed seemed calmer throughout the preseason, even in his
interactions with media. While he once stood and gave quick, often vague
answers following practice, giving the impression he wanted to escape as
quickly as possible, he now sits and engages with more complete responses.
He stood on Tuesday so the horde waiting to talk with him could see and hear
him better, but was patient and expansive throughout a claustrophobic interview
session lasting more than 10 minutes.
He took his time. And he was honest.
“I’m keeping a poker face now, keeping it calm, but it was a very emotional
moment for me,” he said of his reaction to his contract.
Asked his aspirations now that his future with the Pacers appears more
certain, he added: “We’ve never won a (NBA) championship. We talk about that
internally every day. Just to be able to get that first one...I remember when I was
in Dallas and Dallas got that first championship (in 2011), the whole vibe, the
whole buzz of the city just changed. I’d love to experience that in Indianapolis.”
Had the Pacers and Turner not reached an agreement by 6 p.m. on Monday,
he would have become a restricted free agent at the end of the season. If he
shows improvement this season, as he expects and is expected to do, he might
have attracted a max contract at a higher number from another team that the
Pacers would have to match to keep him. Several NBA teams are expected to
have significant salary cap room next summer, and proven players will command
An often-ignored element of signings such as this one is that at the very least
it offers security for the franchise as well as the player, no matter how it works
out in the long run.
Consider the most recent long-term contracts of this nature the Pacers have
awarded, the ones for Paul George, Jermaine O’Neal, and Jalen Rose. All three
were eventually traded after turning in some productive seasons with the
Pacers, and all three deals brought improvement to the franchise.
The trade involving Rose, who was dealt to Chicago in 2002, brought Ron
Artest, Brad Miller, Ron Mercer, and Kevin Ollie. O’Neal’s trade to Toronto in 2008
brought Maceo Baston, Rasho Nesterovic, T.J. Ford, and the first-round draft pick
used to select future All-Star Roy Hibbert. In return for George, of course, the
Pacers received Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis.
It works the other way, too. Oklahoma City signed Oladipo to a massive fouryear
contract extension shortly after the season began two years ago. While
some might have thought he didn’t play up to that contract (which didn’t go into
effect until last season), he became an asset that helped bring George to the
Thunder. And, coincidentally or not, he lifted his game to match the value of his
contract after joining the Pacers.
“You’ve got to believe in yourself, but when the people who believe in you are
the people in the front office, your teammates, the coaching staff, it makes it that
much better,” Oladipo said. “It makes you want to go out there and give it your all.
“He’s what, 23?” Oladipo asked.
Told that Turner is 22, Oladipo said, “C’mon, bro. When I was 22 I was in my
second year in the league.”
At 22, and with the security of a new contract, Turner doesn’t have to rush.
Improvement will come if he continues to work, and so will more contracts. Now
his focus can shift to a wider perspective – such as the one Oladipo expressed
“What legacy will you leave? That’s what I’m focused on.”
O’QUINN BRINGS RARE SKILL TO PACERS
You’d think it would be simple. Big guy jogs out to the perimeter, plants his
feet and waits for a small guy to dribble right by him in an attempt to brush off
And yet, relatively few NBA centers and power forwards know how to set a
proper screen for a pick-and-roll. Or, more likely, they know perfectly well how
WE GROW BASKETBALL HERE INDIANA PACERS 2018-1 9 YEARBOOK