One of the more noticeable aspects of the first few days of the Pacers’ training camp in the brief glimpses afforded to media members has been the perimeter shooting of Myles Turner.
It hasn’t been all that surprising given the potential Turner has displayed in his first two NBA seasons, but he’s shown plenty of room for improvement, too. The Pacers likely will need more from him beyond the 3-point line this season, given the loss of capable shooters last season: C.J. Miles (.413), Paul George (.393), Aaron Brooks (.375) and Jeff Teague (.357).
Turner hit just .214 from the 3-point line as a rookie, but improved to .348 last season. That was respectable, especially for a center, but he took a meandering path to reach that level. He hit .559 in an 18-game stretch in December and January, but made just .263 of his attempts the rest of the regular season. He missed all six of his 3-point shots in the playoff series with Cleveland.
Turner expects his percentage to improve again this season, partly from experience but also because he has a greener light from coach Nate McMillan. As the young player on a veteran team the past two seasons, he sometimes doubted whether he should be shooting from that range. Now, as the Pacer with the longest tenure of continued service and a more featured scorer, he’ll be able to take more guilt-free shots.
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“It helps your confidence,” he said. “You don’t want to look over your shoulder, wondering if that was a bad shot.”
The Pacers should haven’t to rely too heavily on Turner, or anyone else, behind the 3-point line. Thad Young hit .381 last season despite a wrist injury that sent his shooting percentages plummeting late in the season, and Glenn Robinson III hit .392. Lance Stephenson has been erratic behind the line throughout his career, but shot well in his 10 games with the Pacers. Among the new arrivals, Darren Collison (.417), Bojan Bogdanovic (.382 two seasons ago with Brooklyn, .391 in 26 games at the end of last season with Washington), Victor Oladipo (.361) and Cory Joseph (.356) qualify as legitimate threats. And, rookie T.J. Leaf hit .466 in his freshman season at UCLA.
Still, Turner should have his share of opportunities.
“Right now, we’re just letting him play,” McMillan said. “We have to get comfortable with him shooting that three and spreading the floor. We’re asking him not to be one-dimensional. Mix it up and establish something inside as well as outside – recognizing when you have a matchup and take advantage of it.
“He’s very capable of shooting the three-ball. Last year we let him go out there some, and this year we’re doing to try to take advantage of that and spread the floor with him.”
Oladipo conditioned to run
McMillan said two of his players did not pass the conditioning test in Tuesday evening’s practice, which consisted of sprinting five lengths of the court under a designated time, four times.
He declined to name them, but did praise a few standouts.
Oladipo “kind of blew it out of the water,” McMillan said.
McMillan also praised Joe Young, “who can run all day” and two second-round draft picks who are not yet released to participate in practice: Edmond Sumner and Ike Anigbogu.
McMillan said the test will be given again during training camp.
Leadership by committee
Potentially, leadership could be a difficult issue for the Pacers this season. Not because of a lack of it, but how it is distributed.
Turner, the only Pacer to have been with the franchise the past two years, has been presented as the face of the franchise publicly, because he’s the most familiar face to fans. He’s eagerly embraced a leadership role.
“It’s important for me to step into a leadership role,” he said earlier this summer. “I want to be that leader one day.”
He has “competition” for it, however.
Darren Collison, the starting point guard with eight years of NBA experience, should be expected to lead, and plans to do so.
“Mentally, it was tough dealing with the situation in the past, but I had fun leading every single day,” he said, of his past three seasons in Sacramento. “Now it’s going to be a little easier. I’m looking forward to it.”
Young has stated his plan to assume more of a leadership role with the loss of the veteran members of last season’s team. Stephenson, ready to begin his eighth NBA season, also qualifies as a respected voice. Oladipo, an eager newcomer with four years of experience, plans to step up as well.
“I’m going to make it a point to be the point guy for everything,” he said. “That’s my role. I’ve got to keep getting better, learning, and be a teacher as well. I’m looking forward to the opportunity that lies ahead.”
So how does it all sort out?
Turner offered some insight after Thursday morning’s practice.
“It’s a team, man; it’s not just one guy out here,” he said. “Obviously, I want to step into this leadership role and become that guy, but Vic’s a helluva player, DC’s a helluva player. DC has been here, Lance has been here … but I do like being one of the guys recognized with this program.”
Turner also dropped a hint that should be soothing to Pacers fans, although they’ve heard promises of devotion from players before that weren’t always kept.
“(The organization) gave me a chance and I’ve been running with it,” he said. “I don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon. This is my team.”
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