Myles Turner has had enough of his low-usage role with the Indiana Pacers. In an interview with The Athletic's Jared Weiss published Thursday, Turner said he wants to show what he can do with the ball.
"It's clear that I'm not valued as anything more than a glorified role player here, and I want something more, more opportunity," Turner told The Athletic. "I'm trying really hard to make the role that I'm given here work and find a way to maximize it. I've been trying to the past two, three seasons. But it's clear to me that, just numbers-wise, I'm not valued as more than a rotational role player, and I hold myself in a higher regard than that."
Turner went on, citing his 40-point game against the Washington Wizards on Oct. 22 ("I had a 'F--- it' mindset that night, that every time I would touch it, I wanted to be as aggressive as possible") and his four-point outing against the Miami Heat two nights later ("It felt like, 'OK, you had the 40-point game, now let's get back to the status quo'"). If it isn't already abundantly clear that he feels he's ready for the next step, he also said this:
"I've been given many roles in the years that I've been here, and I feel like I've been able to produce at a high level in the roles I've been given," Turner said. "I've shown that I can do the things they ask me to do, and I think it's time to put that all together and be a more prominent night-in, night-out guy on the offensive side of the ball instead of someone who is asked to be a floor spacer and hide in the shadows."
"I've settled for being just a floor spacer who runs up and down and sits in the corner all game and isn't active because I thought I was doing what was best at the time," said Turner. "I wasn't looking out for myself and was looking out for the team. But I realized that looking out for myself in turn is looking out for the team, so I've flipped my mindset going forward."
The interview took place on Tuesday, after team president Kevin Pritchard and coach Rick Carlisle met with Turner and teammates Domantas Sabonis, Malcolm Brogdon and Caris LeVert at the Pacers' practice facility. The subject of conversation: The Athletic's report that the team is headed for a significant shakeup, with the front office open to trading Sabonis, Turner and LeVert in between now and the Feb. 10 trade deadline. (Brogdon's contract extension, signed in October, makes him ineligible to be traded this season.) Owner Herb Simon, whose track record indicates that rebuilding is almost never an option, is reportedly on board with it now.
Turner is averaging 12.9 points, 7.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocks in 29.1 minutes this season, numbers that are in keeping with what he has produced in previous seasons. Ten months ago, Chris Herring noted at FiveThirtyEight that his box-score stats have been about as static as anyone in the history of the modern game. To Turner's point, he has a usage rate of 16.6 percent, and he's attempting 8.8 shots a game, about half of them spot-up 3s.
In defense of the Pacers, Turner's 65.5 true shooting percentage represents by far the best mark of his career. He's taking 7.8 3s per 100 possessions and making 39.7 percent of them, both of which are career highs. In the story published Thursday, The Athletic reported that, in a meeting this week, Carlisle and his coaching staff told Turner he's never been more efficient offensively but they'll try to use him more as a roller more often. Carlisle also described him as "a very good system player" to The Athletic and said Turner always has the freedom to set screens within the flow of the offense, rather than simply spotting up.
This is a classic case of a player who has starred in his role but believes he should have graduated from it. He wants to be more involved in the offense with the first unit, and to be empowered to put the ball on the floor more often, according to The Athletic. That is fair, but it's also a tough sell on a team that starts Brogdon, LeVert and, most importantly, Sabonis, who himself has had to accept a smaller role than usual this season.
Turner's game has changed. In the past two seasons, he has drastically cut down his midrange jumpers, and in 2020-21 he got to the rim more frequently than ever before. When he catches the ball against a scrambling defense, he is capable of attacking the basket and finishing. No team is going to run a lot of offense through him, the way Indiana can do with Sabonis, or start isolating him in the mid-post as if he's Joel Embiid. In a different situation, though, Turner could naturally find more opportunities to score, and he might be able to get the kind of elbow touches and occasional post touches that he got a few years ago.
Shortly after Turner's quotes were published, the Pacers' official Twitter account tweeted a clip from Wednesday's press conference following their 122-102 win over the New York Knicks. "I love it here," Turner said at the podium. "I want to win here with this franchise." The victory was only Indiana's 11th of the season, through 27 games, and, while he scored 22 points on 8-for-13 shooting, he was only two days removed from scoring five points, shooting 2-for-5 and sitting for almost all of the fourth quarter against the Washington Wizards. It's one thing to sacrifice stats and touches on a championship contender, and it's another entirely to do so on a team that is 13th in the East, particularly if you're 25 years old and you're seeing your name in trade rumors for the zillionth time.