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The Indiana Pacers and Myles Turner have opened negotiations on a contract extension, according to The Athletic's Shams Charania. Turner can become a free agent after the season, and while the Pacers were initially expected to move on from the former lottery pick and rebuild, their strong season thus far has seemingly opened the door for a return. Still, talks are reportedly not close to generating a deal, and the NBA's March 1 extension deadline looms for both sides.

However, the idea of an extension felt almost unthinkable a few months ago. The Pacers tried to trade Turner to the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason, but the Lakers would not surrender two first-round picks in a deal for Turner and Buddy Hield. Turner himself pitched the Lakers publicly on the idea of trading for him, but ultimately, no deal was made. But the Pacers ultimately proved far better than anyone expected. They are now 16-16 and in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race.

That success has been in part to Turner's individual success. With Domantas Sabonis gone, Turner has been able to play the center position full-time and has thrived by averaging a career-high 16.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game. Further, he has managed to stay healthy after several seasons were ruined by injuries.

Those injuries make negotiating an extension difficult. On the one hand, Turner has a unique skillset as the rare center who can both make 3-pointers and protect the rim at an elite level. But that won't matter if he can't stay healthy, and the Pacers, who notoriously operate on one of the NBA's smallest budgets, can't afford to make major commitments to players that they aren't sure will be available.

One advantage the Pacers do have, though, is immediate cap space. When a team has cap space in the middle of the season, they can use it to offer a rare renegotiation-and-extension. This would allow them to increase Turner's salary this season by up to $19.1 million, but then have his salary decrease to a more manageable level starting next season. In effect, this allows teams to front-load deals when the rest of their roster is cheap so they can keep salaries lower when the rest of the roster is about to get expensive.

That trick might allow the Pacers to keep Turner at a low enough price point to offset the risk of future injury. At this point, no deal is imminent, but with negotiations ongoing, it appears as though both sides would like to keep him in Indiana for the foreseeable future.