With Butler assisting, Turner comfortable in Pacers debut
Evan Turner was acquired by the Pacers last Thursday, arrived in Indy on Saturday, and practiced for the first time with the team on Sunday. That’s why when he ripped of his breakaways and pulled off his shooting shirt to check in for the first time with 4:34 to play in the first quarter Tuesday night, it wasn’t surprising that he had some nerves running through his 6-foot-7 body.
They didn’t last very long, though.
“My teammates did a great job of getting me acclimated,” Turner said after a 118-98 stomping of the Los Angeles Lakers. “They calmed me down a little bit and got me to the right situations. Once (we got) things flowing, everything gets easier.”
Turner sank his first field goal — an 11-foot baseline fadeaway. He made 4-of-7 shots and had eight of his 13 points by the end of the first half.
“I thought Evan almost looked like he’s been with us since the start of this year,” Paul George said. “Everybody felt like he’s been a part of this team since we started.”
Pacers coach Frank Vogel said Turner would take over Danny Granger’s role as the backup wing and likely receive 18 to 25 minutes. Turner played a little more than 26 minutes, and even asked to be taken out late.
“I was kind of shocked how many times he called my play in a certain sense, but that was definitely a blessing and I look forward to (more),” he said.
On Sunday and Monday, Turner spent 45 minutes of additional time on the court with the end-of-the-bench players to learn the offensive sets. He has the basics down and will work to absorb the rest as quickly as he can.
“There’s a couple things the first squad runs that I don’t really know but other than that, I got nine or ten sets and in the league, that’s probably all you need,” he stated.
While on the bench, teammates were very helpful. In particular, Turner singled out veteran Rasual Butler, the eldest guy on their 15-man roster.
“Everybody takes the time and helps me out a lot,” said Turner. “Rasual was on the bench getting me keyed in what we’re going to do and everything. It just helped out tremendously.”
Butler was in his ear, pointing out the offensive sets, their different defensive coverages and what they’re looking for.
“He seemed very comfortable,” Butler said of Turner. “I don’t know how he felt on the inside the last two days, but he looked really good and really comfortable in his first practice and tonight. Obviously it’s early, but we’re optimistic and excited about his comfort level continuing to grow and for that to translate into him being a really good weapon for us to have coming off the bench.”
Added Lance Stephenson: ”He knows the game. It’s not that hard to play with us. We know how to find people and everybody’s unselfish on this team. It’s easy to fit in with this team.”
Turner isn’t the first teammate Butler has pulled aside. Lance Stephenson, Solomon Hill, and ex-Pacer Orlando Johnson, to name a few, have Butler in their corner. His unselfish approach, part of the reason he’s on the team, hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“I’ve always known that there’s a lot of different ways to contribute and towards helping a team,” said Butler. “With not being in the game all the time, the only other way to contribute is to communicate with guys. That’s just me trying to contribute and help us win.”
It’s just one game, but Turner’s play off the bench will go a long way in the Pacers’ quest for home-court advantage … and then a championship.