The Indiana Pacers, owners of the league’s best record, now find themselves in the midst of their most prolonged slump of the season and many are now pointing to the team’s chemistry as an issue since the arrival of pending free agent Evan Turner at last month’s trade deadline.
“Evan has great potential, and I think our offense is his style of play,” said none other than team leader and league MVP candidate Paul George, raving after the Pacers officially obtained Turner for veteran forward Danny Granger. “He’s a pick-and-roll guy, can create his own offense and get into the paint at will. I think it will be an easy transition. Evan is a good dude. He’s a hard worker and a winning player.”
Truth is, Turner has been every bit the player in Indiana that he was in Philadelphia, where he always seemed dogged by issues of inefficiency. According to ESPN, among players logging more than 5,000 minutes since Turner came into the league as the second overall pick in the 2008 draft behind Derrick Rose, his 12.2 career PER ranks 171st of 184 players.
In a system like Indiana, where efficiency reigns supreme, Turner’s lack of it has been all the more glaring. It’s becoming such a problem that the Pacers now admit to no longer even concentrating on the things that have seemed to drive them all season long.
“We haven’t talked about the No. 1 seed in a while,” All-Star center Roy Hibbert admitted of the squad that has talked all season of their added desire to replace the two-time defending champion Miami Heat as the Eastern Conference’s top regular-season squad. “We just need to win games at this point. Something has got to change. Something is going to be addressed.”
Following their third straight loss Friday night to Houston, the Pacers held an impromptu meeting outside their locker room to address all the slippage. Over their last 10 games, the league’s once top-defense is allowing 46 percent shooting and 100 points per game, compared to just 41 percent shooting and 88 points a game over their first 40 games.
“Every team we play is playing above themselves,” Pacers coach Frank Vogel said. “Our guys can talk about being the hunted but it’s a different thing to feel it. These teams are coming at us with great force and we’re going to have to rise to the challenge.”