Every summer, there are a handful of NBA players who make headlines for working extremely hard and making the most of their offseason. This year, Indiana Pacers big man Myles Turner was one of those individuals.
Through intense workouts and a strict diet, Turner transformed his body – adding five pounds of muscle to his frame and cutting his body fat percentage from 14 percent to 7 percent. A before-and-after photo of Turner spread across social media because the 22-year-old’s progress was incredible.
It’s time to see how Turner’s workouts will impact his production. Last season, Turner averaged 12.7 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.8 blocks, while shooting 35.7 percent from three-point range (and making a career-high 56 threes). While some critics believe he regressed or stagnated last year, his per-36-minutes numbers show that he’s posted very similar stats throughout his three NBA seasons.
Now, the hope is that Turner can take the next step in his development and have a breakout year (although he hates that term). The Pacers are banking on Turner’s continued growth, as they just gave him a four-year extension worth $72 million. The deal makes sense for both sides: Indiana locks up one of their franchise cornerstones and Turner doesn’t have to worry about contract-year distractions or entering restricted free agency.
HoopsHype chatted with Turner about his contract extension, body transformation, 2018-19 expectations, the team’s new additions, the Pacers’ unique culture, his off-court interests and much more.
You just signed a four-year, $72 million contract extension with the Indiana Pacers. How nice is it to get that deal finalized?
Myles Turner: I’m just happy that I’ll be able to focus solely on basketball and not have to worry about going through a contract year and all that. I’m glad to get that process out of the way and I get to continue being with a team that genuinely cares for me, a team that I really care for as well. I’m very excited about the deal. And I’m very excited about where I’m at, here in Indiana, because I can’t see myself anywhere else.
I want to talk about your offseason. The pictures you shared of your body transformation were insane. Can you walk me through why you decided to do this?
MT: It was a lot of dedication, and it definitely took a team of people to make that happen. But, more than anything, it was a lot of work. I did this because there was a point last season when I just felt dead out there on the court – I felt so drained and I wasn’t myself. I knew a lot of that was due to my eating habits and me not taking care of my body as well as I should’ve been. I think the biggest [motivator] was just me wanting the best for myself, and my team obviously wanted what’s best for me too. Once we got to the point where we started putting together a plan and we knew I had to make some big changes, we realized it was something that had to be done over the offseason. Then, we just executed the plan.
What were the dietary changes you made and what kind of workouts were you doing?
MT: One of the biggest changes was that I would only eat leaner meats. Obviously, I also had to cut out all fast food, all greasy foods, all the fattening foods, anything with sweets, anything with refined sugars. Unfortunately, I had to cut out Whataburger and that one definitely hurt the most (laughs). I ate a lot more fruits and vegetables than I ever had before. It’s just a more stable diet and I know exactly what I’m putting into my body [and how it affects me].
As for my workouts, I did a lot of yoga, a lot of boxing, a lot of track-and-field workouts – working on my gait and working my running – and I did a lot of pool workouts. The thing that was newest for me was the boxing. That was a big one for me because it was a lot of fun, but it also really helped me because I was working on my hand-eye coordination and my timing.
It’s one thing to feel better during the offseason, but how have you felt out on the floor during preseason games? You obviously aren’t playing as many minutes, but have you noticed a difference on the court yet?
MT: I have so much more energy. I mean, so much more energy. I don’t even where it came from. I feel so much better all around. When you play my position, you have to constantly be leading and you have to be in shape to do that. That was another big reason why I did this. But yeah, I’ve just felt so much better overall whenever I’m on the floor.
A lot of Pacers fans are wondering if this is going to be your “breakout season” because you put in so much work to get to this point. Do you anticipate having a breakout year?
MT: “Breakout year” just isn’t the right terminology for me; that’s not how I’d put it. I’m going to go out there and do whatever my teams needs from me to be successful. I think everyone tries to peg who’s going to have a “breakout year” and yada, yada, yada. But that’s not the terminology I’d use for it. When I step on the floor, I’m looking to play my best and be my best for my team. I’ll do whatever it takes for us to have a great season. I don’t need to put [any kind of label on it].
I love this Pacers team and I keep saying that you’re being overlooked. Not only did you play really well last year, you guys made some excellent additions like Tyreke Evans, Kyle O’Quinn, Doug McDermott and Aaron Holiday. Do you feel like your team continues to be underrated, and how good can this team be if you all play to your full potential?
MT: Well, we have a hunter mentality – even though we’ll be hunted a lot more this year just because of what we did last year and where we’re at in the Eastern Conference. But when I look at our team, I think we’re deeper than last year. Our bench is a lot better and they’re going to add a lot of scoring… We definitely want to pick up right where we left off and improve upon what we’ve already established.
I think Doug [McDermott] is a great addition and when he plays with confidence, he’s just a great player. He’s so much more than just a shooter and that’s what people don’t realize about him. He’s pretty athletic and he guards people pretty well. He has a chance to really compete for a lot of minutes this year. I think Kyle O’Quinn is going to be a big help for me and Domas [Sabonis] because he’s such a vocal guy and he’s actually a really good defender. He challenges us in practice every day. And Tyreke [Evans] is just… He’s just so good, man. He’s such a great pick-and-roll player. He’s still so underrated. I think he’s great. I think he joined us because he wanted to be part of a great culture and that’s definitely something we have here in Indiana.
People always get excited about incoming rookies because they have so much potential and everyone is curious how they’ll turn out. What have you seen from first-rounder Aaron Holiday?
MT: Aaron is a really solid player. I’ve been a fan of Aaron’s for a while. He’s very confident and he’s always so poised. I think he could actually carve out some minutes and get some playing time [this season]. He’s easily one of the best players in practice every day, which is what you want to see from a rookie or young guy. That’s been big for him, and his confidence is through the roof. I think him having older brothers in the league [Jrue Holiday and Justin Holiday] really helped him get to this point. I’m a really big fan of Aaron’s.
You brought up the team’s culture and I want to delve into that. Fans don’t know how close any team is because they don’t get a chance to see a lot of the off-court interactions. There are some fans who think every team is a close-knit group with an excellent culture, but that’s not the case.
MT: Yeah, that’s definitely not always the case. With our culture, it didn’t happen overnight. I think the guys just really want to be here and love being part of this team. We all got along so well last year at the start of training camp and it boiled over into the rest of the season and into this year. Whenever you can have that, it’s huge. We all get along and we love being together every day. I’ve been on teams in the past where we wouldn’t hang out off the floor. We may have gone out to dinner sometimes if we were on a road trip, but it wasn’t like this. Now, we’re always hanging out, we’re going shopping together and things like that. We’re just constantly around each other. With that, everyone gets to know each other better and it’s great.
Each year you’ve been in the NBA, you’ve improved your three-point percentage and you’ve made more threes. Is that an area of your game that you continue to focus on?
MT: Yeah, definitely. When it comes to my jump shot, I’m very particular about it because it’s something that I’ve always been able to do. It’s something that I take very seriously. But I definitely see myself continuing to improve my shooting year in and year out. That’s something that I put a lot of work in to do.
The last time we talked, you guys had just acquired Victor Oladipo. We both agreed that he’d be a good fit and you praised his game, but I don’t think anyone anticipated him becoming an All-NBA selection who averaged 23.1 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.4 steals. You’ve witnessed his rise behind the scenes, so what stood out to you and how is he looking now (based on what you’ve seen over the offseason and in camp)?
MT: Vic’s confidence is contagious, man. His confidence in himself and his [unwavering] confidence all throughout last season really helped us get through a lot. I mean, I’ve never seen Vic in a bad mood. Never. His winning attitude and confidence and all that stuff is really contagious and everyone is ready to fall in line with him. With that being said, Vic is also really good at being able to flip that switch too. He’s this goofy person who’s really fun to be around, but then once he gets on the floor? Everything changes and if you’re competing against him, he wants to rip your heart out.
I think we could see a star free agent join the Pacers at some point in the next few years, just because of the amazing culture, the talented core and the chance to contend. It would surprise everyone, but I can see it happening. It would sort of be like when Greg Monroe spurned the big markets to join Milwaukee (but obviously that didn’t turn out so great). I mean, we’re already seeing guys like Tyreke Evans choose Indiana over a ton of other teams. Is it realistic to think you guys can attract a star?
MT: I think it is [realistic], but they’d have to be willing to fall in line with the culture. That’s the biggest thing. It would have to be someone who understands that this is something that’s bigger than just themselves. This is about the organization, about the city and about this team. It can’t be about individual contracts or guys [fighting over] money or anything. We all come together and fight for each other. If they’re willing to be a part of that, then yeah, this is a great place to be. But some people can’t fall in line with the culture.
Now that you bring up that approach, where did that stem from? Who set that tone within the organization?
MT: Well, we have this saying around here called “The Three Ts” and they stand for Togetherness, Toughness and Trust. We need to have players who embody that. That’s something that we as players [make sure everyone follows].
What are some of your biggest interests outside of basketball?
MT: I’m a really constructive person. I like putting stuff together and building things. I’ve always liked that. I like puzzles. I’m big on LEGOs; that isn’t just for show, it’s really just who I am. I also like cooking. I really like video games – you know, Fortnite, Call of Duty, NBA 2K and games like that. And other than that, I just really like learning. I love to learn different crafts and then try to master them.
If you weren’t in the NBA, where would you be right, what career would you have pursued?
MT: First off, I’d get my degree – that’s for certain. Then, after I got my degree, I would be… Man, I really don’t know. That’s a great question. I haven’t really thought about. I’d get my degree in business and then I guess I’d try to work my way up in the business world. I’m not the kind of guy who’s fit for a 9-to-5 job. But I do like the competitive nature out in the business world.
What is the biggest misconception about you?
MT: I think people think I’m just a jump-shooting big man, but there’s so much more to my game. I think I’m a very skilled player. I think I can sometimes get misconceived for someone who is soft and just wants to shoot jumps shots. I think there’s so much more to my game than just shooting or being a back-to-the basket post-up player. That’s something I take a lot of pride in. [Editor’s Note: Turner told reporters that a teammate, whom he refuses to name, called him soft at one point last season. This also motivated his offseason regimen.]
You mentioned being “hunted” rather than being the “hunter.” How tough is that, especially when opponents are specifically focused on you and how to shut you down?
MT: It’s hard. When you’re in your first or second year in the league, you’re killing it and you just feel unstoppable. Then, players and coaches and scouts [know what you can do] and game-plan against you. But if they shut down a certain aspect of your game, that’s when you have to find something else that you’re good at so you can still help your team. That’s why having multiple things you can bring to the table is so important. You have to find a way to impact the game night in and night out.