One of the league’s top shot blockers, Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner recently joined the HoopsHype podcast to discuss his life in the NBA bubble, the potential for another bubble next season, rumors surrounding Victor Oladipo’s free agency, TJ Warren’s impressive play, dating and much more. You can listen to the interview above or read a transcribed version of our chat below.
You’ve been in Orlando for a little over a month now. How would you describe life in the bubble so far?
Myles Turner: Life in the bubble is not that bad at all. I think that people outside looking in, at first it was like, oh man, the food is terrible. You have all these athletes in this bubble confined to this space, but I think the NBA, Disney, the Players Association and everybody involved did a really good job setting this up. The food is great. We’re probably in the safest place in the U.S. right now. We’re doing what we love for a living. You know, we have a national spotlight to highlight things that we want to get out, so I think it’s been good.
Knock on wood you guys continue to have success with the bubble. Always good to see each week when no one tests positive. That’s a blessing at this time in a global pandemic. I would imagine, though, you do have a decent amount of downtime. What apps and games do you, and other players, use in the bubble?
MT: I mean, you know, everybody’s playing Call of Duty right now. Warzone, that’s huge. Everybody’s been on that. Us as teams, we actually play, we play little games here and there. We go to team dinners a lot. But as far as like apps and games, I mean, everybody’s on Zoom, obviously. I mean, me personally, I put together a whole bunch of puzzles when I get bored. That kind of just helps me pass the time. As a whole, everybody kind of just does their own thing. Everybody kind of just chills out in their rooms and, you know, you practice about two, three hours a day and you have the rest of the day to do whatever you want, or you have your game. It takes up, you know, two or three hours of the day and then just chill all day.
How about social media? I mean, I would assume you guys are on Instagram and Twitter. How has social media affected your daily life as an NBA player?
MT: Well, I think it has a huge impact just because of, you know, now that we’re bored and have so much downtime, a lot of us are on Instagram and Twitter and kind of just seeing what people have to say about certain issues or certain things or ourselves. So it has as much of an impact as you let it. For some people, it can impact them negatively. For other people like myself, I just use it for entertainment purposes. I feel like you’ve got to let the chips fall where they may with that. You’ve got to control what you can control when it comes to that social media stuff.
We’ve seen a little bit of the petty wars with Pat Beverley Paul, George, and Damian Lillard going at it on Instagram. What do you think when you see stuff like that around the league and guys going at it on social media once they’re outside the lines of the court?
MT: I think like I said, I use it for entertainment purposes. I think it’s funny, you know, some people get at it a little bit more than others. But, you know, for the most part, you handle your business on the court. That’s where everybody that talks their mess or says what they want to say, you let your play do the talking. Social media is cool and all, but once you get on the court, nobody can say anything to you once you’re out there doing your thing.
For you individually, you’ve got, I think over 220,000 followers on Instagram, you got about 100,000 on Twitter. Do you ever use social media to help in the dating game at all?
MT: I think my first couple of years in the league. I was heavy on that just because it was a newfound thing. Anybody with a blue check and obviously I raised a couple eyebrows. Here and there I’ll slide, but for the most part I kind of just chill, bro. If you go out there and chase it, you know more than likely it’s not for you. I personally like to be out in person and actually meet someone in person. Social media is all (pause) everybody can look good with a filter with certain angles, but if you’re out there and actually get to have an intelligent conversation with somebody and actually be around the game then it’s gonna be better for you in the long run, but Instagram is cool to look at here and there.
When you are off the court and you say like you’re trying to meet people, in person. What is it like dating as an NBA player?
MT: That’s kind of the same thing I was saying with social media. It’s what you make it. Some people really love going out there and being around multiple women all the time. Other people are just real low key with it. We’re all men and we all do what we want to do, but I think that it can be you open yourself up to so much more the more and more people you open yourself up to. So I think my first couple years in the league I was finally free. I got freedom. You know, I’m 19, 20 years old, and I had money in my pocket. So you think you’re king of the world. So yeah, I was definitely chasing a bit. I’m not gonna say like, I’m an OG or anything, I’m only 24 years old, but I kind of just don’t go for the chase as much. The chase isn’t as fun for me. You know, it’s just, if I’m out and like, I see something I like. Yeah, I’m gonna say something. But for the most part, I just don’t go out seeking it. I’ve just seen women get a lot of guys caught up in this league and in the NFL and all the other professional sports leagues. Women can be the ultimate downfall for a lot of people. I just try not to make the mistakes that some of my predecessors have.
For you guys, especially in this day and age, with social media really growing over the past 15 years or so and sites like TMZ and all these types of places following you guys around, do you have to move differently at all as a person? And do you feel like there are eyeballs always watching your every move because you are a public figure?
MT: Of course, there are certain things that come with the territory of living this lifestyle. For someone like me at seven feet, even if they don’t recognize me for who I am, they’re gonna just automatically assume well he’s black and he’s tall he definitely plays basketball or he sticks out in the crowd, so you’re gonna get attention wherever you go. And that automatically makes you not a normal 24-year-old. You can’t go out there and wild out and do the things that you would normally do behind closed doors or do with your friends or act like a college kid. Say my teammate, TJ McConnell, he might get recognized by some people for the most part, he’ll be able to fit in with the crowd and he’s like six feet tall and he just kind of blends in with some people, so I don’t necessarily have that luxury. I’ve gotten used to it. I’ve gotten accustomed to it. I know I have to carry myself professionally out in public, but you know I still have my fun. I’m just smart with it.
And you talked earlier about having some downtime. You certainly have a chance to maybe watch a little bit more TV. A show that you’re a fan of, and I will admit I’m a fan too. My wife had gotten me into it years back, the Bachelor and the Bachelorette series. How do you feel about Tayshia (Adams) coming on as the Bachelorette? And could we ever see you one day try to try out for that show as the Bachelor?
MT: I would never subject myself to that public scrutiny and all that TV BS that you see on there, bro. All that s— is all scripted and you’ve got to say certain things and do certain things. I just wouldn’t subject myself to that kind of scrutiny. I think it’s just a lot of pressure to be in that position. I am a fan of the drama and the entertainment aspect of it. I think it’s funny. It’s something to do, it’s something to watch, it’s something to talk about. It’s a good conversation piece. But for the most part, this is my first season watching. I’m not too heavily ingrained with it. I’m not even sure what’s coming up next. They had a little follow your heart thing with the singing BS or whatever. I wasn’t really a fan of that. I definitely am waiting for the next season. I’m curious to see what the Bachelorette has in store. I watched the Bachelor, the dude version. I haven’t watched the girl version yet, so I’m curious to see what that’s like.
Your priority right now is trying to win a championship with the Pacers. This is going to be your fifth consecutive trip to the playoffs. You’ve been in the playoffs all five years since you entered the league. For you guys right now, TJ Warren is lighting it up like Times Square on New Year’s Eve. What’s been in your opinion the biggest difference in his game during the restart of the NBA bubble?
MT: TJ has always been a scorer. I just feel like he just hasn’t had the national exposure because he’s been in Phoenix, not necessarily a team that a lot of people are watching in the past. Even Indy, Indy’s not a huge national spotlight, but he’s doing it on a bigger stage than he has in the past. So, I think that for the most part, TJ is very locked in and very focused right now. I think that he’s playing better off the ball. He’s making better decisions with the ball as well and just putting the ball in the hoop. He’s just in a great place right now. He’s going to continue to be himself. So we’ll see what the future entails. But, I mean, I don’t see him slowing down anytime soon.
As teammates, is there different energy when a guy is lighting it up like that in such a zone as he’s been lately? He’s arguably been the MVP of the bubble.
MT: Yeah, I just think that once you find that zone and you don’t get out of it, the sky’s the limit. I personally think he’s the best player in the bubble right now. I’m obviously a little biased, but you know, I’ve seen Devin Booker. He’s playing pretty well. Obviously, LeBron (James), he’s doing what he’s doing. But as a whole, I don’t think there is anybody that’s matched what he’s done.
Going into the playoffs we’ve seen pundits and media experts have been talking a lot about the Milwaukee Bucks, the Toronto Raptors, and at times I’ve even seen the Boston Celtics as the contenders in the East. For you personally, and you guys collectively in the locker room, is there a bit of a chip on your shoulder that people are kind of counting you guys out for a deep run in the East, at least as of right now?
MT: I mean, as they should. Those are great teams and those guys have proven track records with what they’ve done in the past. I just think as a whole if you play in Indiana or you’re an Indiana fan, you’re used to having that chip on your shoulder of being underrated because that’s how it is for us every single year. We have to go out there and prove it. We’re not going to get the national love. We’re not going to get the attention that we feel we deserve. We’ve got to go out there and take it. Honestly, to say I have a chip on my shoulder is one thing, but to say I just kind of expect to be counted out is another. So I kind of think that’s more of an accurate description.
Part of the reason maybe people are not as high on Indiana is you guys are without your All-Star, Domantas Sabonis, and Victor Oladipo is continuing to round into form following his return to action. When you first heard that Sabonis was out and definitely, what went through your mind?
MT: Well, one of the first things that went through my mind was the fact that I’d be going back to playing the five. The five position is where I’ve become accustomed to being in this league. It’s where I’ve played my entire career. This year, I’ve had to play the four and spread on the perimeter a bit more. It was a little different for me because I wasn’t necessarily used to it in a sense. I could shoot the ball, but there’s a lot of other stuff that comes with playing the four position. Playing the five, you have the ball in your hands a lot more, you make a lot more decisions. You can get in more of a rhythm. I just knew I was going to have an opportunity to go back to my position and be able to step up and just play a more elevated role.
You talked about that switch. In today’s NBA, I feel like a lot of teams are going the opposite way of what you guys were trying to do for most of the year and playing two traditional big men. You see a lot more small ball. What did you think were the pros and the cons at times of having those two bigs in the lineup when it was you and Domantas Sabonis?
MT: The pros were definitely, like you said, that we were bigger, and be able to outrebound teams, out scrap teams, and we were stronger. Then, teams had to match up to us. The cons were we didn’t play as fast as we might have wanted to, and when you’re playing a small-ball team like Houston, they spread you out more, and they present different challenges defensively. But for the most part, we’ve also had a great deal of success with it, and we just continued to roll with it.
Do you think at all having one less big like that out there has maybe opened the floor up a little bit for TJ Warren to have space on offense?
MT: It opens the floor for everybody from TJ to Victor, Malcolm (Brogdon). Teams have to respect me at the five you know shooting on the perimeter, so it lifts their five out of the paint and creates driving lanes and possibilities for everybody. We’re able to get to the basket a lot more than one place.
And in the frontcourt you and Goga Bitadze are going to get more minutes. When the team drafted him in the first round, what went through your mind at that point? What have you learned about his game?
MT: I think that Goga has learned a lot just throughout the course of the year. I think that playing in Europe is one thing, but playing in the NBA is a different style of basketball. I think that he’s actually very strong. That’s one thing that people notice about him when they look at him is he’s very strong. He’s continuing to learn how to use his body and make better plays. He obviously has three-point touch. He can shoot the ball. He’s a great shot blocker. I think he played great against the Lakers. I think it was a real growing moment for him and a big opportunity going against Dwight Howard and a bigger guy and someone who’s pushing his buttons a little bit. But, you know, when we first drafted him initially, you know, I wasn’t sure what to think. I had never seen him play before. I never heard of him. But being around him every day, he’s hungry. He loves the game of basketball. He’s continuing to learn, he wants to learn, and he’s confident. I think that’s another big thing. You have to have a certain level of confidence being a rookie in this league. He’s going to continue to get better. He’s young. He has a lot of time to grow and mature in this league.
You also touched on earlier how Oladipo has gotten more space on the floor. There was a time when Victor wasn’t going to play in the restart. Then he decided to join you guys. Did you or any other players talk to him before he made his decision to come back?
MT: Not really. Victor was kind of doing his own thing and kind of rehabbing and what not away from the team. I think he was actually in a pretty good place with what he was doing. I think that Victor, for the most part, wanted to play but, you know, he wasn’t sure if he was ready. It’s an injury that it’s only happened a handful of times in professional basketball. But he wasn’t sure if he was ready and he didn’t want to come back too early and risk himself being hurt for the future. I think so far so good from that aspect. He’s continuing to rehab and get better, but I think with him playing right now it’s actually making his knee a bit stronger, so we’ll continue to see how it goes.
From your vantage point, you’ve seen him at an All-Star level. How has he looked in terms of getting back into that form?
MT: I think Victor has a little bit of a ways to go as far as getting back to the All-Star level, but he looks great. I think he’s playing well. He’s moving well. He’s continuing to make better decisions out of double teams, and he’s tending to move well. I think as a whole like he said, it’s going to take reps for him. I think the playoffs will be good for him to kind of get back in that spotlight and get back to doing what he does best, and time will tell.
Since he’s come back to you guys, there’s been some noise about him looking ahead towards his free agency. And, you know, you’ve been around the league long enough now where you see this stuff all the time, but teams like the Heat get mentioned. From your perspective, what do you make of that free agency talk a year in advance?
MT: I mean, it’s just the media doing what the media does. They have to gaslight certain situations, and you know I don’t think much of it, because like you said, it’s really a year out. Ultimately, it’s going to be up to him and the decision he wants to make, or the decision the front office wants to make. So, until then, all you can do is control what you can control and just hoop on the floor. I think if he continues to be himself, then he can kind of create his own destiny, so I don’t pay much attention to all that stuff.
When you guys are in the locker room, obviously you hear about that stuff, or you see it on Twitter. Do you guys as his teammates and as friends also do you guys talk about that stuff?
MT: Nah, man, we’re all professionals. We all know that, like I said, the media has to gaslight certain things to create a story or create a narrative. We really don’t care. We just play basketball.
For you personally, we talked about it being year five. Where do you think you are individually in terms of being the player that you want to be, and where do you want to go from here?
MT: I think I still have a ways to go. I feel like I’m very capable of being an All-Star caliber player in this league. But, one, it takes the opportunity, and then the other is it takes performance on the floor. I think that offensively I’ve added tools to my game, and I’ll continue to add tools to my game. But as a whole, I still have a ways to go just as far as the maturation and learning process. I’m getting better defensively and continuing to just try and lead this team. I think I can always get better, and I’ll continue to add more and more to my game year in and year out.
Has there been anything about the league now that you’re a younger veteran, has maybe surprised you during your journey?
MT: Yeah, just how trendy the league is. When I first got to the league everybody was playing big, or with a big per se. Then it got to the point where everybody wanted to be like the Warriors and just shoot a whole bunch of threes and play small ball. Then it went just straight to small ball with Houston, and then I think it’s going to trend back to bigs, and it’s going to keep trending that way. It’s a copycat league, and whatever works one year guys are going to keep trying to do it year in and year out. I think I was just surprised by how trendy the league is.
Anything off the court that maybe surprised you at all?
MT: Not necessarily. I think that maybe just how chill the lifestyle was. I would say that I expected it to be like a little more high gear as far as guys going out all the time and guys just constantly being out. But for the most part, it’s real chill. Guys just kind of do their own thing. Everybody has their own little personality, and you have guys here and there that just want to get to it and are party animals and stuff, but I haven’t had a lot of teammates like that, so it is what it is.
Well, some of that could be location-based in Indiana. I’m not saying Indiana is not fun because there are some fun things to do in Indiana but definitely a different pace than in New York and LA. What do you do when you have downtime for fun?
MT: Honestly, I really just stay in the house. I don’t go out at all. I have my personal chefs. There’s no need for me to go get the groceries or go to restaurants or anything like that. I have my boys with me. Maybe my first couple of years, the most fun thing I did was go to different restaurants and steakhouses. I got on the lake a lot. It’s like 30 minutes outside of downtown just fishing and just being on boats. Right now, I’m just a real homebody.
Well, that’s a good attitude to have because we saw Michele Roberts talk about the possibility of depending on where this virus is in this global pandemic by next season, they talked about the possibility of having to do the bubble again. Now, whether it’s in multiple locations and the finer details of it remain to be seen. For you, not only as a player but as a person, if there was a possibility that you had to spend a whole season in a bubble again, how would you feel about that? What do you think would be the pros and cons of it?
MT: It would suck, just being real. I don’t think anybody wants to do that. You have to do what you have to do, I guess, but none of us want to be in this bubble for an entire season. I think that it’s just an unprecedented time and that you have to just continue to do whatever it takes to keep the league going and the league afloat. But, as a whole, you know, if we have to, it’s the way we’re going to get our money and the way we’re going to keep the league afloat, everybody has to be open to it. The pros of it would be that we keep the virus out. The cons would be that this lifestyle is not for everybody. Human beings aren’t meant to be isolated like this for especially that long of a time.
You just hit the nail on the head, in my opinion, about human beings and having to deal with this. I know for me personally, I’m a social guy. I love seeing people. I love the company of people. How has it been for you, again, talking more off the court in terms of mental health and a day-to-day? You know, you almost have mind games with yourself with this global pandemic, how have you dealt with that to try to keep yourself in a positive frame of mind during such uncertain times throughout the world?
MT: From a personal standpoint, I just remember how blessed I am, how fortunate I am to be in the position that I’m in. I have my family around me to continue to support me and obviously supporting them. I just have a lot of good things in my life. I think from a humanity standpoint, just the fact that it’s a tough time right now and things could potentially get worse, but you just have to look at where you’ve come from to where you’re at now and how you’re progressing in your life. I think that for someone who’s my age who’s not in the NBA, this is a very pivotal part of your life. You either just graduated college, or you’re in the middle of the working class. What do you do from here? Are you going to give up? Are you going to continue to keep striving forward? I think that at such a pivotal point in my life that I’m just thankful that I can be where I’m at, and it’s hard for me to dwell on the negatives with all the positives I have.
And one of the positives thankfully, knock on wood, your dad has been doing well since his recovery from dealing with COVID-19. For people who haven’t maybe experienced this as much when it touches a loved one, what was that experience like and what were symptoms like for him? It seems like for everybody, you’re essentially pulling something out of a bucket. You don’t know what you’re going to get with this virus?
MT: I think my dad had it back in March when it was very fresh and he didn’t really know what’s going on with it or what to expect from it, so it was very scary for us. We certainly didn’t know what to think about it. So we continued to try to stay positive and give him the best health he could possibly get in our area. And, you know, thankfully that he came out of it alright, but it was definitely very stressful. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.