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Turner and Sabonis pairing remains a hot topic for Pacers

The organization may be tired of the topic but it will only invite more scrutiny this season.

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Indiana Pacers Vs. New York Knicks Photo by David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle spoke for all of Pacers Nation when he was asked by an unsuspecting national NBA writer about the Pacers playing big with Domantas Sabonis and Myles Turner.

“I think at this point its something that people are kind of tired of talking about,” Carlisle said with a chuckle as part of his answer about how both players have a strong desire to make it work and find ways to complement the strengths of one another while helping the team.

The inquiry came prior to the Pacers second home game against the Bucks, but the question was similar to one asked before the first home game against Miami by an unsuspecting Heat broadcaster.

Sensing a trend here? Carlisle is and he’s obviously already tired of topic.


Yeah, we’re all past tired of talking about it. So much so that it is my primary focus this year, which admittedly sounds strange, but the situation will be resolved this year, hence my interest. Carlisle either taps into something that works with both players consistently or Kevin Pritchard will have to cry Uncle and make a move to resolve issue once and or all.

“This has been a very polarizing issue here,” Carlisle said before answering the question on Saturday night.

To an outsider, that seems strange, but the Pacers don’t have the media coverage to blow up this situation like the Ben Simmons saga in Philly or Kyrie Irving’s vax status in Brooklyn (although Gregg Doyel took his best shot). There’s no LeBron, Curry or Durant to draw attention to the Pacers, so it makes sense that any visiting media would be genuinely interested in the unique situation with no knowledge of the local focus.

So when topic came up for the second time in two games, local media shared raised eyebrows and held back smiles under masked faces knowing, this is going to be a topic until it isn’t and the Pacers - Carlisle, front office, players - will be dealing with the topic until something gives.

If you want more analysis on the early mixed returns, please read Caitlin Cooper’s initial look at what Turbonis is doing under Carlisle and listen to CC and Mark Schindler break it down on their latest pod. I’m just focusing on how the topic as an issue that continues to hover over everything the Pacers do.

The intrigue has only grown through the first four games which started with Myles Turner or more specifically, Turner’s representatives putting out a Perception video on social media prior to the first game in which Turner essentially called his shot for showing the NBA world what he’s fully capable of on the court.

After an average game first game, albeit with four blocks against Charlotte, Turner was beating his chest again after a career night against the Wizards. 40 points and 10 rebounds are elite numbers and any player and Turner was huge despite the end result, an OT loss for the Pacers.

At home for the next two games, things took a turn for the interesting as foul trouble limited Turner to just 16 minutes and four points in the Pacers OT win over the Heat. Turner didn’t foul out, but he played sparingly when the game was decided in the fourth quarter and extra time.

Turner played even less against Milwaukee in a frustrating game that had Carlisle juggling lineups, trying to find something that might gain traction. Carlisle certainly hasn’t settled on a playing rotation, but he seems to lean toward a single big lineup when in doubt (or Myles isn’t going off for 40).

These games were against teams that weren’t close to matching the size of the Pacers double-big lineup (although Milwaukee is the all-time outlier since Giannis as a one man double big). The pairing wasn’t bad (-0.5 +/-, -1.4 net rating) but it didn’t give the Pacers a decided advantage and striving for just good isn’t good enough with so much invested in the overlapping bigs. With Toronto on the schedule next, the Pacers find an even smaller opponent. Will they have to adjust to the smaller lineup again, or seize the size advantage?

Take a moment to envision yourself in the shoes of Carlisle, Turner, Sabonis or any player on the team after the way the first four games played out. Something or someone is going to combust if things don’t move in a more positive direction because the last time I checked, everyone involved is human and thus, filled with emotion and ego as the team navigates rough waters.

That won’t change until a different tack is taken and from Carlisle’s reaction to the repeated question about the double bigs, hopes of a happy ending are in peril. Otherwise, no one would be tired of talking about Turbonis or find the issue polarizing. Instead they’d be excited, positive, maybe even a little coy about what the duo is about to unload on the league.

But alas, the situation remains a work in progress. Are you excited?