When the Pacers added Evan Turner at the trade deadline to a roster that already had the best record in the NBA, it was mostly viewed as a solid move to boost the offense off the bench.
It was the rich getting just a little bit richer. It was architect Larry Bird not wanting to leave the slightest thing to chance, filling up a hole in the bench offense.
Now eight games into his move to Indiana, the Pacers are mired in a season-worst four-game losing streak and Turner’s impact has been minimal. In back-to-back losses at Houston and Dallas over the weekend, he scored a total of just seven points, had three assists and two rebounds in just over 40 minutes.
“It’s only been a few weeks, so we’re still early in the process,” said All-Star teammate Paul George. “I think as we all become more comfortable and he settles into his role, it’s a change that is going to be good for all of us. I think his style of play goes with with what we want to do.”
Having escaped the nightmare scenario with loss after loss at the bottom of the standings in Philadelphia, Turner is suddenly in the thick of the race for best record in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage all the way through the playoffs.
“It’s definitely the kind of situation you want to be in, playing real meaningful games late in the season,” Turner said. “It’s not like I’m coming in trying to change anything about my game or about this team. It’s about me keeping my eyes and ears open to learn about the culture here and trying to fit in.”
It’s that fit that’s going to be what decides whether Bird made a bold move to put the Pacers over the top as a true championship contender or tempted fate by upsetting the tight-knit chemistry that already existed in the locker room.
While the idea is for Turner to be the offensive weapon that had his dramatic ups and downs in Philly, there is the question of whether he needs the ball in his hands too much to be most effective and if his talent merely duplicates what the Pacers already had in Lance Stephenson.
“He’s a creator, just like me,” Stephenson said. “You can pretty much count on something always happening when we play together. I like having that potential explosiveness to our second group.
“He got plenty of moves, a lot of shake and bake in his package. It’s going to be fun.”
In the early going, Turner has been mostly used in Danny Granger’s old spot. We he’s played alongside Stephenson, it has not been all fun as opposing defenses have shown plenty willingness to sag off and give Turner the outside shots that he’s not particularly effective at making.
Even though the skills of the 30-year-old Granger were fading, his outside shot was still given more respect than Tuner and his 31.9 percent career shooting from behind the 3-point line.
The trade was made, at least in part, to eventually give the Pacers a hedge for the future when Stephenson becomes a free agent next summer. But it will only be judged by what it does to either solidify a bid to win it all or create new problems. When the playoffs begin, it’s likely that Turner’s opportunities to have the ball in his hands and make something happen will shrink. It will then be more about being a complementary part, not a role with which he’s ever been comfortable.
It may still be early in the adjustment period, but it already feels late.