Myles Turner almost cleared, McMillan says his team needs game action

Myles Turner took on the final challenge of the NBA’s return-to-participation protocol Monday after being diagnosed with a concussion from an elbow to the head two weeks ago.

Turner (concussion) practiced with contact on Monday, the final step necessary to be cleared to play.

Turner (concussion) practiced with contact on Monday, the final step necessary to be cleared to play.

Taking contact and completing the full practice, the Pacers’ starting center said afterwards that he was symptom-free. The Pacers’ medical team will then see how Turner feels on Tuesday then connect with Dr. Jeffrey Kutcher, the Director of the NBA’s Concussion Program for final clearance.

Even then, don’t expect to see Turner Tuesday night as the Pacers open their preseason schedule in New Orleans.

“He’s looking better everyday,” said coach Nate McMillan. “I think, for the most part, we’re going to keep him out of tomorrow’s game.”

Turner missed the first week of training camp, which included three two-a-days. After having a good offseason, the rollercoaster with some good days and some bad days was obviously a challenge he had to work through.

“It was pretty frustrating,” Turner said. “I worked hard all summer to get myself in shape. I worked two-a-days. It was a little frustrating just to come back and have to sit down for a little while. Today was the last day of the protocol. I passed it. So I should be back. I probably won’t play tomorrow and Thursday is up in the air. I feel fine, I just want to get back into basketball rhythm and play with the guys again.”

Turner said he feels much better and doesn’t expect his one-week absence to be much of a factor once the regular season rolls around on Oct. 26. He simply wants to get back on the court with his teammates and back in shape. That’s because while he was out, he was sent home to be in a quiet, dark environment.

“Couldn’t do anything,” he said of how he stayed occupied last week. “Couldn’t be on my phone. Couldn’t play video games. No TV. I was literally just in a dark room just doing nothing. Just sleeping pretty much.”

While Turner was at home, Lavoy Allen and Kevin Seraphin split time scrimmaging with the starters. Turner did make the trip to New Orleans.

As for the rest of the team, the first exhibition provides the players with their first benchmark of where they’re at and how they might play together.

“We’ll see where we are — our conditioning, our sharpness, our chemistry. All of that,” said McMillan. “We need a game. It’s time for us to play a game against someone else to really see where we are. We’ll play a lot of guys tomorrow night.”

Backup point guard Aaron Brooks (left hip flexor strain) did not practice on Monday and McMillan said that he is out. Rakeem Christmas also missed practice, due to a sore right knee, and he is listed as questionable. Jeremy Evans, who continues to rehab from an offseason shoulder injury, isn’t expected to be fully cleared before the season.

With it being the preseason, don’t expect heavy minutes from anyone. McMillan, like all of us, is interested in seeing what kind of shape guys are in, how they work together on the court, and if they are implementing the ideas that he voiced in his first training camp as Pacers head coach. Many of which weren’t complicated, but rather simple ways to prevent them from making mistakes and turning the ball over.

This time last year, Paul George was trying to prove to himself and others that he was back. But that’s not the case this year. He spent a month of the offseason playing with the Olympic Team, winning a gold medal in Rio, and so learning his new teammates’ tendencies and growing together are most important this month.

“It’s just about playing the right way,” he said. “I’m not looking to come out like last preseason where I was looking to go for 40 every night. I’m just trying to get into the flow of things, get used to my teammates, be aggressive, be in attack-mode, but really just trying to learn, try to get the chemistry going early.”

And the team will go against two former Pacers, Solomon Hill and Lance Stephenson. After the Pacers elected not to exercise their team option on the fourth year of Hill’s deal last fall, he became an unrestricted free agent in July and cashed in … big time. $48 million over four years.

Stephenson, meanwhile, did not return to Memphis, his third team in two years, after they declined their team option. After waiting out the situation, including indicating his willingness to return to Indiana, Stephenson signed a minimum-level deal with the Pelicans to try to repair his image. Chris Copeland spent the first week of the preseason and one game — he missed one shot in 2:30 of playing time off the bench — in New Orleans, and was waived Monday afternoon.

[New agent, new team for Stephenson]

The game will not be televised, but you can hear all the play-by-play with Mark Boyle, who’s entering his 28th season as the Radio Voice of the Pacers, on 93.5 FM and 1070 The Fan in Indianapolis.

McMillan has been very vocal during camp.

McMillan has been very vocal during camp.

What’s in the Number?

Unlike the regular season, NBA teams handle their own preseason schedules. For the past several years, the Pacers scheduled seven exhibition games. This year, however, they only have six — and just one at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. (And one at the Ford Center in Evansville.)

When I asked coach McMillan about his role in the preseason schedule, he said, “I had a zero to do with the scheduling. The preseason schedule is set a year prior to that.”

I was curious how many games McMillan, a former NBA player and now coach, thought was right.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Teams have played eight. We have seven. I know the players are asking for less games than that. You manage that by allowing guys to get some opportunities to play so your main guys can sit.”

He doesn’t even remember how many preseason games they had scheduled when he was a player, for the Seattle SuperSonics from 1986-1998.

“But I know training camp was the month of October,” he said with a smile, “it wasn’t seven days. We went twice a day for the full month and we taped on shootarounds and we practiced on game day. It’s a different game now. You don’t play as many preseason games, you don’t fly commercial.”

The preseason is about balancing learning and chemistry with unnecessary wear and tear on their bodies. Teams are allowed to have a maximum of 20 players on their camp rosters, but they must get down to 15 for opening night.

2016-17 Pacers Preseason

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