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Myles Turner preaches defense, communication to Team USA ahead of FIBA World Cup

For Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner, playing for Team USA under first-time head coach Gregg Popovich can be boiled down to one idea: defense.

The 23-year-old former lottery selection for the Pacers is competing in the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China. It’s Turner’s first trip to an international competition with Team USA following his FIBA Americas U18 gold-medal sojourn in 2014.

Turner, who led the NBA in blocks during the 2018-19 season, will likely anchor the Americans’ defense, guarding the paint as the U.S. faces off with Japan, Turkey and the Czech Republic in the preliminary group stage of the tournament.

Here’s how Turner sees the team playing, per John Karalis of MassLive:

“Defense is big for us. We’re working on our defense,” Turner said. “Working on being together and communication. Those are the biggest points we’re working on.”

Popovich, the five-time NBA champion coach for the San Antonio Spurs, has long been a visionary in captaining top defenses in the league, which goes hand in hand with his long list of accolades. The 70-year-old took over for former USA Basketball head coach Mike Krzyzewski of Duke.

Last season for the Pacers, Turner averaged 13.3 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.7 blocks per game in 74 appearances, shooting 48.7 percent from the field, 38.8 percent from 3-point range and 73.6 percent from the free throw line. Now, Team USA will lean on him to replicate his 2018-19 NBA performance as they start their title defense in the FIBA World Cup.