Q&A with Terry Taylor: On his contract guarantee, growth and running his own race
The Pacers' center/forward/guard/whatever had his $1.6 million salary for the upcoming season become guaranteed on Sunday.
LAS VEGAS — July 10 was a big day for Terry Taylor. It was the day his salary for the 2022-23 season became fully guaranteed. So even if he is waived, he’ll still receive his full $1.6 million salary.
That’s important for anyone, but especially young NBA players who still have a lot to prove. The average NBA career is what, just over three years? You have to make every one count and maximize your earnings.
Sunday, July 10 was the most important date for him since April 7, when the Pacers signed him to his first standard NBA contract. He signed a three-year contract that runs through the 2023-24 season, but only part of it was guaranteed.
Taylor is listed at 6-foot-5, but he’s never allowed for that to be an excuse or hold him back. He’s confident, adaptable and has ‘the most heart in the building'.
He originally joined the Pacers on an Exhibit 10 camp deal on August 5 after going undrafted out of Austin Peay. He parlayed that into a two-way contract on December 15.
Now it’s about getting more comfortable, adding to his game and continue to play with a tireless spirit and relentless pursuit of the ball.
“In this environment so far, he’s just been a beast,” summer coach Ronald Nored said last week. “Just his ability to attack the rim, to finish in difficult situations, to get on the offensive glass. The step that he’s really taken over the summer is catch-and-shoot 3s, especially above the break. We’ve really worked with him on his close-out reads, and knowing when to shoot and when to drive. And he’s taken that to heart and shooting the ball well.”
Taylor changed his number from 32 to 21, going back to his high school number. He’s working on being more vocal, holding himself and teammates accountable and not hesitating to take outside shots when he’s open.
“(Coach Nored) always likes to poke at me every time I don’t want to shoot the corner 3 so every now and then he gets on me about it,” Taylor said. “He was like, ‘Yo, if you don’t shoot the first open one, you’re coming out. And I’m telling everyone you’re coming out ASAP.’”
Last year at Summer League in Las Vegas, Taylor didn’t get off the bench in the first two games. This summer, he’s started in both games, has contract assurances and is helping ease the transition for the younger guys. That experience last summer taught him patience.
“You got to run your own race,” he said. “I didn’t play the first two games and I didn’t get down. I was still a good teammate, I still came to practice and did what I was supposed to do so when my time came, I made the most of my opportunity.”
He did that and more. He appeared in 33 games during the regular season, averaging 9.6 points and 5.2 rebounds per game.
Now he’s part of the youth movement with the Pacers roster. Tyree Haliburton, who’s just 22, is the outspoken leader and the rest are following his lead.
For Taylor, he was grateful to learn over the weekend that all was going according to plan. His contract would become guaranteed and his focus could entirely be on basketball.
It is noteworthy that his fellow undrafted teammate Duane Washington Jr., who is on a similar path, had his contract guarantee date pushed back last week to July 15, as I reported on here.
Taylor talked with Fieldhouse Files on Sunday afternoon following their second summer league game. That conversation is below.
Take me back to yesterday when you found out that there was no need to stress anymore, that you’re set for this upcoming season.
I didn’t even know until I came back from lunch (Sunday) with my teammate Bennie (Boatwright). I came back and my agent had sent me the screenshot, and I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s huge.’ I got to call my family and tell them my contract is guaranteed so y’all got to come to Indy and see me play more now. It was just a great feeling for me.
So you still need to call them?
I still haven’t done it, I need to get to it! I’m actually going to call them after this.
What do you think their reaction will be?
I’ve had family congratulate me, but I haven’t called my grandparents to tell them or my little brother. So I gotta call him and explain to him the whole situation. They’re going to tell me they’re proud of me — my grandparents are; my little brother probably not. My grandparents are going to tell me their happy because they didn’t want for me to go overseas or nothing like that. They want me in the States playing ball so they can come see me play. That was important to them and they’re going to be excited to see that because they can potentially attend more games.
And then my (14-year-old) brother, he’ll be like, ‘You’re still trash. Can’t dribble.’ He’s my biggest critic, but he loves me at the same time.
Obviously you were going to be part of this franchise moving forward, but in what ways do they want you to contribute?
I think I can come in and do the little things to help the team, like play defense, be a versatile defender, crash the offensive glass like I usually do. And just be tough-minded and do all the dirty plays that nobody else wants to do.
How do things compare for you today versus last year when you went undrafted and were trying to figure out where you might play? Now your salary is guaranteed, a team that believes in you and a coach who values your game. What has that all meant to you?
It’s huge. I followed my faith in God and never had to worry about anything because I knew if I put the work in and just trust that he’ll see it through for me. But that’s a great feeling to have, a coach and a team that believes in you. Especially coming from a mid-major, (going) undrafted and whatnot. I’m grateful to have teammates and coaches and the front office believing in me like they do.
Fieldhouse Files with Scott Agness is a reader-supported publication, with both free and paid subscriptions available. Those who subscribe make my daily coverage of the Pacers possible. So please consider becoming a paid subscriber today for full access to all of my stories.
How did the news make you feel? I’m guessing relieved and that you couldn’t stop smiling?
Yeah, and I knew in the back of head (I was good). But you can never just bank on something. Even if they didn’t (guarantee it), I was still going to come out here and play hard for my teammates and try to get the win.
What’s your expectation for summer league? Will you only play another game or so?
I don’t know. Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do it. I just wanted to come here and continue to prove myself, prove that last year wasn’t a fluke for me and that I can keep on building on to my game. I’m adding more layers to my game and will keep doing the things that got me here, that got my contract guaranteed.
During one of the ESPN broadcasts, they showed the Pacers’ roster and listed you as a guard. I don’t know if you saw that, but what do you think about it? Or are you used to it?
Everybody calls me whatever they want to call me — center, power forward, guard — it doesn’t really matter. At the end of the day, I just want to play. Wherever coach Ron (Nored) and coach Carlisle are going to put me, I’m going to give it my best and try my hardest to get my team the win and do what I need to do.
There has been so much changeover with the team. How do you feel about the changes and the latest additions from the draft, especially Bennedict Mathurin?
I’m liking it. We’re going to be a young team, which everybody knows. But I think we’re going to be exciting to watch. We’re going to play hard every night. Tyrese (Haliburton) is going to lead the charge for us. Benn’s a great player, everybody sees it. He’s going to be in this league for a very long time. And the same with Andrew (Nembhard).
Andrew is a good pass-first point guard, can shoot a little bit and is a gritty defender. And then Kendall (Brown), the game’s just got to slow down for him. Kendall is going to be fine no matter what. But when it slows down, that’s when it gets scary because he’s got a quick first step, he’s so athletic, a great defender and he’s switchable like I am. So I think the additions are going to be great for us and on top of that, we’ve got Oshae (Brissett), Jalen (Smith), Buddy (Hield) and all them. I think we’re all going to mesh well together.
How much has the game slowed down for you in the last year? Chris Duarte and Isaiah Jackson were both like, ‘Man, it’s two different games.’
It has really slowed down. Last year, I was like a deer in the headlights. Everything was so new and I was always a step behind. But now that I got the NBA experience and I’m out here (at summer league) again, things just slowed down. I know where I’m supposed to be, I know how to recover better.
What has it been like being on the other side — last year trying to get a two-way and now you’re seeing others do that while settling into your new position?
I’ve never settled in, I’m always going to play with a chip on my shoulder like I ain’t got nothing to my name. I got my contract now, but at the end of the day, I still want to keep my job and keep my body healthy.
You look more muscular. Are you?
Nah, not at all. I’ve been cutting it up more, felt a little heavier when I first got back (this summer) so I’ve been trying to get back in shape and cut it up and get back to my playing weight. … I haven’t measured my weight in a while, but when I first got here, I was like 235. So I’m trying to get back to like 227.
What was your experience like playing for Rick Carlisle, who believes in you?
I like coach Carlisle because he uses me in different, unique ways — like how my game is. My game is unique so he tries to find ways to make me impactful to the game with low-side screening, setting pin-downs, ducking in against smaller guards and whatnot. Him having that confidence in me to go and do those types of things is good for me and good for my confidence.
Going down the line, I see myself doing the same things. Low-side screening, catch-and-shoot 3s, and obviously rebounding. That’s going to be my niche. And getting my teammates extra plays.