Central Notes: Haliburton, Mobley, Allen, Bogdanovic

The Pacers were expected to be one of the NBA’s worst teams before the season began, but they’re fourth in the East after 18 games, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. The turnaround that led to the 11-7 start began in February with a trade that brought Tyrese Haliburton from the Kings. The electrifying 22-year-old guard quickly took charge of his new team.

“He immediately saw the opportunity to be the leader of a franchise,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “He never looked at if it was just his thing just by virtue of being here. He knew he had to do the right things, put the work in, not skip steps. He’s done everything we could have asked. … Haliburton has been a godsend for this franchise.”

Haliburton is putting up numbers that should have him in contention for an All-Star berth with 19.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and a league-leading 11.1 assists per game. He’s creating good shots for his teammates, and he’s running the show with a relaxed demeanor that keeps everyone at ease.

“There’s a lot of authentic people in this room,” Haliburton said. “And a lot of people who feel like we have something to prove. We don’t come with a lot of egos. We’re a lot of young guys who feel like we have a lot to prove to ourselves and others and understanding the best way for us to prove anything is to win. And obviously guys have a chip on our shoulder. Every major writer in America, it feels like, put us 15th in the East and 30th in the NBA.”

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo paid a huge compliment to Cavaliers second-year big man Evan Mobley after their meeting Friday night, per Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. The two-time MVP suggested that Mobley might eventually be a better player than him. “I didn’t average what he is in my second season, so he’s already ahead of me,” Antetokounmpo said. “It’s in his hands. If he stays humble, continues to work hard, focuses on the game and shows love to the game of basketball, he is going to be really good.”
  • Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen is listed as questionable for Sunday’s game with a low back contusion, tweets Kelsey Russo of The Athletic. Allen landed hard after attempting to block a shot in the first quarter Friday and was eventually ruled out.
  • Pistons forward Bojan Bogdanovic appears to have avoided a serious injury after a collision on Friday (Twitter video link from Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic). Bogdanovic is listed as questionable for Sunday with knee and ankle soreness, tweets Keith Langlois of NBA.com
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