Pacers Notes: McConnell, Brown, Toppin, Nesmith, Haliburton

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle has talked about trusting all 15 of his players, but he used a condensed rotation in Wednesday’s season opener, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Carlisle kept at least one of his starters on the floor throughout the first half of the victory over Washington, and only 10 players saw action until the game was out of reach.

Carlisle appears to have a set starting five of Tyrese Haliburton, Bruce Brown, Bennedict Mathurin, Obi Toppin and Myles Turner. Only Andrew Nembhard, Buddy Hield, Aaron Nesmith and Jalen Smith came off the bench before halftime, and Isaiah Jackson saw some minutes in the second half after Turner got into foul trouble.

T.J. McConnell is among the players who are starting the season outside the rotation, and Carlisle said it was extremely tough to break the news to the veteran point guard.

“I had one of the most difficult conversations I’ve ever had with a player about the situation and the minutes,” Carlisle told reporters. “It was T.J. I was almost in tears talking to him about it. One of the reasons was he was so great. He was just him. He said ‘Hey, listen, I’m disappointed. I’ll be ready. I’ll be professional, you know that. I’ll do everything I can to set an example.’ But this is one of the great competitors in the history of this franchise. There certainly are going to be opportunities for him to play, but heading into this game the minutes plan didn’t shake out well for him. So we talked about it, and that was tough.”

There’s more from Indiana:

  • Brown set a career high by making six three-pointers in his first game with the Pacers, Dopirak adds. The free agent addition struggled with his shot early in the preseason, but he’s been getting better opportunities since Haliburton began playing. “It’s just the offense,” Brown said. “We play fast. Everybody’s running. Myles one time got me an open three just because of his seal at the rim. Our offense is so random. Anybody can score the ball and tonight it was me.”
  • Toppin is thrilled to have a starting job after spending his first three NBA seasons backing up Julius Randle with the Knicks, Dopirak adds in another story for the Star. Toppin loved playing in New York, where his father was a basketball legend on the local playgrounds, but he never got the playing time he needed to develop his game.
  • Nesmith said he hadn’t thought much about an extension before the Pacers began negotiations over the weekend, Dopirak states in a separate story. Nesmith signed the three-year, $33MM deal shortly before Monday’s deadline, cementing him as part of the team’s young foundation. “When Aaron Nesmith came in the trade last year, we had high hopes that he would be a long-term piece for us,” Carlisle said on Monday. “This extension obviously solidifies that. We’re really happy for him. He’s a great person, he’s a versatile player, he’s tough, he can shoot the ball, he can play different positions. It’s a great day.”
  • In another piece, Dopirak takes an in-depth look at how Haliburton was able to put himself in position to land a five-year extension this summer that could be worth as much as $260MM.
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