Pacers Notes: Haliburton, Nembhard, Turner, Two-Way Players

Borrowing a video game analogy, Tyrese Haliburton called Lakers star LeBron James the “final boss” that the Pacers have to defeat to win the in-season tournament, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star.

To reach tonight’s title game, Indiana had to get past a Bucks team that features Giannis Antetokounmpo and Damian Lillard and a Celtics squad headlined by Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. Before that, there were group play matchups with Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey, Cleveland’s Donovan Mitchell, Atlanta’s Trae Young, and Detroit’s Cade Cunningham.

None of them has the same mystique as James, who has been one of the league’s elite players for more than two decades. Dopirak points out that Haliburton was just three years old when James played his first NBA game, and the Pacers guard followed him closely until he became a professional himself.

“Like any kid born in 2000, LeBron was my favorite player growing up, and it’s hard for him not to be for a lot of us,” Haliburton said. “Growing up, I was a Cavs fan, then a Heat fan, then a Cavs fan again, then a Lakers fan before I got drafted. It’s just how it went. To be able to compete against him in a championship is kind of like a storybook a little bit, and it’s going to be a lot of fun. But that’s the great part about being in the NBA, getting to compete against your idols on a nightly basis. I really look forward to that.”

There’s more on the Pacers:

  • In tonight’s pre-game meeting with the media, coach Rick Carlisle said Andrew Nembhard has a right knee bone bruise and will be sidelined for at least the next seven days, Dopirak tweets. “We’ll see where he is and evaluate it from there, but not viewed as a long-term thing,” Carlisle said. “But we’ll miss him today.”
  • Before he agreed to a two-year extension in January, it appeared Myles Turner might not be part of the Pacers’ future, and there were persistent rumors during the summer of 2022 that he was headed to the Lakers. In an interview with Chris Hayes of TNT and Bleacher Report (video link), Turner stated that he’s glad things turned out the way they did and he’s eager for the team to have a high-stakes game in front of a national audience. “People getting to see what we’re about here in Indiana,” Turner said. “It’s fun seeing everything through and to say you didn’t quit.”
  • The financial incentive in tonight’s game will be especially important for the two-way players, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. The Pacers’ Kendall Brown, Oscar Tshiebwe and Isaiah Wong will get a half share of the prize money, which means $250K for first place and $100K for second. Two-way contracts pay $559,782 and carry a $279,891 guarantee.
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