One of the highlights of the NBA’s new in-season tournament has been the emergence of Pacers point guard Tyrese Haliburton, who has taken his game to new heights under the bright glare of the national spotlight. After defeating the favored Celtics in the quarterfinals on Monday, Indiana dispatched the Bucks — another Eastern contender — in the semifinals on Thursday to earn a spot in Saturday’s final, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star.
“Tyrese is just one of those transcendent players that with him on the court, anything is possible,” head coach Rick Carlisle said.
Haliburton’s impact on the franchise has been “rejuvenating,” according to Myles Turner, who was dissatisfied with his role in Indiana prior to the six-player February 2022 trade that sent Domantas Sabonis to Kings and Haliburton to the Pacers. Nearly two years later, Turner says that blockbuster deal with Sacramento was a win-win for the two franchises, though he gives the edge to Indiana, per Sam Amick of The Athletic.
“I think we won the trade personally, but I’m biased of course,” Turner told Amick. “I think it was mutually beneficial. (Kings guard De’Aaron) Fox got something that he needed, and I got the point guard that I needed.”
Here’s more on the Pacers:
- Trading for Haliburton in February 2022 convinced Indiana to cater to his strengths by playing at an extremely fast pace, per Wes Goldberg of RealGM. “Coach allows my personality and who I am as a player to flow into our offense,” Haliburton said. “We lead the league in assists and that starts with me, but I think it’s everybody sharing the ball and wanting to see others succeed.” The Pacers currently have the top offense in the league, Goldberg notes.
- Haliburton hopes to emulate Giannis Antetokounmpo, whose presence in Milwaukee put the Bucks in a better position to attract stars to a non-marquee market, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on Thursday’s broadcast (Twitter video link). “As Haliburton said to me, ‘I’m going to get you shots, I’m going to make life easy for you, and we are going to win,'” Wojnarowski said. “And that is really Haliburton’s mission right now, is to use this tournament – use this season – to start making the case to star players around the league, ‘Come play with me in Indiana.'”
- According to Wojnarowski, Pacers president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard has shown interest in players like Raptors forwards Pascal Siakam and OG Anunoby within the last year. Indiana has the NBA’s lowest payroll this season, with plenty of moveable draft assets, and could have maximum-salary cap room in 2024, notes ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link), so roster upgrades are possible. Still, one Pacers staffer who spoke to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports wondered if “this experiment is too fresh and too positive to mess with its current chemistry,” Fischer writes.
- Jalen Smith, who has been battling a left knee bone bruise, will remain sidelined through Saturday’s final, Dopirak tweets. Carlisle said Smith has been limited to light running to this point. The 23-year-old backup center is having a strong season, averaging 10.0 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 70.7% from the field through 14 games (15.4 MPG), and he could hit free agency in 2024 if he declines his $5.4MM player option for next season.
Luke Adams contributed to this post.