Andrew Nembhard

Pacers Notes: Haliburton, Carlisle, Bench, More

After Tyrese Haliburton left Game 2 early due to left hamstring soreness on Thursday, the Pacers have listed the star guard as questionable to play in Saturday’s Game 3 (Twitter link). While Haliburton was also said to be dealing with a chest issue in Game 2, the hamstring soreness is his only ailment mentioned on the official injury report.

Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star (subscription required) explores how the Pacers might try to make up for Haliburton’s absence in the event that he’s unable to play in Game 3. As Dopirak notes, the team has solid alternatives at point guard in Andrew Nembhard and T.J. McConnell but might have to dig deeper into its rotation at other positions to cover Haliburton’s minutes. Nembhard and McConnell also wouldn’t be able to replicate the play-making and outside shooting that the All-NBA guard provides.

“He does so many things for our team where everyone just has to move the ball more and get in the paint more,” McConnell said. “The ball movement, like I said, just has to be at another level. He gets 10 assists in his sleep. It’s hard for another person on our team to replicate that. It’s a group effort when he goes down to kinda get people the ball and get moving.”

Here’s more on the Pacers:

  • Whether or not Haliburton is healthy, the Pacers won’t have any hope of beating pulling off a comeback and beating Boston in the Eastern Conference finals if they play like they did on Thursday, Gregg Doyel writes in a column for The Indianapolis Star (subscription required).
  • Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle raised some eyebrows in Game 2 by leaning on little-used bench players like Doug McDermott, Jarace Walker, Kendall Brown, and Jalen Smith in the fourth quarter while sitting Myles Turner, Aaron Nesmith, and Pascal Siakam for most or all of the final period. Carlisle explained why he went to his bench so early despite facing a deficit that didn’t seem insurmountable. “To look at some guys that I thought needed a look,” Carlisle said, per Dopirak. “McDermott went in there and played well. Isaiah Jackson brought a lot of fight to the game. Jalen Smith hasn’t had much of an opportunity to play in the playoffs, so I wanted to see where he was at. We weren’t giving up, but it was an opportunity to get some energetic fresh guys in there to fight. They did some good things. … The guys who had played to that point, Pascal was very tired. Aaron had four fouls and he was tired. That was it.”
  • Prior to Game 2, Haliburton told reporters that Indiana has the “best bench in the NBA,” Dopirak writes in another Indy Star story (subscription required). McConnell, Obi Toppin, and Ben Sheppard are the Pacers reserves who have seen the most action this postseason, leading a second unit that ranks No. 1 in the playoffs with 33.4 points per game.
  • While many NBA fans didn’t assign much meaning to the league’s first in-season tournament earlier this season, making the championship game in that tournament benefited a Pacers team that hadn’t made the playoffs since 2020, says Joe Vardon of The Athletic. “There were some real playoff simulations — our quarterfinal game at home, on a Monday night, against (the Celtics), had the feel of a conference finals-matchup atmosphere,” Carlisle said. “The part about going to Vegas and playing there, that was different, but there was certainly the exposure, the stage, all that. So, all those experiences help a young team.”

Pacers Notes: Surprise Run, Offense, Haliburton, Nembhard, Nesmith, Siakam

The Pacers find themselves in the Cinderella role in these playoffs. After knocking off the Bucks in the first round, they put away the injury-ravaged Knicks in Game 7 on Sunday.

Now, they’ll face the top-seeded Celtics in the conference finals. All this after failing to qualify for the playoffs the previous three seasons and getting knocked out in the opening round in their five previous postseason appearances.

“Well, we’re the uninvited guest,” coach Rick Carlisle said, per ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. “Here we are. When you win a Game 7 in Madison Square Garden, you’ve made history. It’s very, very difficult to do.”

The Pacers shot 67.1% from the field in the 130-109 win, setting an NBA playoff record for highest field goal percentage in a single game. They made 76.3% of their attempts from the floor in the first half. Tyrese Haliburton led the way with 26 points.

“It’s a testament to our coaching staff and our offense,” center Myles Turner said (story via The Indianapolis Star’s Dustin Dopirak). “We have a historic offense obviously, but this guy (Haliburton) got things rolling and everybody just followed suit. To do that on the road when you’re in the Garden in a Game 7 obviously is phenomenal. This is what we’ve been doing all season long and it showed on a big stage.”

Here’s more on the Pacers:

  • Haliburton scored a combined 28 points in the previous two games and also had a six-point clunker in Game 1. He was efficient in Game 7, shooting 10-for-17 from the field while making six assists. “For me, aggression is not shots, it’s getting two feet in the paint,” Haliburton said. “I know it’s an old school way of thinking, but the more that I can get downhill, it opens things up for everybody else. Guys were making shots early. I just continued to get to the paint off these two guys (Turner’s and Pascal Siakam‘s) ball screens. Get to the rim and kick out to these guys to make plays. For me it’s just feeling out the game, what’s needed in that game. I know today’s Game 7, unload the clip, have no regrets because I would hate to be (expletive) all summer about not shooting the ball today. For me it was just about coming out and playing the right way.”
  • Andrew Nembhard and Aaron Nesmith made major offensive contributions, combining for 39 points. Nembhard shot 8-for-10 from the field and Nesmith made all eight of his shot attempts. “Those guys were great for us,” Siakam said. “They’re a big part of what we do.”
  • Siakam scored four baskets in the early going against former Raptors teammate OG Anunoby, who was hobbled by a hamstring injury and only lasted five minutes. “I was going to test him,” Siakam said. “I thought he didn’t look healthy out there. … I just wanted to make sure he was OK, but it was a Game 7.”

Pacers Notes: Haliburton, Nembhard, Nesmith

Pacers star guard Tyrese Haliburton suffered multiple injuries in Indiana’s Game 3 win over the Knicks, but battled through them to finish with 35 points and seven assists. After already dealing with lower back spasms, Haliburton hurt his tailbone and twisted his ankle in the span of a few minutes of game time, Dustin Dopirak of IndyStar writes.

My just overall body right now,” Haliburton said. “I’m hurtin’. But they got guys hurting too. We gotta understand that everybody’s hurting right now. Thank God we got a day in between. I’m young and I’ll heal up and be ready on Sunday.

He’ll likely be on the injury report ahead of Sunday’s Game 4, but coach Rick Carlisle said he’s hopeful Haliburton will be available.

We have more on the Pacers:

  • Haliburton has turned up the aggression for the Pacers after taking just six shots in the opening loss of the series, Dopirak writes. In his past two games, Haliburton is averaging 34.5 points and 8.0 assists while taking 22.5 shots – including 13.5 threes – per game. In his first seven playoff contests, Haliburton only averaged 13.0 shots per game, 8.4 of which were from downtown. He averaged 14.6 points and 9.1 assists in those games.
  • Despite a cold shooting night, Andrew Nembhard came up with one of the biggest plays in franchise history when he launched a three-pointer after a broken play to ultimately give Indiana the victory. Eric Nehm of The Athletic and Dopirak each explore in separate stories how Nembhard’s big shot came to be. “The clock was down, and sometimes, in those situations, it frees you up even more,” Carlisle said of Nembhard’s three-pointer. “And he just laced it.
  • Carlisle moved Aaron Nesmith onto the assignment of guarding Jalen Brunson, Kyle Neddenriep of IndyStar observes. “You can’t give New York a recipe of the same thing over and over again,” Carlisle said. “They are going to adjust. Brunson is too great a player. So, the idea was to change the matchup and get a little more size and Aaron did as good a job as you can possibly do. Brunson is so good. He’s the best scorer in the playoffs, I believe.” Nesmith helped hold Brunson to 26 points (down from his average of 35.6 through his first eight playoff games) on 38.5% shooting (down from 45.7%).

Central Notes: Merrill, Craig, LaVine, Nembhard, Pistons

In the midst of his best stretch of the season, Cavaliers wing Sam Merrill woke up on Thursday morning with a sore right wrist after falling on it on Wednesday, writes Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com (subscription required).

Not wanting to miss out on the opportunity to continue playing an increased role for the banged-up Cavs, Merrill attempted to fight through the pain, but was clearly bothered by the injury and didn’t play in the second half of Thursday’s loss to New Orleans, as Fedor details.

“When it rains, it pours,” forward Dean Wade said of Merrill joining an increasingly crowded Cavs injury list. “It sucks, but we’ve still got to go out there and play a game. We’ve got, I don’t know how many healthy bodies we’ve got, but still got to go out there and fight.”

“It was definitely tough for us. He’s been lights out the last two games,” Jarrett Allen added. “He came in and he tried to pull through, tried to rough it out with the hurt hand. Sadly, he couldn’t do it. But it happens. It’s been the cascade of players going down for us, so we just have to keep going.”

With Ty Jerome, Darius Garland, and Evan Mobley sidelined due to longer-term injuries, the Cavaliers could theoretically qualify for a hardship exception if a fourth player goes down. But hardship exceptions are only available to teams with full rosters — Cleveland already has an open spot that the team has thus far been unwilling to fill due to luxury tax concerns.

As we await more details on Merrill’s injury, here are more notes from around the Central:

  • Bulls forward Torrey Craig believes the eight-to-10 week recovery timeline the team provided when announcing his right foot injury is too long, tweets K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago. Craig said on Thursday that he’s a fast healer and that he intends to beat that timeline, assuming his rehab goes well.
  • In other Bulls injury news, Zach LaVine is making good progress in his recovery from his own right foot injury and is expected to start cutting next week, according to Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. “He’s going to hopefully start to jump shooting, running, increase the speed,” Donovan said of what LaVine’s rehab. “He’s actually running at a pretty good clip straight ahead, and then moving toward next week is when they would probably start some of that running, changing direction, kind of curve running to see how he responds.” As Cowley details, LaVine could be cleared to resume basketball activities and begin practicing again if he responds well next week.
  • After missing six games due to a bone bruise, Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard returned to action on Friday in Memphis and looked good in his 16 minutes on the court, per Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star.
  • Something has to change for the 2-26 Pistons, according to James L. Edwards III of The Athletic, who says that “a shakeup needed to happen yesterday” and that everyone – from players to coaches to the front office to ownership – bears blame for this season’s disaster.

Pacers Notes: Johnson, Team Meeting, Haliburton, Nembhard

James Johnson never considered retirement, even as he went through free agency without an offer and started the season without a team, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. Johnson’s patience was rewarded on Friday when he signed a one-year deal with the Pacers. Teammates were thrilled to welcome back the 36-year-old forward, who was a valuable contributor for Indiana last season even though he only appeared in 18 games.

“Just the professionalism,” T.J. McConnell said. “You don’t play 15 years in this league without being a great basketball player, but the professionalism you show day in and day out and how you go about things on and off the court is what he brings. He’s big at teaching the young guys. Not many people in this league are as good of people as him and we definitely missed him.”

Coach Rick Carlisle told Dopirak that the Pacers have been considering a move with Johnson for at least two weeks. Carlisle and other team officials traveled to Johnson’s Miami home on December 1 when Indiana was in town for a pair of games.

“He helped us so much last year,” Carlisle said. “This year we started with 15 guys. When Daniel Theis moved on to the Clippers in the buyout situation, it opened up a spot. You see if the need for the spot and if anything else is going to happen. But we talked to him on the Friday between games, had a really good meeting with him and told him it was very much under consideration.”

There’s more on the Pacers:

  • In a separate story, Dopirak examines why Indiana often comes up short against the league’s worst teams, including Friday’s loss at Washington. There was a team meeting earlier this week about potential trap games, but the Pacers failed to heed the warning as they were badly outplayed by the Wizards, who were on a six-game losing streak coming into Friday. “It’s just the characteristics of a young group,” Tyrese Haliburton said. “Playing to your competition. Every team in the NBA is good, but there’s some games we’re going to look back and say, ‘Damn, we probably should’ve got that one.’ We’ve gotta grow up as a group at some point. It starts with us as players, us as a first group and me as a leader. We’ve just gotta be better.”
  • Haliburton is listed as questionable for tonight’s game at Minnesota with a left knee bruise he suffered Friday, Dopirak tweets. “I’m fine, I’m just banged up a little bit,” Haliburton said. “There was a little wet spot on the floor. I landed on my hip, that’s fine, but me and Bilal (Coulibaly) went knee to knee, so just a little sore right now.”
  • Andrew Nembhard feels like he “dodged a bullet” with the right knee bone bruise he suffered in the in-season tournament semifinals, per Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files (subscriber only). Nembhard is considered week-to-week and he’s thankful that the injury wasn’t worse.

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.

Central Notes: Holiday, Bucks, Pacers, Allen

The top two teams in the East — the Celtics and Bucks — face off on Wednesday night in Boston. It will be All-Star guard Jrue Holiday‘s first matchup against his former club this season.

Holiday, who was traded to Portland in the Damian Lillard blockbuster before being rerouted to the Celtics, says he has no hard feelings towards the Bucks, though he would’ve appreciated a heads-up that he might get dealt, according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Holiday expressed a desire to be a “Buck for life” just days before the trade was made.

I think that they got what they wanted, so I can’t be mad at that,” Holiday said. “A warning would’ve been cool. But other than that, I’m in the best place that I can be to compete against them, which is for the top team in the East and, hopefully, the top team in the league.

Holiday helped the Bucks win their first championship in 50 years in 2021, but he says Wednesday’s matchup doesn’t hold any particular significance to him other than two of the best teams in the league competing against each other.

It’s not like I circled this one on my calendar or anything,” Holiday said. “I think that this is a big game because of the two teams that are playing, I think because of the caliber players that are on the court and all that, so that’s what I would like for it to be about, not me playing against the Bucks.”

Here’s more from the Central:

  • The Pacers made a change to their starting lineup on Tuesday, replacing Bennedict Mathurin and Obi Toppin with Buddy Hield and Aaron Nesmith. Hield and Nesmith started most of last season, but had been coming off the bench in 2023/24. As Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star writes, head coach Rick Carlisle said the move was designed to give the starters more shooting, with the Pacers trying to clinch their in-season tournament group — which they did after defeating Atlanta. All four players performed well in a game that didn’t feature much defense — the final score was 157-152. However, Carlisle wouldn’t commit to that new starting five going forward, and Nesmith will be sidelined for Wednesday’s game against Toronto with a right wrist sprain, Dopirak tweets. Second-year guard Andrew Nembhard will also miss his third straight game with lower back soreness.
  • The Pacers selected Jarace Walker No. 8 overall and Ben Sheppard No. 26 overall in June’s draft, but neither player has been in the team’s rotation this fall. On Wednesday, the two first-round picks were sent to the G League to play for Indiana’s affiliate, the Mad Ants, and were recalled ahead of tonight’s matchup with the Raptors, per Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. “I was happy,” said Walker, who scored 30 points in a Mad Ants win. “Hooping is hooping to me at the end of the day, no matter if it’s NBA, G-League, JUCO, I just love basketball. Just being out there, even with an awesome group of guys that I got to get closer with today, I had a good time today.”
  • A slow 2-3 start for the Cavaliers this fall coincided with the absence of center Jarrett Allen, who was dealing with a bone bruise in his ankle. As Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com details in a subscriber-only story, the Cavs have started to climb the standings upon Allen’s return, going 6-3, including four straight victories, despite other players being injured. While he doesn’t always put up gaudy individual stats, the 25-year-old is the defensive anchor for Cleveland, according to Fedor, who notes that Allen did an admirable job slowing Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid the past two games.

Central Notes: Stotts, Griffin, Cunningham, Bates, Allen, Nembhard

Terry Stotts isn’t retiring, even though the 65-year-old coach is exiting Adrian Griffin’s staff with the Bucks, Jim Owczarski of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

Stotts wasn’t comfortable with his fit on Milwaukee’s staff. Griffin claimed they got along just fine.

“It caught all of us off guard, of course, but again, you just support him,” Griffin said. “He was a terrific guy. I learned a lot from him in a very short time. He was really good at what he does. He made a decision – a personal decision – and we just have to respect that.”

However, The Athletic’s Eric Nehm and Shams Charania report that Stotts and Griffin had a tenuous relationship. That included a shootaround incident in which Griffin yelled for Stotts to join the coaches’ huddle when Stotts was about to have a conversation with the team’s star players. That highlighted the potential difficulty of Stotts adapting to an assistant role under rookie head coach Griffin. Conversely, it also spoke about the treatment and level of respect that Griffin needed to show Stotts, considering his lengthy coaching career.

We have more from the Central Division:

  • The Pistons paid Monty Williams a lot of money to coach their team, and their star player, Cade Cunningham, has bought in to Williams’ hard-driving style, Keith Langlois of Pistons.com writes. “I love the way he pushes us,” Cunningham said. “He calls things the way he sees them. I think that honesty and that bluntness towards us, that’s huge. Especially for a young team. The systems that he’s put in, the way that he’s made it around our abilities and the personnel we have has been great for us. It’ll continue to get better as he learns us and we learn him.”
  • Rookie second-round pick Emoni Bates has led the Cavaliers in scoring during the preseason. Coach J.B. Bickerstaff told Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com that he’s thrilled Bates dropped to the No. 49 overall pick. “I believe if Emoni had gone in the lottery he’d have been the type of player who’d have been in the Rookie of the Year conversation,” Bickerstaff said. “We are extremely fortunate that he’s here with us and we look forward to working with him.”
  • Cavaliers center Jarrett Allen is showing progress from the right ankle injury that has sidelined him during much of training camp. On Thursday afternoon, he went through post-practice shooting drills and then went through an individual workout, according to Fedor. He is set for re-evaluation this weekend and there’s hope he can return for Cleveland’s regular-season opener on Wednesday night.
  • Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard went through a full practice this week and is on track to play in the team’s preseason finale on Friday, Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files tweets. Nembhard is working his way back from an ankle injury.

Injury Notes: Bogdanovic, Achiuwa, Smart, Bouknight, Nembhard

Pistons forward Bojan Bogdanovic has sustained a low-grade right calf strain, the Pistons announced today (Twitter link via James L. Edwards III of The Athletic).

While there’s no indication that Bogdanovic’s availability for the start of the regular season is up in the air, he’ll miss the start of the team’s preseason and will be reevaluated in one week, according to the Pistons.

Here are a few more injury-related notes from around the NBA:

  • Addressing Precious Achiuwa‘s left groin strain on Saturday, Raptors head coach Darko Rajakovic referred to the injury as “minor” and indicated the team is playing it safe with the big man. As Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca tweets, it doesn’t sound like the injury will keep Achiuwa on the shelf for long.
  • Grizzlies guard Marcus Smart is dealing with some minor abdominal soreness, according to Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal, who tweets that the club is being cautious with Smart and that he’s not expected to miss any regular season time as a result of the injury.
  • Hornets guard James Bouknight has been diagnosed with a left knee sprain, per the team (Twitter link). The severity of the injury isn’t yet known, but it’s a discouraging start to the fall for Bouknight, who isn’t a sure thing to have his $6MM rookie scale team option for 2024/25 picked up this month.
  • Pacers guard Andrew Nembhard, who is recovering after having a kidney stone removed, won’t travel with the club on its two-game road trip to open the preseason, tweets Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files.

Pacers Notes: Hield, Mathurin, Backup Center, Nembhard, McConnell

The Pacers are in a difficult position trying to make a Buddy Hield trade so close to the start of the season, writes Dustin Dopirak of The Indianapolis Star. No progress has been reported since news broke last Wednesday that the team was working with Hield’s representatives to find a deal after the sides were unable to reach an agreement on a contract extension.

Dopirak believes Indiana is justified in asking a high price for Hield, who is one of the league’s top three-point shooters. However, teams are reluctant to shake up their rosters this far into the offseason, especially for a player who has an expiring contract.

It’s also not clear what the Pacers will be seeking in return for Hield. Dopirak notes that the team saw a need after last season to upgrade at power forward and find defensive-minded wings, but that has already been addressed during the offseason. He states that they’ll need three-point shooting help if they part with Hield and may be looking for a younger, less expensive player who can do what he does.

There’s more on the Pacers, all courtesy of Dopirak:

  • Bennedict Mathurin has a chance to win a starting job, but only if he can improve his defense. Dopirak observes that the first-team All-Rookie selection struggled with that part of the game, particularly when he got an opportunity to start late in the season. The Pacers are hoping to see progress from Mathurin in camp and will need him to take on a larger role if Hield gets traded.
  • Daniel Theis‘ impressive showing in the World Cup gives him a strong case to be the primary backup center heading into camp. Dopirak notes that he’ll be competing for minutes with Isaiah Jackson and Jalen Smith, who are both younger and more athletic than the 31-year-old Theis. He adds that Jackson is the team’s best lob finisher and second-best shot blocker behind Myles Turner, while Smith was Indiana’s leader last season in rebounds per 48 minutes.
  • The Pacers’ improved roster could lead to several other changes, Dopirak adds. If Mathurin and free agent addition Bruce Brown are both starters, Andrew Nembhard could move from shooting guard to backup point guard, which is his more natural position. That could lead to a reduction in playing time for T.J. McConnell, who posted the best scoring average of his career last season.