Tyrese Haliburton’s show is making Pacers smile: ‘It’s special’

LAS VEGAS – Remember when it seemed like everyone wanted out of the Indiana Pacers?

Big man Myles Turner was so longing for greener pastures in December 2021 that he spoke publicly about his desire for “more opportunities,” a rarity in today’s NBA, and shared his opinion that he was being used as a “glorified role player.” ”. Veteran guard Buddy Hield failed to come to terms on an extension with the Pacers this summer and then made headlines when our own Shams Charania reported that both sides were trying to find a trade. Apparently the only time we talked about the Pacers on the national stage was when it came to possible roster changes or when a certain Memphis Grizzlies star and his associates had a problematic post-game situation with Pacers players who was the center of a league investigation.

To walk through his locker room these days is to truly understand the Tyrese Haliburton effect. It’s like being at a house party that none of the Pacers want to end, with the 23-year-old point guard operating the turntables so masterfully that everyone wants to get off the couch and play.

That was the case once again on Thursday at T-Mobile Arena, where their 128-119 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks in the Season Tournament (IST) semifinals only intensified the attention that has become much brighter in the last weeks. Haliburton, who worked his way into the early MVP conversation, posted a 27-point, 15-assist, zero-turnover outing that Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo described as “amazing” and had eye-opening historical consequences. While 11 players They have had games of at least 27 points, 15 assists and no turnovers, Haliburton is the only one who has done it twice (the first was less than two months ago). And lest anyone forget, he was three days away from posting 26 points, 13 assists, 10 rebounds and zero turnovers in an IST quarterfinal victory over the Boston Celtics.

What he’s doing is simply absurd right now, with team officials and media members struggling to agree on a player composition that adequately projects his ceiling. Stephen Curry has been mentioned internally as a top candidate, although that may seem premature. Veteran NBA writer and coach David Thorpe made an interesting argument when he said that he is James Harden 2.0. Haliburton’s latest masterpiece inspired the endorsement of Pacers great Reggie Miller, who can carry more weight than everyone else.

“We’re witnessing a superstar in the making,” Miller said of Haliburton, who is averaging a league-leading 26.9 points and 12.9 assists per game.

But beyond the basketball discussion, it’s the way Haliburton’s teammates celebrate their success that might be the best indicator of what’s in store. Pacers smiles that were nowhere to be seen not long ago are now everywhere. The jokes, also absent during that time in which rumors of a reconstruction fueled uncertainty and certain discontent, are a constant.

With Haliburton at the helm, they are fast. They’re funny. They are fighters (to hell with the porous defense). They are…

“Rejuvenating,” as Turner said.

The 27-year-old knows what he’s talking about.

Halfway through his seventh season in Indiana, Turner was so deprived of his place in the Pacers’ world that he was ready for something new. But just a month after he aired those frustrations for the entire basketball world to hear, the deal with Sacramento that brought in Haliburton (and Hield) changed everything. The departure of center Domantas Sabonis to Sacramento put Turner back in his preferred position, while giving him a point guard who had a rare ability to elevate the offensive talents of everyone around him.

“I think we won the trade personally, but I’m biased, of course,” Turner said. The Athletic. “I thought it was mutually beneficial. (Kings guard De’Aaron) Fox got something he needed and I got the point guard he needed.”

Tyrese Haliburton drives to the line against Bucks center Brook Lopez. (Kyle Terada/USA Today)

And over time, as he remembered, everything fell into place.

“Those days when I was playing with the four (alongside Sabonis before Haliburton arrived), they were dark days for me because I wasn’t happy,” Turner said. “I didn’t really enjoy my role. I didn’t really enjoy much of the scrutiny that comes with playing out of position. …It wasn’t all bad, but it definitely wasn’t good.”

Hield was also in that kind of place not too long ago. The uncertainty over his contract raised natural questions about how the Pacers viewed him, and so he considered possible next steps that could come. Less than three months later, his view of the basketball world, much like Turner’s, has changed for the better.

“It’s crazy,” said Hield, who averages 13.3 points and shoots 38.8 percent from 3-point range on 7.4 attempts per game. “For example, in an NBA season, we are all human. You always have doubts in the back of your head. When it’s bad, you think better of it. But when it’s good, you have no doubts, you know? And it’s a long season, so you have to enjoy it, let God control what he controls. Let him handle (the future) and all you’ll have to do is control what you control on the basketball court.”

Mood swings, of course, have a lot to do with Haliburton. Of recruit “without stars” The Iowa State standout, No. 12 pick in the 2020 draft and rising NBA star, is doing the kinds of things even his teammates admit they didn’t expect.

“He gets mad at me all the time when I always tell him, ‘Hey, I never saw this (coming),’” Hield said. “But once you can shoot the 3-ball that well, it opens up a lot for you offensively. And when you have vision and disappointment, anticipation or whatever you want to call it, it’s (shocking).

“Think two plays ahead of the defender, and that’s elite. He just brought it up. He is special”.

How special? Time will tell.

“When you talk about controlling the game, being super smart, IQ, he’s got it all,” said Pacers guard Bruce Brown, who won a title with the Denver Nuggets last season alongside two-time MVP Nikola Jokić before to sign with Indiana. in summer. “I want to say that? He had 15 assists tonight with no turnovers? That doesn’t happen. I’ve only seen that with Nikola. In some years more…”

However, the focus for now will be on the coming days. Next up is a Season Tournament title game against the Los Angeles Lakers on Saturday, and another chance for these Pacers (12-8) to shine in front of the masses.

“I think we’re shocking the world right now,” Haliburton said. “No one expected us to be here except the guys in the locker room. “That means a lot to us, so it feels good.”

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(Top photo of Myles Turner and Tyrese Haliburton: Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images)