As the NBA was making ready to launch its first in-season tournament, one thing the league and commissioner Adam Silver repeatedly burdened was that introducing a cup tournament like these held in Europe would current groups with a chance to win one thing in addition to the Larry O’Brien Trophy in June.
In addition, by advantage of getting all the knockout stage video games on nationwide tv, the tournament would create a chance for under-the-radar groups to play themselves into the nationwide highlight.
In different phrases, it was created for a workforce precisely just like the Indiana Pacers.
“The in-season tournament is probably the first time that I’m really competing to win a championship on the NBA level,” Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton advised ESPN. “I’ve never made the playoffs or anything, so right here it gives me the chance to be able to do that, and that’s exciting for me.
“There’s undoubtedly some extra juice to these video games, and it is thrilling. It’s an thrilling time for the league and you realize, I feel we’re all making an attempt to push the in-season tournament to be an even bigger factor as a result of everyone desires there to be some which means to it.”
Indiana has one scheduled nationally televised game this season: Jan. 30 in Boston on TNT. That will, in fact, be the first time in Haliburton’s career that he’ll appear on the network — unless he can put the Pacers into the quarterfinals of the in-season tournament with a win against the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night, which would clinch East Group A for the Pacers.
For a Pacers team trying to reestablish itself as a playoff contender in the Eastern Conference, the chance to play in games with real stakes in the opening weeks of the season is something they aren’t taking for granted.
“Opportunities to be on extra significant phases is one thing that is vital for younger groups,” Pacers coach Rick Carlisle told ESPN. “I’ve been concerned in over 300 playoff video games in my taking part in, assistant teaching and head-coaching profession. For me, my job is about growing the type that helps our group have the very best likelihood to win.
“That said, having the opportunity to compete on a more meaningful platform is very important.”
The NBA is hoping that the in-season tournament turns into a universally accepted occasion, and never simply an fascinating wrinkle to the early a part of the common season. The first step in doing that’s getting gamers and groups to purchase in, one thing that was in query this summer season when the occasion was introduced. Enter the Pacers, who completed eleventh within the East a season in the past, 5 video games out of play-in place, and have been projected to complete ninth within the East this season, regardless of the presence of Haliburton, an all-star a yr in the past who’s averaging a career-high 23.5 factors per sport this season.
“The buy-in from our teams and players is what will ultimately drive interest from fans and help create a new tradition,” Silver advised ESPN. “Players around the league, whether it’s young rising stars like Tyrese Haliburton or all-time greats like LeBron James and Steph Curry, have talked about what’s at stake in these in-season tournament games and how it’s translating to an even more competitive game on the court.”
Haliburton is leading the league in assists (11.6 per sport), driving an offense that performs in a mode harking back to Steve Nash‘s “Seven Seconds or Less” Phoenix Suns; Indiana leads the league in each tempo and factors per 100 possessions. They can nonetheless advance to the knockout spherical even with a loss to Atlanta, although it might take a little bit assist from the remainder of their group. If they do attain the quarterfinals, the league will get an opportunity to showcase one of many league’s most fun younger groups to a brand new stage of curiosity from the game’s informal followers.
Still, there are many reminders alongside the way in which that Indiana stays a piece in progress. Even whereas speaking Saturday about his workforce’s begin, and the potential affect of successful towards Atlanta, Carlisle cautioned towards his group wanting previous one other younger workforce, the Orlando Magic, in a non-tournament sport Sunday.
The Pacers then fell behind by as many as 40 factors at residence, because the Magic led wire-to-wire in a rout.
“We gotta keep our eye on the ball,” Carlisle mentioned. “But with Tyrese, offensively we can do some special things, and defensively we’re getting better.”
The Pacers might want to get rather a lot higher than their present twenty seventh rating in defensive ranking to make the sort of playoff run Haliburton & Co. finally hope to. They’re presently seventh in the East, firmly within the playoff and play-in chase, so that they challenge to be taking part in significant basketball in March and April for the primary time since 2021, after they misplaced to the Washington Wizards within the play-in tournament.
For now, Indiana is just centered on Tuesday’s sport in Atlanta. And for a league hoping to show this occasion right into a cornerstone of the NBA calendar, it has no less than succeeded in getting one in every of its brightest younger stars on board with the concept.
“Guys might think, ‘Oh, the season’s long. If we lose this one, we’re OK.’ But I think there’s some heightened juice to that to be like, ‘No, no, no. Yeah, the season’s long. But we want this game, we want it now,'” Haliburton mentioned. “I’ve been loving that aspect of the in-season tournament. It’s been a lot of fun.”