Tim Bontemps, ESPNNov 21, 2023, 08:00 AM ET
As the NBA was preparing to motorboat its archetypal in-season tournament, thing the league and commissioner Adam Silver repeatedly stressed was that introducing a cupful tourney similar those held successful Europe would contiguous teams with an accidental to triumph thing too the Larry O'Brien Trophy successful June.
In addition, by virtuousness of having each of the knockout signifier games connected nationalist television, the tourney would make an accidental for under-the-radar teams to play themselves into the nationalist spotlight.
In different words, it was created for a squad precisely similar the Indiana Pacers.
"The in-season tourney is astir apt the archetypal clip that I'm truly competing to triumph a title connected the NBA level," Pacers defender Tyrese Haliburton told ESPN. "I've ne'er made the playoffs oregon anything, truthful close present it gives maine the accidental to beryllium capable to bash that, and that's breathtaking for me.
"There's decidedly immoderate much foodstuff to those games, and it's exciting. It's an breathtaking clip for the league and you know, I deliberation we're each trying to propulsion the in-season tourney to beryllium a bigger happening due to the fact that everybody wants determination to beryllium immoderate meaning to it."
Indiana has 1 scheduled nationally televised crippled this season: Jan. 30 successful Boston connected TNT. That will, successful fact, beryllium the archetypal clip successful Haliburton's vocation that he'll look connected the web -- unless helium tin enactment the Pacers into the quarterfinals of the in-season tourney with a triumph against the Atlanta Hawks connected Tuesday night, which would clinch East Group A for the Pacers.
For a Pacers squad trying to reestablish itself arsenic a playoff contender successful the Eastern Conference, the accidental to play successful games with existent stakes successful the opening weeks of the play is thing they aren't taking for granted.
"Opportunities to beryllium connected much meaningful stages is thing that's important for young teams," Pacers manager Rick Carlisle told ESPN. "I've been progressive successful implicit 300 playoff games successful my playing, adjunct coaching and head-coaching career. For me, my occupation is astir processing the benignant that helps our radical person the champion imaginable accidental to win.
"That said, having the accidental to vie connected a much meaningful level is precise important."
The NBA is hoping that the in-season tourney becomes a universally accepted event, and not conscionable an absorbing wrinkle to the aboriginal portion of the regular season. The archetypal measurement successful doing that is getting players and teams to bargain in, thing that was successful question this summertime erstwhile the lawsuit was announced. Enter the Pacers, who finished 11th successful the East a play ago, 5 games retired of play-in position, and were projected to decorativeness ninth successful the East this season, contempt the beingness of Haliburton, an all-star a twelvemonth agone who is averaging a career-high 23.5 points per crippled this season.
"The buy-in from our teams and players is what volition yet thrust involvement from fans and assistance make a caller tradition," Silver told ESPN. "Players astir the league, whether it's young rising stars similar Tyrese Haliburton oregon all-time greats similar LeBron James and Steph Curry, person talked astir what's astatine involvement successful these in-season tourney games and however it's translating to an adjacent much competitory crippled connected the court."
Haliburton is leading the league successful assists (11.6 per game), driving an discourtesy that plays successful a benignant reminiscent of Steve Nash's "Seven Seconds oregon Less" Phoenix Suns; Indiana leads the league successful some gait and points per 100 possessions. They tin inactive beforehand to the knockout circular adjacent with a nonaccomplishment to Atlanta, though it would instrumentality a small assistance from the remainder of their group. If they bash scope the quarterfinals, the league volition get a accidental to showcase 1 of the league's astir breathtaking young teams to a caller level of involvement from the sport's casual fans.
Still, determination are plentifulness of reminders on the mode that Indiana remains a enactment successful progress. Even portion talking Saturday astir his team's start, and the imaginable interaction of winning against Atlanta, Carlisle cautioned against his radical looking past different young team, the Orlando Magic, successful a non-tournament crippled Sunday.
The Pacers past fell down by arsenic galore arsenic 40 points astatine home, arsenic the Magic led wire-to-wire successful a rout.
"We gotta support our oculus connected the ball," Carlisle said. "But with Tyrese, offensively we tin bash immoderate peculiar things, and defensively we're getting better."
The Pacers volition request to get a batch amended than their existent 27th ranking successful antiaircraft standing to marque the benignant of playoff tally Haliburton & Co. yet anticipation to. They're presently seventh successful the East, firmly successful the playoff and play-in chase, truthful they task to beryllium playing meaningful hoops successful March and April for the archetypal clip since 2021, erstwhile they mislaid to the Washington Wizards successful the play-in tournament.
For now, Indiana is simply focused connected Tuesday's crippled successful Atlanta. And for a league hoping to crook this lawsuit into a cornerstone of the NBA calendar, it has astatine slightest succeeded successful getting 1 of its brightest young stars connected committee with the idea.
"Guys mightiness think, 'Oh, the season's long. If we suffer this one, we're OK.' But I deliberation there's immoderate heightened foodstuff to that to beryllium like, 'No, no, no. Yeah, the season's long. But we privation this game, we privation it now,'" Haliburton said. "I've been loving that facet of the in-season tournament. It's been a batch of fun."