June 15, 2024

Pacers’ Tyrese Haliburton on ‘storybook’ in IST finale: ‘LeBron was my favorite player growing up’

LAS VEGAS — Tyrese Haliburton was 3 years previous and dwelling along with his mother and father in Oshkosh, Wis. on Oc. 29, 2003, the day LeBron James made his NBA debut.

Which means Haliburton would have been 7 when James reached his first NBA Finals, 12 when LeBron captured his first title and 16 for James’ inconceivable Finals comeback in opposition to the Warriors in 2016.

Haliburton’s rookie season was the one which adopted LeBron’s newest NBA championship, which he gained with the Los Angeles Lakers in the Disney “bubble” of 2020. Haliburton debuted Dec. 23 of that yr with the Sacramento Kings.

Fate and a career-altering commerce have introduced Haliburton, arguably one of many NBA’s fastest-rising stars, and James, who’s one way or the other nonetheless the league’s customary bearer in his twenty first season, collectively for the first-ever In-Season Tournament championship sport Saturday evening at 8:30 p.m. ET in Las Vegas. The sport will probably be broadcast on ESPN.

“Like any kid born in 2000, LeBron was my favorite player growing up,” stated Haliburton, who led the Indiana Pacers via the East and into the IST finale.

“Growing up I was a Cavs fan, then a Heat fan, then a Cavs fan again and then a Lakers fan before I got drafted,” Haliburton stated. “That’s just how it went. And so to be able to compete against him in the championship is kind of a storybook, a little bit, and it’s going to be fun.”

Haliburton scored 27 factors with 15 assists and no turnovers in a 128-119 win over the Milwaukee Bucks in an IST semifinal Thursday in Las Vegas. In the opposite, LeBron James went for 30 factors in 23 minutes of the Lakers’ 44-point blowout over the New Orleans Pelicans.

Haliburton, 23, made his first NBA All-Star Game final season, however has by no means appeared in the playoffs and is basically attending to play on nationwide TV for the primary time this season as a part of the Pacers’ undefeated IST run.

James, in the meantime, is a four-time champion, four-time NBA MVP, the league’s all-time main scorer, a 19-time All-Star and has performed in 10 NBA finals.

Already this week, Haliburton had made two gentle comparisons of himself to LeBron — not in phrases of evaluating their on-court expertise, however in utilizing LeBron to contextualize his personal opinion.

For occasion, when Haliburton was requested Wednesday if he would really like the Pacers to hold a championship banner ought to they win the IST, he stated: “I think at this point in my career, because I haven’t done anything yet, I’ll take a banner, but certainly ‘Bron would not answer the same way.”

And after the Pacers’ win Thursday, when Haliburton was requested for his impressions of Las Vegas, and if he wish to see the NBA set up a workforce right here, he quipped, in half: “The guy on the Lakers (James), he talks about bringing the team to Vegas every other day.”

“I mean, he is the gold standard of basketball players — everybody strives to be that,” Haliburton stated Friday.

James skipped the Lakers’ media availability on Friday, so there may be nothing new so as to add so far as how he views Haliburton. The Lakers’ Austin Reaves was Haliburton’s teammate with Team USA on the FIBA World Cup final summer season, and collectively they ran the Americans’ bench unit.

Reaves stated “I told D-Lo (D’Angelo Russell) before the season started that if they (the Pacers) are competing in the East, then I think he (Haliburton) has a chance to win an MVP at some point just because of the way he plays and the unselfishness that he plays with.”

There has not been any ballot of media members with votes for NBA MVP but, so there is no such thing as a method to prognosticate the place Haliburton would possibly stand in this yr’s race. But his coach, Rick Carlisle, stated Haliburton ought to be a candidate for the league’s highest single-season particular person honor, and Tyrese is in any other case having fun with what is definitely a profession yr with averages of 26.9 factors and an NBA-best 12.1 assists.

This is Haliburton’s second full season with Indiana, following the commerce on the 2022 deadline that despatched him and Buddy Hield from Sacramento to Indianapolis.

Haliburton reminisced concerning the airplane experience he took following the commerce, with Hield and Tristan Thompson on board, and stated: “I was distraught on that plane ride, because I was still in shock and pissed and all of that stuff.

“While I was basically just sitting there scrolling through my phone with my head down, I had to listen to Tristan and Buddy tell me how bad the Kings messed up.”

The Kings had been one of many NBA’s shock tales final season, thanks in no small half to Domantas Sabonis — the important thing acquisition on the Kings’ finish in the Haliburton commerce.

This yr, although, it’s the Pacers’ flip to boost eyebrows. And, if Haliburton beats his idol Saturday, possibly a banner.

“I just think for us, we’re not supposed to be here and nobody expected us to be here,” Haliburton stated. “We’ve probably been looked at to lose the majority of our (tournament games). The Philly game, we weren’t supposed to win, and we definitely weren’t supposed to beat Milwaukee. So that’s been part of the storybook, and it’s been fun, but it’s not over yet.”

Carlisle stated Pacers reserve guard Andrew Nembhard (proper knee) would miss the IST championship sport.

Nembhard was carried off the ground in the second half of Thursday’s sport after a clumsy fall that induced harm to his proper knee. Carlisle stated Nembhard was present process assessments Friday however was cautiously optimistic that he had averted severe damage.

Nembhard scored 8 factors in 14 minutes in opposition to the Bucks.

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(Photo: Jeff Haynes / NBAE by way of Getty Images)