INDIANAPOLIS — When Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton was 5 years previous, he would play the online game NBA Live 2005, the one with then-Denver Nugget Carmelo Anthony on the duvet. He wasn’t fully certain find out how to play the sport — once more, he was 5 — however he knew find out how to do one factor: Play within the All-Star Game mode, which included the rookie versus sophomore sport, the slam dunk competitors, the 3-point capturing contest and, after all, the All-Star Game itself.

Now, 17 years later, the league’s help chief will get an opportunity to play in it for actual Feb. 19 in Salt Lake City, becoming a member of teammates Bennedict Mathurin and Andrew Nembhard, who’re within the Rising Stars sport, and Buddy Hield, who’s within the 3-point capturing competitors. For a franchise that has largely flown underneath the radar in current instances, Haliburton’s rise has been one of many higher tales within the NBA, his play main the Pacers, a staff that was speculated to tank, onto the cusp of the postseason.

Shortly earlier than tipoff Thursday, Haliburton was knowledgeable by staff president Kevin Pritchard and coach Rick Carlisle that he was one of many reserves who made the All-Star staff. Moments later, the Pacers sport ops folks confirmed a tape of Shaquille O’Neal asserting Haliburton’s identify on the TNT broadcast, and the sellout crowd, which included a number of Lakers/LeBron James followers, erupted in pleasure.

“It felt good, it felt good,” Haliburton stated after the Pacers’ 112-111 loss to the Lakers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. “I don’t want to sit here and sound arrogant or anything like that, but coming into the game, I thought I had a good opportunity. I thought I had a good opportunity the majority of the year, so I’m just excited that it’s official. I’ve worked really hard to get here. I never expected that I’d be able to accomplish this in three years.”

He made it as a result of he deserved to make it. He is averaging a profession excessive in factors per sport (20.2), assists (10.2) and steals (1.8), main the league in assists per sport and help proportion (46.3 p.c) and is the one participant within the league averaging a factors/assists double-double. He has 23 factors/assists double-doubles in 41 video games this season.

Despite the loss, there was trigger for celebration after Tyrese Haliburton was chosen as an All-Star reserve. He had 26 factors and 12 assists in his return from harm. (Trevor Ruszkowski / USA Today)

How a lot does Haliburton imply to this franchise? The Pacers just lately misplaced 10 of 11 video games whereas he sat out with a knee and elbow harm, dropping from a playoff spot to the sting of the Play-In Tournament. Indiana misplaced once more Thursday night time — Haliburton and Carlisle weren’t amused by the 16-0 free-throw disparity within the fourth quarter — however for 3 quarters, the Pacers had been again to who they had been previous to Haliburton’s harm — free-flowing, working, setting the tempo, with their level guard enjoying the maestro. They led by 15 earlier than all of it fell aside within the fourth.

“Tyrese has earned it,” Carlisle stated. “He’s done everything the right way. He was disappointed in the (Pacers-Kings) trade initially but then he saw the opportunity and embraced it. He’s planted his feet here, he’s committed himself to being the on-court leader of this franchise and he’s performed at an amazing level. A 20-and-10 point guard is gold in this league, particularly one that has the “it” issue on the subject of the group figuring out with him.

“I see so much of Reggie (Miller) in him, just the way these guys move on the court, their emotions, what they’re about, how they work, so I’m really thrilled for him.”

A few elements led to the All-Star berth:

Again, he’s performed brilliantly; with out his routine 20-10 nights, we’re not having this dialog. Beyond incomes the All-Star spot, there’s an argument to be made that he’s a prime contender for Most Improved Player. Without him, the Pacers are deep into the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes.

In a twisted means, although, Wally Szczerbiak’s feedback, those the place the Knicks TV analyst known as Haliburton, “Mister supposed wanna-be fake All-Star,” helped Haliburton’s candidacy. Suddenly, folks began being attentive to Haliburton and this flyover franchise, and what they noticed, they favored and appreciated. This man’s obtained sport.

Haliburton’s father, John, informed me that final month.

“It made the national media really pay attention to Tyrese,” John stated. “God has a way to put his person in the front without even trying. God said, ‘I did this for you and now I’m going to let the whole world see you and I’m going to do it in a way that’s going to blow your mind.’ Well, Wally ran his mouth, the world started looking at Tyrese and people started watching him play and went, ‘Wait a minute. Wait a minute. This guy can really play; Wally, you’ve got to take that back.’ So thank you very much for allowing us all to see Tyrese.”

The second issue? The Pacers fell off the map throughout the time Haliburton was injured. He is that worthwhile.

“You never want to go through a tough stretch like we have without him,” Carlisle stated, “but it was further proof of how good he really is. … He just lights up our building. Our team plays a different game with him.”

Haliburton, enjoying his first sport after the harm, picked up the place he left off, ending with 26 factors and 12 assists. But he was upset by the way in which he and his staff performed within the fourth quarter, getting outscored 28-15 whereas making simply 6 of twenty-two fourth-quarter photographs. The rust didn’t present till late. After scoring 23 factors with 9 assists by three quarters, Haliburton was simply 1 of 6 from the ground (1 of 4 from 3) within the fourth.

“This team has depended on me in the fourth all year and I was trash,” he stated glumly. “Got to be better there. Just knocking some rust off and getting in rhythm. Four-for-13 from 3, that’s not me. That was expected coming back, but I’ve got to finish the game better, for sure.”

He additionally had a bit one thing to say concerning the officiating.

“I’m not going to say anything, but what was that tweet — ‘sleepless nights’? So I don’t know, man,” he stated. “I can’t control everything out there, we can’t control everything. We’ve got to be better, but man, (the Lakers) must be a really good defensive team (to commit just three personal fouls in the fourth quarter).”

Carlisle might simply shake his head.

“The fourth quarter, I’m not sure what to say about that,” he stated. “I’ve never seen a 16-0 free-throw discrepancy in the fourth quarter of an NBA game. … That’s something I’ve never witnessed in 38 years in this league. They got in the bonus (early) and they just put their head down and the whistle kept blowing.

“If you’re an NBA team, the best way to set your defense is to shoot free throws. I haven’t looked at the fourth quarter yet; I’m a little afraid to, frankly. But we’ve got to execute better and get some stops without fouling, and that’s all I’ll say about the officiating. … They’ll see it in black and white tomorrow in New York — actually, they’ll see it in HD.”

Afterward, LeBron James, who scored 26 factors and continued his pursuit of the NBA scoring document, praised Haliburton and recalled the primary time he was named to an All-Star staff.

“It’s a great feeling to be part of a select few,” he stated. “Fans, peers, coaches, they respect the way you play the game. He (Haliburton) has played at a high level through two-thirds of the season, so it’s definitely a respect thing. He’s been playing good basketball all year.”

A couple of weeks from now, Haliburton will turn out to be the fifteenth Pacer to make the All-Star Game. This time, it won’t be a online game; will probably be the actual factor.

(Top photograph of Tyrese Haliburton dribbling within the second quarter as Lonnie Walker IV (4) defends: Trevor Ruszkowski / USA Today)

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