The first NBA In-Season Tournament is creating a heightened interest in those games from fans and players alike.
In fact, Indiana Pacers star Tyrese Haliburton said he is pleased to take advantage of the competitive nature of the games and the rare opportunity to win a trophy that they present.
“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 told 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 definitely some more juice to those games, and it’s exciting. It’s an exciting time for the league and you know, I think we’re all trying to push the in-season tournament to be a bigger thing because everybody wants there to be some meaning to it.”
Haliburton is playing his fourth NBA season, and like he said, has yet to compete in the playoffs in his time with the Pacers and Sacramento Kings. Coming off his first All-Star selection last season, the 23-year-old is averaging a career high 23.5 points and 11.4 assists per game in 11 appearances this season.
Indiana is taking a 7-5 record into its In-Season Tournament game at the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday. The Pacers last made the playoffs in the 2019-20 season and have not won a playoff series since the 2013-14 campaign, when they reached the Eastern Conference Finals. They had five straight losses in the first round from 2016 through 2020.
Following group play, eight teams will advance to the knockout round of the tournament. The quarterfinal games will be played Dec. 4 and Dec. 5. Semifinals games will be played on Dec. 7. The championship game will be played Dec. 9, with the victor winning the NBA Cup trophy. There is also a financial prize for the winning team.
Outside of those tangible rewards, the tournament gives players like Haliburton who have not had postseason success a chance to get a feel for a playoff-like atmosphere. They also have the chance to be seen by a wider audience than they otherwise might not.
The No. 12 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft out of Iowa State University, Haliburton was traded to the Pacers by the Kings during the 2021-22 season. He signed a lucrative contract extension with Indiana this July.
It has to be encouraging to the league that a rising star like Haliburton is so invested in the tournament and the opportunity it provides.