Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton just wants to win.
He doesn’t care about his stats, he doesn’t want to be put in any conversations regarding All-Star teams, and he certainly isn’t interested in talks about being an MVP candidate.
He just wants to win.
And while it might not have happened Saturday night, when the Los Angeles Lakers beat Indiana 123-109 in the inaugural In-Season Tournament championship game, the rest of the league should be on notice about Haliburton and Pacers.
“I think last year we snuck up on teams, teams didn’t really know what to expect,” said Haliburton, who had 20 points and 11 assists. “But I think now when you play the Pacers you know what to expect. … Obviously, people didn’t expect us to get here, the championship game, but I think teams are prepared for us.”
Indiana gets back to the regular season Monday night with the league’s No. 1 offense, which is averaging 128.4 points, led by Haliburton who is averaging 26.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and a league-high 12.1 assists.
And whether he likes it or not, those numbers have him almost assuredly on his way to a second straight All-Star appearance and have placed him in early-season MVP chatter.
In seven tournament games, he led all players who made it to the final with an average of 26.7 points per game on 52.4% shooting, and had 13.3 assists per contest.
“Tyrese is a great young player that has all the tools, has the personality and has the desire,” Indiana coach Rick Carlisle said. “The month, seven weeks that he’s put together so far in this season, people are talking about him for MVP, and rightly so.
“He was completely unfazed by the limelight and it brought his game to a higher level (during tournament games). Like Reggie Miller, he’s very similar to him. Body type stature, personality, and just overall character. He wants the responsibility for winning and losing. And he wants it unconditionally, and that’s special.”
Special enough that NBA commissioner Adam Silver loved the championship storyline of having one of the most storied players in NBA history — LeBron James — facing a young team with a budding star who’s just beginning to author his story.
“I think fans on a national level forget that he was an All-Star last year, so he has been recognized already as a top player,” Silver said.
Just don’t tell him that.
“People have said MVP, or all-NBA, All-Star or whatever,” Haliburton said. “But at the end of the day, I just want to play basketball and I want to succeed as a team. I know (with) the team’s success, individual success comes with that.
“So I think that that’s been something that I really enjoyed about our run right now, is that it’s forced the media to talk about what’s in front of them, which is basketball. And I think as a person who loves the sport, I think everybody can appreciate that.”
Reporting by The Associated Press.
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