I’m not sure if you’ve heard–but Tyrese Haliburton has been out with an injury for the Pacers.
And I’m not sure if you’ve noticed–but the on-court returns have been, let’s say, less than inspiring.
For those who haven’t been living under the proverbial rock, you know much ado has been made about the negative impact of his injury – most notably a precipitous free fall in the standings (Pacers have gone from 6th in the East to only three games ahead of the 6th to worst record in the NBA).
But, for every yin, there is a yang.
So let’s take a look at some of the positives that have come during Mr. Halibuckets’ (h/t @thehummusprince) extended absence.
Commitment to 1ndy
Somewhat lost in the doom and gloom of the last two weeks were Haliburton’s comments on the Woj podcast just before his injury.
Not only does he sound like a man committed to playing in basketball’s true mecca long term, but he’s actively recruiting others to come to join him.
This is a far cry from the not-so-distant-past when the face of the Pacers was reverse-recruiting himself to a Florida-based conference rival.
Only time will tell, but I have no reason to doubt the kid from the Midwest who previously spent time on the Pacers in the 2k-realm growing up.
Expanded roles for the Mini-ana Pacers
Injuries in professional sports are common. Hence the popularity of the phrase “next man up”.
Yes, Haliburton’s 33 minutes per game need to be distributed, but more importantly, so does his role on the team.
Andrew Nembhard taking over primary playmaking duties. Benn continuing to be a difficult Math problem for opponents to solve (h/t Pacers Twitter). Chris Duarte aggressively shooting himself out of a recent slump. Oshae Brissett, a consistent do-it-all player, getting some overdue minutes.
These opportunities are invaluable to the development of our future core.
Growing pains are to be expected. But go to any weight room in the world, and you’ll be reminded that “no pain, no gain”.
And these young Pacers show no fear, which is one of those intangibles “you just can’t coach”.
Rise of the Mac
Speaking of expanded roles, this is a T.J. McConnell appreciation segment. We are all witnesses.
Roster deficiencies magnified
Haliburton getting injured was similar to someone turning on blacklights in the middle of a party. The illuminated flaws are exposed for the world to see.
But, the awareness of their existence is the first step in cleaning them up.
This roster, while surprising, isn’t perfect.
Too many slow starts. Not enough rebounding. Defensive lapses that would make Trae Young blush.
Without a bona fide all-star leading comebacks and flirting with “Enter Sandman”-level closer territory, we’re seeing a bit of a market correction.
Like any market correction, this is a chance for opportunists to build for the future.
Return of Lance Stephenson?
A boy can dream.
So, Sam, what are you trying to say?
Everything is fine.
Not in a “cartoon dog sitting in a room that’s on fire with a cup of coffee” kind of way, but actually fine.
The front office has earned our trust. We have a top coach in the league. And we have an exciting young core that appears committed to the franchise.
It’s a great time to be a Pacers fan. The bandwagon is still open, for now.