Let’s go ahead and get this out of the way first, WOOOOO MAC MCCLUNG WHAT IN THE WORLD DID I JUST WITNESS PLEASE COME TO INDY NEXT YEAR AND DO ALL THAT AGAIN. That’s all I really have to say about the weekend itself that doesn’t regard the four Pacers that took part in the festivities.
Between the rising stars competition, the three-point contest, and the game itself, the Indiana Pacers had a pretty large presence at all-star weekend. The two rookies made some plays and got to meet several of the other young guys who are new to the NBA. Buddy and Tyrese made it to the finals and we got to see Hali score 31 (!!!) points in the first round all while hearing about how his form is actually better for this competition. Then we got to watch Mike Malone try to play a 9 man rotation in an NBA All-Star game and Halliburton STILL scored 18 points in his limited minutes. However, I still think the most important part of the Pacer’s All-Star ventures was what fans could not see.
Networking is an important part in every field and the NBA is no different. All-Star weekend in its purest form is for the fans. Legends are present, awards are given, and an accolade is added to every players resume saying they were part of that years celebration. It is also a chance for guys to hang out, catch up, meet one another and just be around NBA players that aren’t on their respective team. This is an incredible opportunity for our Pacers to possibly drop a hint here and a phrase there that basically says: “Indianapolis is a great city, great place to start a family, great team culture, and we want to start winning soon.”
Not to mention that we have a guy in Tyrese Halliburton who while already being great in his own right, is showing that he’s already a top floor raiser in the league. Any star that wants to take the next step, whether that’s in the winning category or just raise their own personal level of play enough to garner a commercial or shoe deal, could always benefit from a point guard like Tyrese that can get that player the ball whenever they call for it.
Obviously, a lot of these All-Star players have found their home and are happy where they’re at. But, as is the case every year, there’s always a guy or two that want out whether we as fans know that or not. A guy like Jaylen Brown (who is an unrestricted free-agent in 2024) could already be thinking in the back of his mind about life outside of Boston. Maybe he no longer wants to be in the shadow of Jayson Tatum or maybe he just wants a change of scenery outside of Massachusetts. Lauri Markkanen is another player, who in his first season with the Jazz has flourished as a tall and strong wing. (what’s the Pacer’s biggest need again?) I think the Jazz PROBABLY want to keep him but, also any phone call to Danny Ainge regarding several draft picks will be picked up and at least listened to.
Even the young rising stars who Bennedict and Nembhard have been practicing can be seen as future free agency targets in the coming years. Right now they are seen as promising players who the team can build around, but it is unlikely that every rising star will be with the team that drafted them in the next 3-5 years. Unlike the all-stars, every single one of the rising stars has something in common with each other. They are all trying to find their own way in not just the NBA but in their adult lives. Friendships could be formed this weekend with guys who have never played on the same court together and especially in this era of the NBA, friendships mean something in free-agency.
With all that being said, the Pacer players at all star weekend are the team’s future. How they add to that future might extend past what they bring to the court. A conversation during practice could stay in someone’s mind long enough for them to listen when Kevin Pritchard gives them a call.