How the NBA's new 65-game awards rule is hurting Tyrese Haliburton and the Indiana Pacers

In order to be eligible for a supermax contract, Tyrese Haliburton must play at least 65 games for the Indiana Pacers this year. That rule is now hurting him.

Mar 3, 2024; San Antonio, Texas, USA;  Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) shoots over San
Mar 3, 2024; San Antonio, Texas, USA; Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton (0) shoots over San / Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

Tyrese Haliburton is struggling, and everyone knows it.

Ever since returning from injury at the start of February, Haliburton has been a shell of his pre-hamstring strain self on all facets of the game. His shot has been off, he isn't as aggressive, and the Pacers are surprisingly better with him off the floor. Sunday's matchup against the San Antonio Spurs marks the second straight game, and the third game out of four where Haliburton has actively been a detriment to the Pacers on offense, a relative shock considering how well he was playing prior to the injury.

There are plenty of factors relating to this, one being, of course, his injury. Another possible reason is the structure of the team since the Buddy Hield trade, with fewer shooters to take attention off Haliburton, and the obvious chemistry hits coming from trading a beloved veteran and friend of Haliburton's. However, one reason that is not nearly talked as much about, is relatively new on the NBA scene, and already has people up in arms, that being the NBA's new 65-game threshold for awards.

The 65-game rule is hurting Tyrese Haliburton and the Indiana Pacers

While reaching 65 games for an award doesn't sound too egregious, after all, nobody has won MVP playing less than 65 games in 46 years, it is the further context relating to Haliburton's contract that needs mentioning. Haliburton stands to make an extra $50 million on his newly signed contract extension if he reaches All-NBA status before it kicks in this offseason. Because of this, he has been reluctant to miss too many games and playing through pain to get closer to the 65-game threshold.

As it stands, Haliburton has currently played 49 out of 60 possible games. With 20 games left in the season, this leaves a four-game margin of error for Haliburton to still qualify for the All-NBA teams. As a result, he has repeatedly gutted out performances where he clearly looks hobbled in hopes of a pay raise in the summer. While this is certainly an understandable motivation, he has not made it easier on himself or the team, both for the success of the Pacers, or his own All-NBA chances.

If anything, you can say that Haliburton has hurt his All-NBA chances since returning from injury and gutting it out on some nights. In recent games, the Pacers have looked better with him off the floor, including Sunday's matchup against San Antonio, where he was outplayed by T.J. McConnell for the second game in a row.

This, combined with the Pacers' rather mediocre record since trading for Pascal Siakam in January, has lessened Haliburton's once-solid All-NBA case to so-so status. The sad reality is, at this point, even if he reaches the 65-game requirement, Haliburton's late-season slump may be enough to take him out of All-NBA running and make it so he toughed out those post-injury games for nothing.

Thankfully, Haliburton's back is not completely against the wall yet. Due to returning from injury rather early, he still has four games to miss before he becomes award ineligible. Going forward, it may be best for him to miss some of these games to take some pressure off himself and lower the risk of further poor play, or possible re-injury.

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Haliburton's post-injury run is just one of a few cases of the 65-game rule being a polarizing figure around the league. With most players only looking to reach the threshold for individual accomplishments, Haliburton is looking for something different, a pay raise in his first big contract in the league. Unfortunately, there may be a time when he has to weigh his options going forward and decide if possible re-aggravation of injury or further poor play is worth it in the long run. Here's hoping he makes the right decision.