Pacers enjoying most media attention in years thanks to the In-Season Tournament

For the first time in years, the Indiana Pacers have been at the center of attention around the NBA, all thanks to the In-Season Tournament.
Indiana Pacers, Tyrese Haliburton, In-Season Tournament
Indiana Pacers, Tyrese Haliburton, In-Season Tournament / Anadolu/GettyImages

Ever since trading Paul George, the Indiana Pacers have not exactly been a beacon of relevancy around the league, at least regarding media attention. For years, the Pacers have been seen as a non-factor around the league at worst and a "league pass team" at best, only getting attention when the Lakers, Celtics, and Knicks of the basketball world are not playing.

And honestly, who can blame people?

Since the Paul George trade and Victor Oladipo's fall from grace due to injury, the Pacers have played a slow, plodding style of basketball led by an old-school, defense-oriented coach and ran through a post-centric big man surrounded by shooters without a true floor general.

That was, until February 8, 2022, when the Pacers made the trade that would change their fortunes drastically, sending 25-year-old budding star and centerpiece of the team Domantas Sabonis to the Sacramento Kings for Tyrese Haliburton, immediately jump-starting the rebuild as Indiana pivoted in direction from a middle of the pack playoff team to one of the most exciting young teams in the league.

Even with the Haliburton trade, the media more or less didn't pay attention to the Pacers, only really bringing them up when it was time to discuss the Haliburton/Sabonis trade and talk about who won it, a discussion that has grown increasingly redundant over the past few months.

This season, however, Indiana had a chance to change that for the better, and it was all because of the In-Season Tournament. For four group play games and three knockout games, the Indiana Pacers were brought up more in the basketball world than ever before, going back to the Paul George era when they were going head-to-head with LeBron James and the Miami Heat.

Tyrese Haliburton, in particular, got the most media love, as his dazzling displays of offensive firepower made it so the national media had no choice but to pay attention to the Pacers, as was stated by Stephen A. Smith after their semifinal win over the Milwaukee Bucks.

Surprisingly, one of the primary beneficiaries of the Pacers' increased media attention, along with Tyrese Haliburton himself, was his dad. For a few days, John Haliburton looked like the second star the Pacers have been looking for all along, as his antics before, during, and after games were put on display on the big stage, as he even got a spot next to his son on the Inside the NBA desk after the Milwaukee Bucks game.

This added media attention on Indiana has had mostly good consequences, with Haliburton taking advantage of his and the team's increased platform and letting other stars around the league know that he wants them to come to Indiana to play with him.

Indeed, playing with Tyrese Haliburton has to feel like an enticing offer for stars in the league, especially ones on a team that doesn't fit their direction and that are looking to move on from them, such as the Raptors with OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam.

Unfortunately, as is the case with all high-profile stars, with great power comes great responsibility, and as Haliburton and the Pacers got more fans, the detractors also came. Ever since their In-Season Tournament rise and unlikely wins, Haliburton and company have been called out as a "fluke team," and Haliburton himself has been called out for his peculiar shooting form, his lack of aggressiveness when it comes to scoring the ball at times, and his defensive missteps.

This has happened to every player that has been put under the spotlight, as some fans cannot handle when a player breaks out and perhaps threatens the players on their favorite team, even being placed above them by some people.

New fans and haters aside, Tyrese Haliburton and the Pacers surely enjoy this recent media attention on the team, and with the 2024 All-Star Weekend festivities being held in Indiana, now is a better time than ever for the Pacers to string some more wins together given that Haliburton will receive a hero's welcome in the All-Star Game, a game that he will most likely be starting in given this type of production.

One has to imagine that the Pacers are looking further than the All-Star Game and towards the playoffs. Of course, every playoff game is televised, whether that be on ESPN or TNT. Suppose the Pacers continue playing at this rate.

In that case, they will most likely be a shoo-in for the playoffs, making it around the 5-7 seed region and giving some top East team troubles in the first round, even having significant upset potential if they get their defensive issues figured out and maybe get a second scoring threat next to Haliburton.

For years, Pacers fans have complained about their team not getting enough media attention compared to the Lakers and Celtics of the world.

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With a young and exciting point guard on board and most likely being in Indy for a long time combined with a winning team, that narrative is on the brink of being switched, and the Pacers are set to enjoy the most media attention they have received in years. It will be up to the team to keep that momentum going and win over some new fans.