What Pacers fans should watch for in Tyrese Haliburton's Olympics debut

Here are two things Pacers fans should watch for in Tyrese Haliburton's Olympic debut.
2024 USAB Men's Training Camp n Las Vegas
2024 USAB Men's Training Camp n Las Vegas / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

Tyrese Haliburton is back representing the USA in the Olympics. After helping Team USA to a fourth-place finish in the 2023 FIBA Tournament, Haliburton channeled that experience into being one of only two players from that 2023 team to be called back to Team USA for the following year's Olympics, for which training camp has started. Despite some backlash from detractors who claim players like Jalen Brunson, Kyrie Irving, or Trae Young deserved to make it over him, the bottom line is that Tyrese Haliburton is an Olympian at only 24 years old.

Now that he has successfully made his first Olympic team, what should Pacers fans be watching for when the action starts on July 10 against Canada? We have already seen what Tyrese Haliburton can bring to a star-studded team such as Team USA to a lesser extent last year, but how about now?

Haliburton is a year older with more experience under his belt, including some playoff success, and he will be joining a team consisting of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, and Stephen Curry instead of last year's team consisting of Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Jaren Jackson Jr, and Brandon Ingram.

To get the elephant out of the room first, we should not expect Haliburton to score much. While he does have the honor of being Team USA's backup point guard, he is on the team for his passing ability more than his scoring.

At points, he may be looked to for some scoring spark, such as his September 5 game last year against Italy, where he scored 18 points on 6-8 shooting from deep, but most of the time, he will be looked to for playmaking and setting his teammates up, in something of a watered down version of what he does in Indiana.

At this point, everyone and their mother knows about Tyrese Haliburton's playmaking ability, as it is one thing that even his detractors give him credit for. Haliburton has been a facilitator for his entire basketball career, going back to high school. This is not what I am interested in seeing, although it will be nice seeing him set up future Hall of Famers and superstars that he otherwise does not get to play with.

Rather than his playmaking, I will be looking for two things in Haliburton's first Olympic tenure, those being his shooting and defense. After a scorching-hot shooting start to the season where he was one of the best long-distance shooters in the league and could not seem to miss, Haliburton's shooting fell off a cliff after his return from injury, so much to the point where he dipped below 40% from deep for the first time in his career, ending the season at 36.4% after shooting 40.4% in his first 32 games.

Besides playmaking, shooting was the biggest thing Haliburton brought to Team USA in his FIBA tenure last season, shooting 47.2% from deep (third best on the team) on 4.5 attempts (second-most on the team). In the Olympics, Haliburton will most likely be given plenty of open shots due to the gravity of other scorers on the team, which will give him free target practice in a game environment for the first time since Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.

With it having been a month and a half since Haliburton's last recorded basketball game, this run will be a good litmus test to gauge how far along his jumper is to being 100% and how much progress he has made since then.

As for the defense, Haliburton has noticeably lacked on that end for a while, with it being a weakness of his since college. Even in the FIBA World Cup last year, one of Team USA's biggest lowlights was Haliburton slipping on the floor trying to close out on a three-pointer and giving up the points as a result.

During the regular season, he was not able to put much focus on defense because of the offensive load he was shouldering. Because of that, it will be interesting to see if Haliburton improves on that end this time around, with his height giving him more switchability than other guards who did not make the team such as Jalen Brunson, Kyrie Irving, or Trae Young.

At the end of the day, these two points are lumped into a bigger point, and the main story of the offseason and next season, which is Haliburton's injury recovery. Initially straining his hamstring in January, Haliburton's play took a remarkable nosedive in the second half of the season, with Indiana's playoff standing perhaps only being saved by the arrival of Pascal Siakam.

Luckily, he seemed to pick it up near the end of the season and had some vintage performances in the playoffs, especially in the second round against New York. However, even with those performances, it was clear that Haliburton was not 100%, and would not be without some rest.

Some concern was raised when Haliburton left Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals with another hamstring injury on the same leg, resulting in him missing the final two games of the series and Indiana getting swept. Since that fateful night in Boston, Haliburton has had plenty of time to rest and recover in preparation for the Olympics, and it is now or never to get himself back into form.

There will not be a long grace period between the Olympics ending and training camp for the 2024-25 season starting, so what we see in the following weeks will be a bigger indication of what the following season has in store. These coming weeks and months mean a lot in terms of which Tyrese Haliburton we will see this following season, with the hope being that he has had enough time to recover and get back to his old self, both physically and mentally.

There is a lot to be excited about in Indiana. For only the second time since 1996, an Indiana Pacer will be front and center to help Team USA regain their past glory. Tyrese Haliburton will be counted upon by not only Pacers fans, but plenty more basketball fans this time, with some still turned off by his addition to the team over players like Jalen Brunson, Kyrie Irving, and Trae Young.


It is up to Haliburton to prove these people wrong once again, and Pacers fans will be eagerly watching his every move come July 10 and Team USA's first showcase game against Andrew Nembhard, Bennedict Mathurin, and Team Canada.