Tyrese Haliburton
(NBAE/Getty Images)

Haliburton is Here to Stay

Tyrese Haliburton Press Conference (July 6, 2023) | Indiana Pacers

The Pacers made one of the most significant moves in franchise history official on Thursday, signing All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton to a massive, multi-year contract extension, the largest deal ever for a Pacer.

For such an important moment, offering Haliburton a max extension was quite simply one of the easiest decisions President of Basketball Operations Kevin Pritchard has ever had to make.

Pritchard had high hopes for Haliburton when Indiana traded for the 6-5 guard – then in his second NBA season – at the 2022 trade deadline. Over the past year and a half, Haliburton has far and away exceeded all expectations in all aspects, from his superb play on the court to his infectious influence in the locker room to his sincere commitment to the community.

In just 82 games so far with the Pacers, Haliburton has already established himself as one of the more beloved players to don an Indiana uniform in the nearly 20 years since Reggie Miller's retirement. The good news for Pacers fans is that they will have many more years to enjoy watching Haliburton play for the Blue & Gold.

Haliburton will play next season on the fourth and final year of his rookie contract before his extension kicks in, a deal that will keep him under contract in Indiana through nearly the remainder of this decade.

Already an All-Star last year in just his third NBA season, when he led the Pacers in scoring (20.7 points per game), assists (10.4), and steals (1.6), it's hard to imagine what the 23-year-old guard could grow into over the course of his contract.

He already rewrote the record books last season, setting a new franchise mark for 3-pointers in a game (10, including the game-winner in a 43-point performance in a Dec. 23 win at Miami), shattering Mark Jackson's team record for assists per game average (8.7 in 1997-98), and becoming the first player in NBA history to average 20 points and 10 assists while also shooting 40 percent from 3-point range over the course of a season.

As long as Haliburton is running the show, the Pacers will have a must-watch offense. He is a supremely gifted passer, loves to play up tempo and get his teammates involved, and is always a threat to pull up and knock down a shot from anywhere on the court.

But it's not just Haliburton's style of play that endears him to fans, teammates, and coaches alike. He also carries himself in a way that makes him easy to root for. Haliburton is seemingly always bursting with energy. He's extremely competitive, but is also clearly having fun every time he steps on the court, a quality that seemed to rub off on his teammates early last season as the Pacers defied preseason expectations.

Tyrese Haliburton, Nikola Jokic

Perhaps the most endearing quality about Haliburton – and what has allowed him to build some deep roots in a relatively short time in the organization – is his ability to connect with other people.

"I’ve never been around a more complete, empathetic, understanding of what the real world is, loving, taking care of the small people, truly committed to community leader like him," Pritchard said at his end-of-season press conference. "I’ve never seen it. I’ve never seen a connector like Tyrese ever. Like ever. He connects with our balls boys, he connects with the president or the CEO of some company. He just has this ability to make people feel comfortable around him."

Of course the Pacers would want to keep a player like Haliburton around for as long as possible. But just as importantly for Pacers fans, Haliburton wants to be here.

Haliburton has already done so much in the community. He's surprised fans at local parks, organized his own youth camp, and taken over as the host of the franchise's annual Come to Our House Season of Giving Dinner.

He visited Indianapolis Motor Speedway and hung out with Mario Andretti last year at the 2022 GMR Grand Prix. The kid from Oshkosh, Wisconsin then earned honorary Hoosier credentials this May when he drove the pace car at the start of the 2023 Indy 500.

Even in the offseason, Haliburton is in town more often than not. He has been a regular presence at the Ascension St. Vincent Center over the past few months, taking part in offseason workouts alongside several of his teammates.

Even in retirement, Miller's presence looms large over the Pacers. The Hall of Famer is far and away the most celebrated player in franchise history, playing his entire 18-year career in Indiana and setting seemingly every team record.

Haliburton shares plenty of similarities with Miller, from his scrawny build to his unorthodox (but highly efficient) shot. It's far too early to be drawing comparisons between the two, especially with Haliburton so early in his career.

But Pacers fans have been seemingly searching for 20 years for a worthy heir to Miller. And they just might have found him in Tyrese Haliburton.