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It’s all starting to happen for Tyrese Haliburton. The Pacers point guard really started to take flight in 2022, during his first full season with Indiana (after a trade the previous year from Sacramento), but he's entered a new stratosphere this year. Haliburton is one of the stars of this NBA season, guiding the Pacers to an eye-opening appearance in the In-Season Tournament’s championship game, averaging a career high in points per game, and leading the league in assists. He missed a few mid-January games with a hamstring injury, but he’s back in action now, and while he was down, the Pacers geared up for a second-half run by acquiring Pascal Siakam from the Raptors.
While Haliburton—a proud Midwestern kid from Oshkosh, Wisconsin—is on pace to make his first All-NBA team, he’s also featured on this season of Pass the Rock, the league’s behind-the-scenes show that streams exclusively on the NBA app. The show allows fans to get a peek into Haliburton’s life—his episode drops on February 12—before he likely takes center stage at the upcoming All-Star festivities in Indiana. We asked Haliburton about representing in front of the home crowd—but we also learned that he added ginger ale to the beverage rotation this year, and that his nerdiest teammate has yet another obsession that the world hasn’t seen yet.
Does it feel like you’ve arrived now?
I don’t know, I still think I have a lot of room to do a lot of different things. I want to break a lot more records, win more games, win a championship. There’s a lot I want to do as a basketball player. I don’t know if I can necessarily say I’ve arrived yet. That’s not for me to decide. That’s for the fans.
After getting traded from Sacramento to Indiana, how long did it take for you to feel comfortable?
My family is from Kokomo, Indiana. It’s maybe 45 minutes from here. I used to go there every summer for a family reunion. I also played AAU basketball, and we usually had two or three tournaments in Indianapolis or Fort Wayne. I’d been here a few times, but in terms of being in the city, I hadn’t been here a ton. It’s very similar to home and it’s what I’m used to, so it was a seamless transition.
Obviously, they put you in a hotel when you first get here. So, finding somewhere to live—my mom, my dad, and my family came, so we all had to figure out where we were going to live. Having all my stuff in front of me, my clothes and stuff, that’s when it finally [clicked]. I’m from the Midwest, so the weather didn’t really bother me. The people are great, it’s what I love. This is who I am. The culture of Indiana is me to the core. It was just a matter of—I’m a routine guy. Getting all that down really helped.
After the [2021-22] season ended, I was able to step away for a little bit and get my mind right. That was good for me—getting away from the hoops stuff and just reflecting on where my life was at that point. Going into that summer, I had a lot of people to prove wrong, I really had to lock in. That’s when I really got going.
So you’re one of those people that’s fueled by doubt?
Yes! I was a very underrated, under-recruited kid for my whole life. That’s all part of who I am as a person and makes me who I am today.
You have a pretty classic weird shot. It’s not how you would teach someone to shoot a jumper. I want to know who your favorite weird shot guys were growing up, the guys you could point to and say, “See, it doesn’t matter how it looks as long as it goes in!”
That’s a good question. I would say Kevin Martin. But also, Michael Redd on the Bucks was close to me and easy to watch. He was probably the biggest one. I didn’t like the Bucks growing up, because they weren’t very good. But I liked Michael Redd!
Something I’ve noticed about you this year—and the numbers back this up—is that you’re scoring a lot more in the mid-range. That’s a shot that has really fallen out of fashion thanks to the analytics movement, so I’m curious how that ended up being such a big part of your game.
For me, it was just about wanting to score at all three levels. I think I’m good at the rim; I think I’m good from three. Figuring out my spots in between there has been a journey. When I first got to the NBA, all my points were either catch-and-shoot threes or floaters. Then in my second and third years, my floater kind of disappeared. Not because I wasn’t confident in it—I just didn’t shoot it anymore! [I’ve been] trying to find that balance in the in-between game, and understanding that if I want to score more points, the in-between game is a really tough thing to guard, because analytics has made everything at the three-point line or the rim. When you’re in a pick and roll, teams are either trying to run to the rim or get out to the three-point line for kick-outs. For me, it was, How can I score in between?
I’m a smart person. I understand analytics. I understand the mid-range is a tougher shot. But at the same time, I spent my whole summer working to get better in every capacity. That mid-range is just about trusting it. I had never really shot it before I got to the NBA, at least at this rate.
You’ve also had seven games this year with at least 12 assists and zero turnovers. How much do you hate turning the ball over? Because you play like someone who really hates turning it over!
Yeah, yeah, I will say that I hate turning the ball over. It annoys me so much, just because a lot of times I didn’t even have to! A lot of my turnovers are unforced. So, it bothers me to my core, for sure. I’d rather go 0-for-10 with ten air balls than turn the ball over, to be honest. As the point guard, my job is to take care of the ball and get us good shots every possession. When I’m turning the ball over, it feels like a domino effect sometimes. The few games that I have high turnover numbers, our team has high turnover numbers. It definitely, definitely bothers me.
What is your relationship like with your head coach, Rick Carlisle? A lot of people know him for all that he’s done in coaching, but I’m curious if he ever brings up the fact that he also got a ring as a player on the 1986 Celtics?
[laughing] Being around for as long as he has comes with a lot of stories! Rick has been around some of the greatest basketball minds—Larry Bird, Dirk [Nowitzki], Jason Kidd. To hear his stories and pick his brain is always a lot of fun. That goes for our whole coaching staff. Lloyd Pierce was with LeBron in Cleveland, Jannero Pargo was with the Lakers with Kobe and Shaq. That’s the great part about the NBA, being around other great minds and hearing them tell stories. At the end of the day, we’re all kind of basketball historians.
The All-Star Game this year is in Indianapolis. Have you allowed yourself to think about what it will be like to play in the All-Star Game in front of your home fans?
It’ll be a lot of fun! It’ll be an honor for me and my family. I’m really looking forward to it. They’re back to East vs. West this year, they want it to be a more serious, competitive game. That’ll be fun to be a part of. And it’s home! It’s Indy, it’s my city. I saw the reception that Lauri Markkanen got last year in Utah. It was unbelievable. I can only imagine what it will be like for me. I plan to be involved in All-Star Weekend as much as I can. I plan on going back to the Three Point Contest. I should have won last year and I choked!
You said you weren’t really a Bucks fan growing up in Wisconsin because they weren’t very good. The Pacers were pretty good! Were you paying closer attention to the Pacers than maybe most people were?
They were my 2K team! We couldn’t use the Heat growing up, that was cheating, so the Pacers were my 2K team. I’d usually sub out David West and put Lance Stephenson in, because undersized fours don’t really work well in 2K. At the same time, I didn’t like them, because I grew up a Bron fan. I tell PG [Paul George] that all the time, wasn’t a big fan, because I wanted to see the Heat win.
The other good thing about playing with the Pacers in 2K is they have great throwback jerseys.
Elite throwbacks. Everybody always puts them in the pinstripes, of course.
Do you like the yellow or the blue pinstripes better?
I think I like the yellow more.
Does it feel like people are taking y’all more seriously now?
One hundred percent. Last year it felt like no one really knew what to expect when they played us. We were kind of a surprise, sneaking up on teams. This year, in the In-Season Tournament we were the surprise team or whatever, woke some people up. But teams know what to expect when we come into their building now. We play fast, we shoot a lot of threes, I think that’s cool. We’re not a surprise anymore! That’s fun and part of the challenge of growing as a team, understanding that you’re going to get every team’s best shot.
But you also just said that you’re fueled by doubt, so does it help to maintain an underdog mentality and remain a little petty?
Yeah, that’s not going to change. No matter what type of success we have, it will always be, what are they gonna do when the playoffs come? They’ve got a bunch of guys who have never won before. Honestly, every team goes through that, unless you just won the championship. The Bucks, the Celtics, the Sixers, it’s, what are you gonna do in the playoffs? That’s for the casual fans. We just want to control what we can at the end of the day.
A lot of people have learned about your teammate Myles Turner’s nerdy habits this year, whether it’s his Lego obsession or showing up to a game in the full Star Wars fit. What other things can you tell us about Myles that the world doesn’t know about?
He loves Rubik’s cubes! He’s got a big Rubik’s cube chain that he wears all the time. Fire. He’s definitely a bit of a nerd. But that’s why I love him. I kind of share that with him. I love video games, I love wrestling, I have my little things. It’s cool that he’s just himself. That’s my favorite thing about Myles.
Have you seen him solve a Rubik’s cube?
I’ve never seen him speed run it, but I do remember him carrying one for a long time as he was figuring it out. Someone handed me a Rubik’s cube the other day and asked if I could do it. I said no, and they were waiting for Myles because they knew he could figure it out. He loves Rubik’s cubes. It’s not for me.
Are you doing anything differently off the court this year that you think has contributed to this improvement?
Nah. My approach on a daily basis is pretty much the same. If it’s not a game day—treatment, lift, shoot, eat, get a massage, go home. My off days when I first got to the league were basically just chilling at the crib. Maybe I’d come in and shoot, but I avoided the weight room. Now I’m diving into it.
An underrated thing: I got sick in Cleveland earlier this year and had never had ginger ale before, not once. I drank ginger ale and was like, wow! I love this stuff! So now, ginger ale is my post-game drink of choice. I really stopped drinking soda for a long time, but ginger ale has become a big part of my diet. I’ll give some credit to ginger ale. I’m consistent with having ginger ale after pretty much every game.
Using ginger ale as medicine never made its way to the Haliburton house?
Maybe it did. My dad likes ginger ale. But I don’t know, I never drank it. I just never knew what it tasted like. I’m a picky guy. I don’t like to try new things. But my chef got the Fever Tree ones from Whole Foods. It is fire. If that’s not available, I’m a Canada Dry guy.
Originally Appeared on GQ