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In-season tournament provides added incentive for Haliburton, Pacers - ESPN

As the NBA was preparing to launch its first in-season tournament, something the league and commissioner Adam Silver repeatedly stressed was that introducing a cup tournament like those held in Europe would present teams with an opportunity to win something besides the Larry O'Brien Trophy in June.

In addition, by virtue of having all of the knockout stage games on national television, the tournament would create an opportunity for under-the-radar teams to play themselves into the national spotlight.

In other words, it was created for a team exactly like the Indiana Pacers.

«The in-season tournament is probably the first time that I'm really competing to win a championship on the NBA level,» Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton told ESPN. «I've never made the playoffs or anything, so right here it gives me the chance to be able to do that, and that's exciting for me.

»There's definitely some more juice to those games, and it's exciting. It's an exciting time for the league and you know, I think we're all trying to push the in-season tournament to be a bigger thing because everybody wants there to be some meaning to it."

Indiana has one scheduled nationally televised game this season: Jan. 30 in Boston on TNT. That will, in fact, be the first time in Haliburton's career that he'll appear on the network — unless he can put the Pacers into the quarterfinals of the in-season tournament with a win against the Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night, which would clinch East Group A for the Pacers.

For a Pacers team trying to reestablish itself as a playoff contender in the Eastern Conference, the chance to play in games with real stakes in the opening weeks of the season is something they aren't taking for granted.

«Opportunities to be on