In podcast, Paul George and Tyrese Haliburton discuss benefits of strict Pacers culture

new balance

Not long after he signed his max contract extension, Pacers All-Star point guard Tyrese Haliburton sat down to speak with the last player to sign a maximum-level contract extension with the Pacers — Paul George.

Haliburton appeared on the latest episode of George’s podcast, Podcast P, for an episode that published Monday. With the Clippers’ forward’s co-hosts Jackie Long and Dallas Rutherford, Haliburton bounced through a wide array of topics in a show that ran over two hours.

Pacers fans may have had reason to be nervous about a conversation between George and Haliburton, considering George didn’t end up playing out the max extension he signed in 2013. He requested a trade in 2017 with one year left and was shipped that July to the Oklahoma City Thunder for Domantas Sabonis and Victor Oladipo. Sabonis, of course, was traded to Sacramento to acquire Haliburton.

But George spoke no ill about the Pacers in the podcast and he and Haliburton actually complimented the Pacers’ culture at length.

What stands out to both George and Haliburton is how strict the Pacers are about making sure players are where they are supposed to be at the time they are supposed to be there.

“From a culture standpoint, when guys came over, it was different than what they were used to,” George said. “And I loved it. It’s probably different now than the culture you guys have now, the team. But when I was there, I wouldn’t necessarily say it was military, but it was damn near close. … I’m a person who deals well with structure so I loved the culture.”

George and Haliburton both agreed the training staff, led by Josh Corbeil and Carl Eaton, is one of the best in the league, but they’re also extremely strict about making sure players get to their appointments on time. The penalty for being late are legitimate fines, George and Haliburton said.

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“Do they still fine when you’re late for when you’re late on treatment times?” George asked.

“Ev-ery-thing,” Haliburton said, slowing down the word for emphasis. “Ev-ery-thing bro. I be getting so mad at Josh. I live 30 minutes away from the gym. Sometimes traffic might hit or something, or I stop to talk to somebody on my way to treatment. … If I walk in there at 8:47 for 8:45 treatment, they just say, ‘What up?’ like everything’s sweet. But I get to my locker and I’m like, ‘What is that?’ It’s a fine. I’m like, ‘Ah, nah, this is crazy.’ For two minutes late.”

“You could be in the building,” George said, “but if you ain’t in that room and on that table at 8:45, it’s a fine.”

“How much is the fine?” Long asked both.

“It’s not a couple hundred,” George said, suggesting it’s significantly more. “It’s sure not a couple hundred dollars.

George said there were players on the team who told him they weren’t sure they could handle that kind of culture, but George said it made the Pacers better.

“That’s why it’s different,” George said. “… I love it because I’ve been places where guys trickle in whenever they want to. Nah, bro. We’re trying to win something. We need you here at this time. With Indy, everybody was in the arena at least an hour before practice. That does so much for a team as opposed to dudes rolling in 20 minutes before, 30 minutes before practice.”

Haliburton said that approach is what finally got him in the weight room on a regular basis. For as much of a basketball savant as he is, he’s always acknowledged that he does a lot less work in the weight room than he does on the court. He was notoriously skinny as a high school player and said he arrived at Iowa State at 6-5 and weighing just 155 pounds. He added muscle there and some in Sacramento as well, but the Pacers have pushed him to do a lot more, and he’s been particularly dedicated to weights this offseason.

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“They’re militant with the lifting part of it too,” Haliburton said. “My first two years, during the season, I ain’t touching the weights. Ain’t no way, you know what I mean. After I got traded, I remember I walked in and (strength and conditioning coach Shawn Windle) was like, ‘We’re gonna lift today.’ I’m like, ‘Aight, whatever.’ He’s like, ‘When’s the last time you lifted?’ I’m like, ‘Two-and-a-half, three weeks.’ He started laughing. I said, ‘Why are you laughing? I’m being serious.’ He said, ‘There’s no way.’ And we lift every day. Every day. Even if it’s just body maintenance, we lift every day.”

Haliburton and George both said that’s not necessarily normal for what they see elsewhere and the fines help set expectations for young players when they enter the league.

“I loved it,” George said. “I’m not saying it from an area of complaining. I loved it. Regardless of if I hated being fined on that day, I loved that they treated you like, ‘Hey, be a professional.'”

Said Haliburton: “That just helps set the tone for, this is how you’re supposed to be. It’s good for the young guys because it depends on where you are. You can be some place where dudes walk in at 9:55 (for a 10 a.m. practice) and you think that’s regular. At first you’re like, ‘That’s weird,’ but you get used to it because it’s the NBA and everywhere dudes are doing things you ain’t never seen before. That sets the tone the right way.”

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“It’s wild other places,” George said.

George did discuss the difficulty the Pacers have had landing high-priced free agents, which George said in 2020 had a lot to do with the reason he requested a trade. He said then on the Player’s Tribune Knuckleheads Podcast with Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson that a player he considered the best power forward in the NBA — later acknowledged to be Anthony Davis — came to him in 2017 and told him he wanted to join the Pacers, but the Pacers couldn’t or wouldn’t make it happen and he viewed that as a sign they didn’t really want to win, so he was traded.

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George was asked by Long about the reason the Pacers struggle to sign such players. He mentioned Davis. George did not address that story with any detail, however.

“The problem was — and I don’t want this to sound bad — but it’s Indiana,” George said. “When people would go in free agency, they go out West immediately. Phoenix, Lakers, Clippers. Everybody wants to go to the bigger destinations. For us, it was just, ‘OK, how do we cycle through whoever else wasn’t picked to go to these bigger markets.’ That was just the challenge we had. But when guys went there, it was like, ‘Oh, the culture they love.'”

George and Haliburton talked about the players the Pacers have added in the offseason, as they signed Bruce Brown and added Obi Toppin in a trade with the Knicks.

“Indy going up,” George said. “Indy going up. I see y’all.”

Listen to the full podcast here:

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: Paul George and Tyrese Haliburton discuss Pacers culture

new balance

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