Sports Journalism Blog

By Madie Chandler | @madie_chandler

Sports Capital Journalism Program

INDIANAPOLIS — Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers two-time All-Star guard, is on pace to play 63 of his team’s 82 games this season. Haliburton is also eligible to receive the Supermax Escalator on his newest contract should he be selected to an All-NBA team at the conclusion of the regular season.

His season averages of 21.8 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 11.7 assists per game warrant an all-league selection, and the NBA’s assist leader has his Pacers positioned to make a playoff push in the latter half of the season. Haliburton looks to bolster his bank account, but only if he appears in at least 22 of the Pacers’ remaining 26 games. If he doesn’t, he forfeits nearly $50 million on his next contract.

The NBA’s 65-game minimum for end-of-season award eligibility has become a center of controversy in league circles.

“I think it’s a stupid rule, like plenty of the guys in the league, but this is what the owners want,” Haliburton himself said earlier in the season. “As long as the owners are happy.”

Haliburton isn’t the only player in danger of becoming a casualty of the rule. Joel Embiid, Philadelphia 76ers center, finds himself on the outside of the Most Valuable Player race, participating in just 34 of his team’s 54 contests. In those 34 games, Embiid has averaged 35.3 points, 11.3 rebounds, and 5.7 assists. All of these stats exceed his 2023 MVP season marks of 33.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, and 4.2 assists.

“A lot of thought went into the 65-game demarcation,” said Adam Silver, NBA Commissioner. “Not only was it collectively bargained with the players but we spent extensive time leading up to collective bargaining, talking to all the various constituencies in the league. Most importantly, the coaches and general managers, and individual players directly…and the notion was we needed to further incentivize players, particularly star players to play more games.”

Silver added that league data shows players are participating in more games this season. This encourages league officials that the 65-game rule is incentivizing players to participate, and without repercussions as injury numbers are also down on the year.

There’s room for improvement, and the line will always keep some players on the outside looking in, like Haliburton and Embiid.

“I think the right time to take a further look at this rule is at the end of the season when we at least have a year under our belt,” Silver said when asked about amendments and tweaks to the rule. The league is pleased with the progress the minimum game requirement inspired, and it isn’t rushing to jeopardize that.