Wally Szczerbiak wasn’t named, but the Pacers clearly aren’t over the MSG Network analyst’s harsh criticism of star Tyrese Haliburton as they head into Wednesday’s clash with the Knicks.
The last time the teams played — a 109-106 Knicks’ win in Indiana on Dec. 18 — Szczerbiak took some unsolicited jabs at Haliburton on the postgame show, saying he was unable to help the Pacers close out the win. Szczerbiak called him a “Mr. supposed wannabe fake All-Star.”
“He’s a very good player, he’s not gonna make the All-Star team,” he said. “A guy like Julius Randle or Jalen Brunson will make it over Tyrese Haliburton. Tonight we saw why.”
Szczerbiak has since apologized on-air, but that didn’t seem to quell Haliburton and his teammates’ desire to prove the former 10-year NBA veteran wrong. Wednesday night’s matchup at Madison Square Garden will be the teams’ first meeting since that game. The Pacers come in having won eight of their last 10 and sit a game ahead of the Knicks in the East.
Haliburton said, “yes, yes” when asked by a reporter if he was looking forward to going to New York and showing what a different team the Pacers are than they were that night. Haliburton, who is averaging 20.3 points, 10.3 rebound and 4.3 assists this year, has not made the All-Star team in his previous three NBA seasons.
Guard T.J. McConnell took things a step further while making a passing reference to Szczerbiak.
“I think there was some fuel to that fire after the Knicks game,” McConnell told reporters. “Won’t name any names, but there was some fuel to that fire that sparked our All-Star to come out and take us to the next level. It started with Tyrese. He’s been phenomenal.”
Szczerbiak did “apologize personally” for his comments on air days later.
“He’s a wonderful young player,” he said. “He’s definitely in the All-Star conversation, along with guys like Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson. It’s going to be interesting to see who makes it and all those three players are wonderful players.”
When Haliburton was previously asked about Szczerbiak’s initial comment last month by Bleacher Report he said he had “no clue” what sparked the criticism.
“I don’t know, I think he just was excited about a Knicks win and that got him going,” Haliburton said at the time. “But he’s just doing whatever he can to get attention and that’s just the media these days.”