Despite going head-to-head with his childhood idol, Hali’s big moment was when the Kings needed him most.
Sacramento Kings sophomore Tyrese Haliburton joined the Deuce & Mo Podcast this morning and shared what Morgan Ragan asked to be his “holy shit” moment coming out of this first year.
Both thought it might be the Kings’ final matchup vs. the Los Angeles Lakers, as that was Haliburton’s first time going toe-to-toe with his favorite player of all time, LeBron James. But surprisingly (or maybe not surprisingly because it is Tyrese we’re talking about) he shared that by that point in this season his dream match-up no longer phased him:
LA had beat us at home pretty bad the game before so I was super locked in going into that game. I knew that I was going to have to handle a bigger load, offensively and defensively and then guarding and being guarded by Dennis [Schröder] who’s going to pick me up full court … I was so locked in that day I was even thinking of anything like that. It was a cool moment to be on the same floor as him. My mom called me after the game and said “I thought you were going to be so nervous.” Like, nah; it’s the end of the year, mom. I’ve played against almost everyone so it’s not like that anymore.
The ‘Welcome to the NBA’ moment came much earlier in the season for Haliburton. It was less than two weeks into the season, at home vs. the Chicago Bulls. De’Aaron Fox had to exit the game early due to injury, so the offensive keys to the kingdom were handed directly over to the standout rookie:
The Chicago game at home. Fox had gotten hurt in the second or third quarter and didn’t come back. It was early in the year, but it was like they gave me the ball and were like ‘Go ahead”. I swear the whole second half I was making every decision…I felt like I was involved in every decision being made. After that my confidence was through the roof.
Fox had only played five minutes in the contest before leaving and Haliburton would go on to have 17 points, 6 assists and 7 rebounds through 34 minutes of play. Sacramento won the game 128-124 after letting Haliburton run point in Fox’s absence.
It’s no secret that Tyrese isn’t afraid of the moment. Game in and game out, he has proven that when the challenge calls, he is going to rise to the occasion. Hearing from him that a little over 10 days into the season was when he reached his rookie yips is quite telling of what his season would be: finishing third in Rookie of the Year voting behind LaMelo Ball and Anthony Edwards.
It’s easy to gather the composure and humility Haliburton carries from these anecdotes. Kings fans can only be excited about what’s to come in year two.