Kings’ Tyrese Haliburton comes up big again, has a “swag to the game”


Haliburton plays entire fourth quarter in win over Nuggets originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SACRAMENTO — Tyrese Haliburton doesn’t need a hype man. In fact, you almost expect him to run into the stands during timeouts and put his Kings No. 0 jersey on some of the cardboard cutouts.

Thirteen of the last fourteen seasons the Kings have drafted in the NBA lottery. The lone season they didn’t was because they had traded away their pick. Out of all of those players, big, small and somewhere in between, we have never seen a player like Haliburton.

That’s not to say he will be better than De’Aaron Fox or even Marvin Bagley. He probably won’t ever match either in raw numbers. But he’s different and if his first four games are any indication, Haliburton is a player that impacts the only statistic that truly matters – the win column.

In the Kings’ 125-115 victory over the Denver Nuggets, Haliburton posted 13 points, six assists, three steals and three rebounds. Those are modest numbers, but eight of his points and five of his assists came in the fourth quarter as the Kings tracked down the Nuggets and ran them off the court.

“He plays beyond his years and we all have the utmost confidence in him with the ball, even in a tight game like this against a team like Denver,” De’Aaron Fox said. “He steps to the occasion. He’s played well. He’s only played four games in his career and you would have thought he’s played a few years already.”

Luke Walton showed so much faith in his rookie guard that he played him the entire fourth quarter. Sacramento erased a four-point third quarter deficit in the final 12 minutes and punished the Nuggets with a 29-15 final frame.

“I can’t believe he went as low as he did in the draft,” Richaun Holmes said. “I was just talking to the guys in the back. He’s got a vision, he plays a couple of games ahead, he sees the game a couple of plays ahead and just his IQ, his feel for the game, he knows where people are supposed to be, he knows when to hit people, he knows when the shot is open, he just knows how to play basketball.”

The Kings front office celebrated when Haliburton fell to the No. 12 overall pick on draft night. At this point, the group is looking like a team of geniuses that may have found another franchise building block.

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Haliburton isn’t just filling up the stat sheet, which he did at an elite level as a sophomore at Iowa State last season. He is making winning plays for his team.

At the 3:08 mark of the fourth quarter and with the Nuggets cutting the Kings’ lead to single digits, Holmes kicked the ball to Haliburton near the logo at center court. With the shot clock winding down, Haliburton threw up a 29-footer that found pay dirt.

The 20-year-old makes the routine play, he has an ability to sprint the floor at breakneck speed and he even has moments where he gets fancy.

“He understands the game so well,” Fox said following the win. “He threw a post entry and like did a spin and we were sitting there laughing on the bench. He has a swag to the game, but we’re confident in him doing anything.”

It’s hard not to like what you are seeing from the first year guard. He proclaimed on draft night that he wanted to win the NBA’s Rookie of the Year trophy. If he can continue to help the Kings win, there is a shot he’ll be in the running, regardless of how many points, rebounds and assists he averages.

The only one who doesn’t seem surprised by Haliburton’s play is Haliburton himself. He’s the one who’s put in the time and worked tirelessly on his game. He is confident and he’s getting incredibly comfortable.

“I don’t want to sound arrogant, but it’s about time,” Haliburton said. “I worked for this, so I’m not going to sit here and tell you I’m surprised or anything like that.”

The sample size is still extremely small, but Haliburton is incredibly unique. His shot doesn’t always look perfect, but the ball goes in. He needs to get stronger, but the Kings’ defense is much better when he’s on the court. He can run the offense or play off the ball. He speaks his mind and has a confidence rarely seen in a rookie.

At the end of the day, Haliburton is a big reason why the Kings are 3-1 on the season. If he can keep it up, the Kings have a shot to be in every game and the accolades will come.