Tyrese Haliburton was six years old the last time the Kings qualified for the NBA playoffs at the end of the 2005-06 season. Now on the verge of setting an NBA record with a 16th consecutive year absent a playoff appearance, the Kings' stars aren't worried about the mounting pressure.
"I don't think anybody or any statistic, any record can put more pressure on myself than what I put on myself if that makes sense," Tyrese Haliburton told reporters Monday as training camp nears its inception. "I have a standard that I want to uphold in my athletic ability, I want to win, that's been my thing is I want to be a winning basketball player, and I think everybody agrees with that -- they want to win as well.
"I think the pressure is more so from ourselves, because the accountability that we have within each other that we want to be successful. I don't think it's anything of tying the longest record or anything like that, I didn't even know that until you just said that."
After being the 12th overall draft pick in 2020, Haliburton quickly has become one of the franchise's leaders following a strong first NBA season that nearly ended with Rookie of the Year honors.
The Kings' face of the franchise, De'Aaron Fox, echoed Haliburton's sentiments, deflecting the perceived pressure of getting the Kings back into the postseason.
"I wouldn't necessarily say pressure, at the end of the day we just control what we can control," Fox said. "Last year we let a few stretches get out of hand, and that ultimately cost us and we were close but not close enough obviously. For us, it's just as a team we have to continue to stick together. Everybody always says don't get too high on your highs, don't get too low on your lows, and I think last year at times, we got too low on our lows, and at times last year we got too low, and we had to dig ourselves out of that hole basically."
With the play-in tournament looking to be a permanent fixture on the NBA schedule, the Kings will have a greater chance of finding their way into the playoffs in coming years. There were a few weeks late in the 2020-21 season where the Kings thought they might be able to crack the initial play-in tournament, but a nine-game losing streak in April ultimately put Sacramento too far behind.
The addition of first-round draft pick Davion Mitchell has Kings fans excited about a potential defensive turnaround, after posting the second-worst defensive rating in league history during the abbreviated 2020-21 campaign.
External pressure will be inevitable, but internally, the Kings simply are focused on being the best team they can be.