Tyrese Haliburton is either the most prepared rookie to come in the NBA or he has no idea what he is about to encounter.
As the 20-year-old readied for his first game action, Haliburton took time out of his day to speak to the media and confidence oozed out of the No. 12 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
Does he have first game jitters? No. Does he know the playbook? Well enough. Is he prepared? Sure, he plays NBA 2K.
“I’m not super nervous or anything,” Haliburton said. “I feel fine, it just feels like another game. I think it’s going to be a little bit different once I walk into the tunnel and put my uniform on before the game.”
Don’t take his confidence for a lack of excitement. Haliburton can’t wait to get on the floor for his first NBA game, even if there won’t be fans in the stands.
“I feel like a kid on Christmas day,” Haliburton said. “I’m just ready to get after it, ready to play with the best players in the world.”
One of the bigger adjustments has been the spacing and the length of the players around him. At the NBA level, gaps are smaller, closeouts come quicker and there is usually some on the floor that can put you on a poster at a moment's notice.
As for learning his teammates, Haliburton has used video games to get a jump on understanding their tendencies.
“I only play 2K with the Kings so I know who got a jumper on there, who don’t,” Haliburton said with a smile.
While his 2K comment was slightly tongue in cheek, he said he has used synergy and other forms of film study to understand his teammates and help put them in positions to succeed.
Haliburton might be ready for his first game, but it is possible that De’Aaron Fox will have a quick conversation with the rookie between his media session and game time to prep him for what he might face at the Moda Center on Friday night.
On Feb. 9, 2018, Fox received his baptism to the NBA by this same Portland Trail Blazers team. It’s a moment Fox has spoken on multiple times.
Damian Lillard torched Fox and every other player the Kings threw at the All-Star guard, dropping 50 points in less than 30 minutes of action. To this day, Fox still considers Lillard one of the most difficult covers in the league.
That moment will come for Haliburton as well, it is just a matter of when.
The Kings have high hopes for Haliburton this season and it is very likely that he is one of the first players off the bench for coach Luke Walton. There is a lot to like about his versatility on both ends of the court and the Kings envision him pairing well with Fox long-term.
Despite his confidence, Haliburton will have a learning curve. How steep is unknown at this point, but he’s drawn strong reviews from his teammates and coaches so far during training camp. Now it is time to see how he looks in game action against someone in a different colored uniform.