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Kings' Haliburton playing like veteran in first preseason

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No Summer League. No break to find a house and get comfortable in a new city. No time to study the playbook or learn new terminology.

The 2020 NBA Draft class is in the thick of it already, and they haven’t even had a month to break in that hat they were handed -- virtually -- by commissioner Adam Silver back on Nov. 18.

It’s a dog-eat-dog world, and rookies like Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton are fighting to learn the survival skills that are necessary to thrive in the NBA on a very accelerated timeline.

In two preseason games, Haliburton has shown glimpses of the steal the Kings believe they landed with the No. 12 overall selection in this year's draft.

“I don’t know how other rookies are approaching it, but I think the best way to go about it is this is kind of our Summer League and our preseason all in one, combined and condensed into four games” Haliburton said Sunday following the Kings’ 121-106 win over the Portland Trail Blazers.

Haliburton had a pedestrian preseason debut Friday. He dished a few nice passes and made two buckets, but the 20-year-old posted an otherwise forgettable five points, two assists and three rebounds in about 20 minutes of play.

When the former Iowa State star stepped on the court for his second preseason game on Sunday, he looked aggressive and much more comfortable. Haliburton stuffed the stat sheet in the same way he did during his sophomore season in the NCAA, which is a good thing for the Kings.

 

The versatile playmaker scored a modest 11 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including one make from long range on three attempts. In 30 minutes of action, Haliburton dished out seven assists and grabbed six rebounds. The assist total is lower than it should have been, but you can’t control what happens to a pass once it lands in a teammates hands.

"Those instincts for someone as young as he is and was only drafted a few weeks ago is pretty exciting,” coach Luke Walton said following the game.

The rookie was a nuisance on defense and managed to add a steal and a block to his stat line. Haliburton also was a team-high plus-20, staying under control on defense and not registering a single personal foul. He also was the primary ball-handler much of the night, and he didn't turn the ball over once.

That maturity has carried over off the court, too. In fact, Haliburton's ability to do so much more than put the ball in the basket might the most valuable ability he brings to the Kings.

“He’s been a leader since he stepped in,” Richaun Holmes said. “He does a great job pushing the pace, he pushes us on the defensive end, he’s always in the pacing lanes, putting pressure on the ball. He’s been playing great. He’s going to be a huge part of this team moving forward.”

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This is precisely the start the Kings hoped for when Haliburton fell to them in the draft. He has a high basketball IQ, and he already looks like a seamless fit in the Kings' up-tempo system.

There will be plenty of rough movements moving forward, but Haliburton has shown impressive poise during his first training camp and preseason. He has worked himself into the rotation, but he's aiming for more.

“It’s a mission for me to prove these guys right, that they made the right choice and prove others wrong that didn’t make that choice,” Haliburton said of his motivation. “I just have a great staff that really has my back and stays on me at all times.”

If Haliburton continues to play under control and develop more chemistry with his teammates, there is no telling how big of a role Haliburton can have with the Kings this season.