SACRAMENTO -- Basketball is a team game and Wednesday night against the Chicago Bulls, the Kings received huge contributions from just about every player that stepped on the court.
The Kings posted a 128-124 team win. They finished with 30 assists. They played together, moved the ball and when they needed a stop, they got it.
Richaun Holmes destroyed Chicago in the pick-and-roll to score 24 points. Harrison Barnes added 20 points and five assists. Marvin Bagley had his best game of the season with 21 points and 12 rebounds and Buddy Hield managed to shake off a brutal shooting performance to hit the shot of the night.
And then there was Tyrese Haliburton.
Haliburton has instantly become a fan favorite and a media darling. The notoriety he is receiving is on par with what Tyreke Evans garnered during his Rookie of the Year 2009-10 season, but this is different.
While Haliburton can’t match Evans’ ability to stuff a stat sheet quite yet, there is something different about his play. He just doesn’t look like an NBA rookie and the stats he does post translate to something so much more.
“He’s just a very very savvy player,” Holmes said. “It’s a joy to play with him and get a chance to play off of him. He sets us up pretty well. I love playing with Ty.”
In the Kings’ win over the Bulls, Haliburton returned to action after missing two games with a bone bruise in his wrist. He injured the wrist in a massive fall against the Rockets and had plenty of other bumps and bruises to recover from.
The plan likely wasn’t to play the 20-year-old 35 minutes in his first game back on the floor, but with De’Aaron Fox pulling up lame early in the first quarter with hamstring tightness, Walton needed his rookie to play extended minutes.
It wasn’t pretty to start. Haliburton set up his teammates for some easy looks early, but they seemed to come up short. The rookie couldn’t get anything to drop either.
Heading into the fourth quarter, Haliburton had two points on 1-of-8 shooting from the field and four misses from 3-point range. He had five assists, but was running a negative four for the game.
Big time players step up in big moments and we are quickly learning that Haliburton is a big time player.
“All of the reports that our scouts and everyone, front office got on him was the intangibles that really make him a special player,” Walton said. “I think as the game goes on and the pressure comes of the fourth quarter, it just heightens his skill set from a mental standpoint to just making plays. The later in the game, the more confidence he gets.”
In the final 12 minutes, Haliburton shot 6-of-7 from the field and knocked down a perfect 3-for-3 from long range. He scored 15 of his career-high 17 in the fourth, as the Kings pulled ahead and came away with the win.
You could stop there, but it wouldn’t tell the entire story. In just his sixth NBA game, he also grabbed four rebounds, picked up two steals and blocked a shot in the final 12 minutes. He made winning basketball plays, which is a big reason why the Kings are 4-2 win him on the court.
“One of the things we’re finding out quickly about him is that he can facilitate, he can score, he can make big shots, but what he’s really good at is just making the right read,” Walton said.
Lastly, in 35 minutes of action, much of which Haliburton acted as the primary ball handler, he failed to register a turnover. Through six career games, he has only given the ball away four total times in 169 minutes and has a 4.7-to-.7 assist-to-turnover ratio.
“I was told growing up that being the point guard was kind of like being the mom of the team,” Haliburton said. “Your job is to keep everybody happy.”
This is only the beginning for the Iowa State star. He has the potential to score more. He has the potential to become an elite distributor. He is already one of the Kings’ best defenders, but he’s only scratched the surface.
In the end, Haliburton is just one of nine players that stepped on the court for Sacramento. He didn’t win the game single handedly and there might have even been players that impacted the final outcome more.
But when you look at his early body of work, there is something different about this player. Haliburton cares about winning above all else and he backs up every bit with confidence, swagger and meaningful plays.