Rarely do you find a rookie with the composure and ability to capture the feelings of so many with his words. Tyrese Haliburton has a gift. Not only is he a very good young basketball player, but he wears his heart on his sleeve.
Haliburton, like many of the players around him on the Kings’ roster, wants to be great. They want to win and more than anything else, they want to be in the playoffs and snap the 14-year streak of futility that hangs over Sacramento’s franchise like a dark cloud.
After losing for the seventh straight game, the rookie stood in to take the hits from the media. His eyes were red with frustration. He began the session with his head held so low that he wasn’t even visible on the Zoom screen.
“I don’t know what to say, just very frustrated,” Haliburton said. “My mom and my dad are probably going to watch this, so I’m not going to cuss or nothing like that, I think we’re all just irritated. We obviously want to win.”
We’ve seen De’Aaron Fox, Harrison Barnes and Richaun Holmes all have this same look of pain this season. This isn’t who this team believes they are. This isn’t who they want to be.
It’s one thing to tank. Kings fans have watched that happen countless times over the last decade and a half. But this is something different.
The Kings are a team that can’t find the connection with each other that it takes to win. We can point fingers and place blame, but at the end of the day, this isn’t a team that has quit or is rebelling. It’s a team that can’t break a cycle and embrace success.
“There are some people who might doubt our effort, how much we care, but we get along very well, we want to win,” Haliburton added. “It’s not like we’re just coming out here and saying ‘who cares,’ like, we’re coming out here competing to win basketball games.”
The fight the Kings put up in the second half of their 117-110 loss to the New Orleans Pelicans shows that there is still life in this group. The fact that they missed their first 14 3-point attempts and knocked down just 22-of-37 from the free-throw line points to a team that is struggling to live in the moment.
While the overall record is unacceptable this season, the most frustrating part of the 2020-21 campaign is that the prolonged losing streaks were preceded by moments where the team played well and battled back into contention.
“We know we’re better than this, we’ve proven we’re better than this throughout the year,” Haliburton said. “But obviously, consistency has plagued us our whole season.”
Haliburton has no agenda. He isn’t trying to win people over with his words. He’s crushed by the losing, like everyone else associated with the team.
This is encouraging. Haliburton is encouraging. There have been plenty of players who have come through Sacramento who didn’t care about wins and losses. They were more concerned with personal accolades, paychecks or their next stop.
The final report on this season isn’t ready to be delivered quite yet, but when it is, there will be bright spots to point to, even though the overall product didn’t deliver the ultimate goal. The play, personality and potential of Tyrese Haliburton will be at the top of the list.