Seldom do you find a rookie who walks into the NBA and has the maturity and composure like Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton. Whether it's talking basketball, NBA Top Shot, politics or social justice, he is wise beyond his years and a growing voice in the league.
Following Sacramento's 119-105 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers of Monday, the rookie lambasted fans who were tagging him on social media celebrating a season-ending injury to Rookie of the Year frontrunner LaMelo Ball.
"It was kinda frustrating to see people tagging me and stuff and hitting me up," Haliburton said. "It seemed like people were excited or something. I hated that. I think that's terrible."
Haliburton, 21, played just 22 games in his sophomore season at Iowa State due to a similar injury and he knows what lies ahead for Ball.
"I just thought that was garbage," Haliburton added. "I'm praying for him. I hope he heals up the right way."
Both Haliburton and Ball won the first two NBA Rookie of the Month awards this season, Haliburton in the West and Ball in the Eastern Conference. Ball had pulled away slightly in the race for NBA Rookie of the Year, but there was still plenty of time left in the season.
With Ball set to miss more than 30 games of the abbreviated 72-game season, the chances of him still winning the award drop significantly.
Haliburton has missed time as well, but he's now starting and set to play a major role with the Kings the rest of this season.
"I work really hard, it's cool for me to be in that conversation, but I can't pay too much attention to it," Haliburton said. "Like I told you guys from the jump, I want to win games, I want to be a part of team that gets Sacramento back to the playoffs and I want to be a part of the team that eventually brings Sacramento a championship."
With Ball potentially falling out of the race, Haliburton and Minnesota Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards have to be considered favorites. The T-Wolves have won only 10 games, so Haliburton's best chance to win the award is to continue to put up numbers and help lead the Kings back into playoff contention.
At 18-25, the Kings currently sit 3.5 games out of the 10th seed, which is eligible for the play-in games this season. They are also just 5.5 games behind the San Antonio Spurs for the seventh seed with 29 games remaining in the regular season.