In a ranging conversation with Sam Amick from The Athletic, rookie Tyrese Haliburton might have inadvertently exposed one of the biggest issues the Kings have moving forward.
After starting 12 consecutive games, Haliburton was moved back to the second unit by coach Luke Walton last week in an attempt to better support the second unit and provide more size for the starting lineup.
Haliburton took the news in stride.
“About coming off the bench, I’m not tripping off that,” Haliburton told Amick. “At the end of the day, I’m a basketball player. I’m not just saying this because it’s a media answer.”
While Haliburton might see a bigger picture, that might not be the case for Buddy Hield. The veteran 3-point specialist had been playing small forward with Haliburton moving into his regular shooting guard spot.
With Haliburton now playing with the second unit, Hield has moved back to the two-guard, with veteran Moe Harkless stepping in to provide length and defensive versatility at forward.
At some point, Hield asked Haliburton about his thoughts on the move, which the rookie relayed to Amick.
“Like, Buddy yelled at me yesterday because I told him this and he was like, ‘Oh, don’t give me the media answer,’” Haliburton said. “But it’s the truth. I’m a basketball player at the end of the day, so I’m coming out here to compete every night. If you put me off the bench or start me or however many minutes, I’m going to value those minutes and compete.”
Haliburton handled the situation well, but this mentality from Hield has affected the Kings in the past and it may only get worse in the coming weeks and months. League sources have confirmed that Haliburton is a starter for the Kings next season. There will likely be a point in the final 19 games where he is back in the starting backcourt alongside De’Aaron Fox.
What does that mean for Hield? If he’s still on the roster next season, he’ll either need to prepare to permanently move to the small forward spot or perhaps be ready to come off the bench in a super-sub role, like he did last season.
Haliburton is a team player. He values winning over stats or personal acclaim. Regardless of whether he starts or comes off the bench, he plays very similar minutes, which is what should matter. He also knows that he has a long future ahead of him and this is only the beginning of his career.
“Obviously I have aspirations to start and be a star and be a superstar, (and) I know that that can come,” Haliburton added “I’ve just got to go about my days the right way.”
Haliburton gets it. You can’t talk about building a winning culture and then impede it. If the second unit is where he is most needed at this point, he is willing to do what it takes with the hopes that it leads to wins. The Kings need to find additional players with this same type of mentality.