“I’m vaccinated, don’t worry,” Tyrese Haliburton said with a smile and laugh when meeting most reporters for the first time in-person at the Sacramento Kings’ media day on Monday.
Entering his second year, Hali is not entirely new to the NBA landscape, though the professionalism he carries himself with was prevalent from the day he arrived in Sacramento. That’s why there is some irony in that this will be a season of firsts for Haliburton, who joined the association in the midst of a pandemic.
One of the first “firsts” for Haliburton was the Kings’ grand-scale digital production on Monday.
“All the pictures, interviews, it’s everything you can think of. This is my first Media Day along with Davion [Mitchell],” Haliburton said. “It’s very interesting, it’s different than last year. Last year was like four stations and we went home.”
Being drafted near Thanksgiving, starting his NBA career near Christmas and running a Rookie of the Year campaign all the way up until his unfortunate injury during the end of the regular season in May, it was a funky run of show for the first year phenom.
Now, Haliburton is just looking forward to the little things like getting the chance to bond with teammates De’Aaron Fox and Davion Mitchell off the court.
“Last year with [COVID-19] restrictions, I didn’t even know if it was okay to hang out,” Haliburton said. “I think ... especially for me coming into my second year, seeing what helps teams be successful number one is relationships. I think it’s going to help us moving forward.”
Before Media Day, Haliburton, Fox and Mitchell were seen hosting a game night via Fox’s wife on Instagram, reaffirming Hali’s emphasis on the newness of off-court chemistry.
Inferring from their interactions on Kings’ digital and their own social media, it seems that this core really does like each other. A healthy locker room leaves Kings fans starry-eyed, hoping that this off-court friendship can bloom into their on-court effort.
With all of the protocols and differences in last year’s experience, Haliburton says with excitement that this is a second chance at a first impression for the already adoring Kings crowd.
“This is kinda like rookie 2.0 ... I’m just looking forward to playing in front of full fans again, looking forward to that entertainment feel coming back to basketball again and not playing in front of cardboard cutouts,” Haliburton said.
As we transition into a new season filled with (some) normalcy, I think I speak for the entire Kingdom when I say: us too, Hali.