CLEVELAND — “Maybe it’s just because I’m a naive second-year player, but I didn’t think anything bad was going to happen.”
Tyrese Haliburton has been honest — he was blindsided by the deadline trade that sent him to the Pacers, bringing Domantas Sabonis to Sacramento. The Kings had talked publicly about Haliburton and De'Aaron Fox being the backcourt of the future in Sacramento, Haliburton said Friday he took that at its word, and while rumors swirled the guard out of Iowa State paid no attention.
“I had no idea,” he said, his eyes growing big with surprise. “Nobody had spoke to me.”
Haliburton detailed what happened in a recent piece he wrote at the Players’ Tribune, saying from the first call from his agent warning him a trade could come to Kings’ GM Monte McNair calling to tell him he was traded was about 30 minutes.
“Then I hung up, set my phone down, and started crying my eyes out.”
He’s moved on now, but it took a little bit.
Haliburton is in Cleveland this weekend, taking part in the Rising Stars event on All-Star Friday night, where he is part of Team Isiah with his friend Desmond Bane.
“Ask him about that triple-double I dropped on him [in college],” Haliburton joked, trying to make sure Bane at the next dais to hear him. “Oh, you gonna be like that,” Bane shot back as they laughed.
Haliburton said he is enjoying the All-Star weekend and wants to use the week to step back from the game a little bit, but he’s ready to get down to business in Indiana.
He loves the fit with his new team, the culture. It’s just four games, but he’s averaged 20.8 points a game on 60.3 eFG% plus dished out 11 assists a game since coming to the Pacers.
And Haliburton had nothing but praise for coach Rick Carlisle, who has a history of other point guards chaffing under his more controlling style.
“I know he has that reputation, but for me, he’s letting me play far more free,” Haliburton said. “He and I talk, it’s been a great relationship so far. He’s letting me play my game.”
The Pacers are banged up — Myles Turner and Malcolm Brogdon have missed time recently — and they are well out of the playoff picture in the East. However, Haliburton looks at the roster and sees real potential.
“It’s going to be tough to make the playoffs this year with the injuries and just where we are, but I think we’re a good team. This is a good group,” Haliburton said. “I think we’re a playoff team. Maybe not this year, it’d be tough, but next year we should be really good.”
And Haliburton, playing for his next contract next season, will be at the heart of it all.