Tyrese Haliburton is one of the most encouraging stories of the season. The third-year point guard is balling out for the Indiana Pacers, showing that being in the right environment can bring out the best in a young player. He made an appearance in a recent episode of J.J. Redick's podcast, where he got real about the Sacramento Kings culture.
"My first two years, I played on a team and an organization with zero culture - being honest," Haliburton said. "The great part of coming to Indiana and being called whatever they called me since I've been here, a guy that they see a part of the moving forward, is that I get to help build the culture here. Actually, a lot of it is expected of me. That's my favorite part about this so far."
Flourishing in Indy
The Kings selecting Haliburton with the No. 12 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft turned some heads because the franchise already had De'Aaron Fox and a couple of veteran point guards on the roster. Because of the logjam at the 1, Haliburton had to play out of position during his time in Sacramento.
But the midseason trade in the 2021-22 campaign that sent the Iowa State University product to the Pacers has allowed him to flourish and display his potential as an elite shot-creator and playmaker. This season, he is averaging 21.6 points and 9.9 rebounds per contest.
In addition, he is off to the best start of his career in terms of win-loss record, crediting it to being with teammates who enjoy playing with each other.
"We're 5-5 right now through 10 games," Haliburton continued. "That's the best 10-game start of my career. It just seems like we got guys that really enjoy playing with each other, guys who really have a lot of fun, watching their teammates score. Just having fun seeing guys succeed. For me, it's been everything. That's the only reason we're 5-5 right now."
The Pacers lost the game after the podcast episode, bringing down their record to 5-6. But the fact that Haliburton is having fun with teammates speaks a lot about the stark difference between the Pacers' and Kings' cultures.
Trouble in Sactown
It is no secret that only a few players would love to play for Sacramento. The Kings have had a negative reputation in the league for over a decade because of the bad culture that has permeated the organization.
As a result, the franchise has not reached the playoffs since 2006, and currently holds the record for the longest postseason drought of any team in all major US sports leagues.
It's clear that a significant cultural shift is needed for the Kings to have any chance of succeeding. That's what new head coach Mike Brown is trying to do in Sactown.
However, the coaching staff can only do so much. Instilling a positive culture in an NBA organization has to start from the team ownership and front office. Only time will tell if the Kings can indeed turn things around.