Toronto Raptors

Tyrese Haliburton: Sacramento Kings rookie guard says Raptors' Fred VanVleet gave him his 'welcome to the NBA' moment

Every rookie NBA player remembers their "welcome to the NBA" moment.

You hear it brought up in interviews or on podcasts frequently and more often than not, the story is hilarious to hear.

On JJ Redick's podcast, The Old Man & the Three, Sacramento Kings Rookie of the Year candidate Tyrese Haliburton mentioned Toronto Raptors star guard Fred VanVleet as the first player to give him his welcome moment.

"We were playing the Raptors a week ago and we were up 20 in the first quarter. Everything was going well and there was a fast break, and we were still up 20, and someone fouled me at half court," he told Redick with a huge smile on his face.

"Glenn Robinson was still running with me (after the play), so I just go to throw a between-the-legs lob and VanVleet blocked it. ... We end up losing the game by like 40. They beat us bad. And Fred was getting where ever he wanted to get to (the rest of the game). So after I was thinking, 'maybe that was it?'"

The game Haliburton referenced was the Raptors Jan. 8 win over the Kings, where Sacramento came out red hot, scoring 43 points in the first quarter before Toronto came roaring back to pull off a 21-point win.

VanVleet torched the Kings for 34 points - just two shy of his career-high - to go along with his seven assists. Shooting 13-for-22 (59.1%) from the field and 5-for-9 (55.6%) from 3, it was VanVleet's most efficient game of the season.

Whether or not that one seemingly meaningless moment after a whistle from Sacramento's rookie was the catalyst of that breakout performance is unknown, but Haliburton saw a direct correlation.

That wasn't the No. 12 overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft's only 'welcome to the NBA' moment mentioned on Redick's podcast, though. He also remembers vividly how he was feeling when he suited up for his first preseason game.

"My first preseason game, I couldn't even believe I was in the NBA," he began.

"We were in warmups, I got out there early to get my shots up and I turn around and Dame (Lillard) is out there shooting logo 3s. I'm like 'what is going on? This is unbelievable. (In the game) I come off a ball screen and Melo (Anthony) switches on to me and shocks me. And usually, I'd keep my dribble and back up but all of a sudden I just picked the ball up. It was just insane."

Despite those two deer in the headlights 'Welcome to the NBA' moments, Haliburton is enjoying a really impressive start to his first season in the NBA, averaging 11.4 points, 4.9 assists, 3.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals per game while shooting 50.4% from the field and 47.0% from 3-point range.

The combination of his impact and efficiency has him in the conversation to win Rookie of the Year.

He'll have another opportunity to pay VanVleet back for his rookie mishap when the Kings take on the Raptors on Friday, Jan. 27.

You can watch Haliburton's full interview from Redick's podcast The Old Man & the Three below.

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