Kings' Tyrese Haliburton nears return to work after 'scary' injury

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Kings' Haliburton on the mend: 'Next year starts today' originally appeared on NBC Sports Bayarea

SACRAMENTO -- The collective gasp around the Sacramento area was audible. Kings fans from the Central Valley to the Foothills watched with concern as prized rookie Tyrese Haliburton lay face down on the court back on May 2 as the Kings were battling the Dallas Mavericks.

The replay was brutal. The 21-year-old took a bad step with his right foot, which threw him off balance. When he came down on his left leg, his knee buckled and the concern was instant. 

A few days later, the MRI results came back clean. Haliburton suffered a hyperextension, but no structural damage to the knee. 

“I feel good, obviously it was very scary, I think a lot of people were kinda holding their breath for me as well,” Haliburton said. “We feel like we dodged a bullet in a sense. I feel fine. Obviously there’s more treatment and stuff involved, but I’m not going to miss any time in the summer.”

Haliburton has yet to resume basketball related activities, but he's close and doesn't believe the injury will impede his progress.

Nice things don’t happen to Kings fans very often. In case you missed any of his 58 games played this season, Haliburton is a nice thing and the good people of Sacramento are smitten. 

At 6-foot-5 and a listed weight of 185, Haliburton has a big summer in front of him. After his first taste of the NBA, he now has a better understanding of the rigors of a long season and he knows he has work to do on his body.

“Getting stronger is a big part -- just kinda coming into my ‘man body’ or whatever, just living in the weight room,” Haliburton said. “At the same time, another important thing is just continuing to grow my relationships with my teammates.”

Haliburton said that when his teammates told him they would see him later, he told them they would be hearing from him every week. He knows that the teams that are really successful often have a strong bond off the court that helps get them through the tough times. 

The former Iowa State star is a sponge and he’s absorbed an incredible amount of information in his rookie campaign. The one thing he learned in his first season in the league is that he belongs and he wants to build off of that success.

“I feel if anything, this year really boosted my confidence 100 percent, just because I’m going out there playing with the best players in the world and holding my own,” Haliburton said. “It was an awesome experience, but now it’s really helped me know what I have to work on going into next year and what I’ve got to get better at.”

RELATED: 2021 NBA mock draft 5.1: First-round projections after season

Haliburton won back-to-back Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards and he’s likely to finish in the top three in the Rookie of the Year race, along with Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards and Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball.

While he’s a long shot to win the award, he’s an easy selection for All-NBA Rookie first team after averaging 13 points, 5.3 assists, three rebounds and 1.3 steals in 30 minutes per game this season for the Kings.

He’s played well above his No. 12 overall draft selection and the Kings are already writing his name in pen as a starter for next season alongside De’Aaron Fox in the backcourt. 

Mature beyond his years both on and off the court, Haliburton seems to already have a checklist of items he wants to improve on for next season. 

“Next year starts today,” Haliburton said. “I’m looking forward to preparing and working hard to be better coming into next year.”

So far, Haliburton says and does all the right things. The Kings appear to have found a gem and now it’s time to put in the work and make sure he develops during an incredibly important off-season.