New York Daily News

Kings’ Haliburton jabs the Knicks

- STEFAN BONDY

Tyrese Haliburton wants to haunt the Knicks’ dreams. Thus far, he’s doing a good job. The Sacramento Kings rookie reiterated Friday night his position as a steal of the draft, working in 16 points and four blocks in a victory over one of the 11 teams that passed him in the draft.

“My job is to make them think about that when they go to sleep,” Haliburton said.

The 20-year-old combo guard then tweeted the meme of Kermit the Frog sipping tea, the famous symbol for insulting another party’s misfortune while also staying above the fray.

“But that’s none of my business,” is the phrase often attached to the Kermit meme.

Haliburton straddled that line in his postgame interview when asked about being motivated by revenge against the Knicks.

“I guess it fueled me personally,” he said. “But I love it here (in Sacramento). If I did it all over, I pray to God I slipped here. It’s no hard feelings. It is what it is. It’s a business. I don’t care.”

Of course, the Kermit meme doen’t work if the Knicks’ eighth overall pick, Obi Tobbin, is thriving similarly. But Toppin has not adjusted as easily as Haliburton to the NBA. The 22-year-old Toppin, projected before the season as a Rookie of the Year candidate, is only averaging five points on 39% shooting in 12 minutes. A calf strain cost Toppin 10 games earlier in the season, and he’s juggled between flashes of elite athleticis­m and looking like he’s not ready for the NBA.

Toppin’s playing time has been further cut because he plays the same power-forward position as Julius Randle, who has emerged as an All-Star candidate averaging 37 minutes per game. Historical­ly, coach Tom Thibodeau doesn’t give rookies big minutes. Even Jimmy Butler managed only 8.5 per game in his first NBA season under Thibodeau.

The Knicks interviewe­d Haliburton before the draft, but top executives Leon Rose and William Wesley targeted Toppin and were ecstatic he fell to 8. Haliburton is averaging 11.4 points while shooting an impressive 50.4% from the field, including 47% from beyond the arc. However, the Kings (6-10) are again struggling.

“The thing I like about Haliburton is the versatilit­y,” Thibodeau said. “He’s both good with the ball and can play without the ball.”

The Knicks other rookie, Immanuel Quickley, has helped balance Toppin’s uneven start. Quickley, a point guard drafted 25th overall, is averaging 9.5 points on 38.7% shooting in 17.3 minutes.

 ?? AP ?? Tyrese Haliburton wants Knicks to know they made a mistake by passing on him in the draft.
AP Tyrese Haliburton wants Knicks to know they made a mistake by passing on him in the draft.
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