Thirty minutes — that’s all it took. Last week, in the span of a half hour, I went from feeling like I’d be in Sacramento for the next decade … to experiencing the biggest surprise of my entire life.
It all started at 10 in the morning on Tuesday, two days before the trade deadline.
When my agent called, I was just finishing up breakfast at my house, and the first thing I thought was that maybe he was calling to give me the inside scoop on some players our team was looking into getting.
“Hey man, I just wanted to get in touch because I think you might be getting traded.”
I honestly thought he was joking. It was like, Come on now. They’re not trading me. Get out of here. But two seconds later, when it became clear that, actually, he wasn’t joking … I mean, I know this might sound like I’m being dramatic, but you know when you get the news that something bad has happened to a family member or a close friend? And it feels like for a few seconds your heart almost stops? Like there’s just a hollow feeling all through your body? That’s kind of what it was like.
After hanging up, I walked into the bathroom and just sat on the counter by the sink in silence. A few minutes later, my girlfriend came in and asked me what was up. When I told her there was a chance I might get traded, at first she didn’t believe me. Once she could tell I was serious, though, she started to get a little worried. So I was like, “Let’s just wait and see what happens in a few days. No big deal. This is fine.”
Next thing I know, not even five minutes later, my phone rings. It’s my agent again.
“Indiana,” he says. “It’s looking like Indiana.”
“I’ll keep you posted.”
A minute or so after that, 90 seconds max, my phone lights up. I look down at the screen and it says Monte. It’s our GM, Monte McNair. And I’m not gonna lie: When I saw that name pop up on my phone, my heart sank. I knew it was over right then.
It was a quick conversation. Pretty straightforward.
“Hey man, I just wanted to let you know that we made a trade, and we’re going to be sending you to Indiana. I wish you the best.”
There were maybe a couple more words after that. We both said thank you.
Then I hung up, set my phone down, and started crying my eyes out.
Eventually I was able to gather myself and send a quick text to our players’ group chat, just so they could hear it from me first. Short and sweet: “I just got traded to the Pacers. I love y’all boys.”
Everyone responded with pretty much the exact same comment.
“Why you joking about this?!”
“Get the f*** outta here”
But then Tristan texted that he got traded too. And I think at that point, everyone knew it was real.
A few minutes later, Woj tweeted the news out to the world.
And that was that. From “no way” to traded in 30 minutes. I’ve literally waited in line at Cold Stone for longer than that.
Once the news broke, the next few hours were like a blur. Just a million phone calls and texts with family and friends. Davion was the first person to call me. I talked to Buddy, and my guy Rico Hines. Coach Gentry and Coach Walton reached out. De’Aaron and I talked for about a half hour. Harrison rolled through with one of the most encouraging and supportive calls I’ve ever received.
Then Mezie calls me up, and he actually FaceTimes me. Which usually is whatever, no big deal. But the tears are still flowing at this point. I’m like, Do I really have to have this man see me sitting here ugly crying like this right now? So when I pick up, I set the phone on the counter, and angle it with the camera pointing straight up to the ceiling. Not my best moment … but sometimes it’s just gotta be like that, you know what I mean?
Before I knew it, friends started arriving at the house to check in on me — IY (our video coordinator and one of my best friends), Miggy (our equipment manager), Joel (our assistant trainer), Lucas (our assistant equipment manager). They all just showed up at the door and sat down with me. By the end of the night, there was a whole mess of people over — Rico, Moe, Kings family. All that support meant a lot.
None of us could believe I was actually going to be leaving. I guarantee that if you had taken a poll of our locker room that morning and were like, “Which guy on this team most wants to be in Sacramento long-term” … everyone would’ve said me. And I think that’s what all those tears and emotions were about, at the end of the day.
It felt like something I cared about was ending way too soon.
I really, really, really was all in on Sacramento. And I wasn’t shy about it. I would tell people, straight up, “I want to be that next C-Webb for this city.” That was my whole mindset. I wanted to become one of those players who got drafted somewhere and built a legacy — on and off the court. I wanted to become someone the people of Sacramento knew was in their corner.
And one thing that hurts about this trade is that I feel like I was just starting to develop some lasting connections within the community. I was getting to know lots of dedicated and inspiring leaders all around town: heads of nonprofits, amazing students working to make change in their neighborhoods (shout out to my pal Morning Cloud at Christian Brothers High School!), everyday people who’d decided that they wanted to devote some of their time to just … making things better for everyone. I love meeting people like that. And I had so many cool ideas for partnering with those folks, and doing whatever I could to help.
So I’m sad to be leaving the community of Sacramento as much as anything.
You don’t really understand this until it happens to you, but getting traded … it isn’t just about “getting traded.” It ends up hitting you in all of these different ways. Like, honestly, it’s hard not to start questioning yourself. Have I not been playing well? Was I not doing enough? Did I do something wrong? And I know in my heart that I haven’t done anything wrong. I know that I’ve been working my butt off, that I’m growing and getting better. But it’s still tough to keep those thoughts out of your mind in moments like this. They just kind of pop into your head.
The other big thing I’ve been thinking about is everything I’ll miss about Sacramento. No lie, I’ll be sitting on the couch watching TV and all of a sudden it’s like: Damn, Kev … that dude’s one the best barbers I’ve ever had. Great cuts. Talking about crypto all the time. I’m gonna miss that guy! Or I’ll be on an airplane and for some reason I’m thinking about how Ames, my dog, is gonna really, really miss his pal Rover, the golden doodle from next-door. It’s just been stuff like that, over and over.
But at the same time, I know I have to face the reality that I’m moving on. And even though I’m sad about leaving a team and city I love, I’m also excited for what comes next.
As a Midwesterner, it’s hard not to be thrilled about playing for the Pacers. Indianapolis is driving distance from my hometown of Oshkosh, and I know my family is very happy to have me back close to home.
Let me be clear, though — it’s not going to be about just playing close to home. It’s going to be about winning. The Pacers … there’s history there. This is a team that has been in the playoffs routinely for pretty much my entire life. This is a franchise that knows what it takes. Plus, to get the chance to play for Rick Carlisle, someone who’s won it all? A guy who’s coached some of the best? That’s gonna be incredible for me.
I’m really liking this group we have, too. Myles is crazy versatile — he’s going to protect and anchor our defense. That’s a given. And I couldn’t wait to play with Lance Stephenson, because as a LeBron fan growing up … I used to despise that guy. He was like a nemesis, but because he was so good at what he did. So now it’s cool to be his teammate. And Chris Duarte, the rookie … I’ve been watching him, and I absolutely love his game. Man, I’m telling you, I really could go up and down the roster. We have the pieces to be a problem in the East — soon.
More than anything, though, right now it really does just feel good to be wanted. And I can’t thank the Pacers enough for their belief in me. I’m humbled to have been traded for an all-star player like Domantas, and I fully understand that this team wouldn’t trade away a player like him for someone to just come in and be so-so. I feel like I was brought in to be a part of the core of this Pacers team going forward, and to work like hell until this team is back where it’s accustomed to being.
I take that mission very seriously. It’s a lot of responsibility, for sure — but that level of responsibility is what I crave. It’s something I’ve worked my entire life for.
I’m ready to step up.
I’m coming to Indiana to leave my imprint, and to help this team do something special. I’m coming here to create a legacy that makes Pacers fans proud.
I'm coming here to be the best version of Tyrese Haliburton.