NBA / Dec 6, 2010 / 1:30 pm

Sacramento Is Searching For The Real Tyreke Evans

Tyreke Evans

Tyreke Evans (photo. Nicky Woo)

“I can’t imagine him in Year Five or Six. He probably won’t peak until he is in Year Seven. He will only be 27 then. That’s crazy. Think about what he could be at his rate of growth right now. He’s going to be scary.”Lamont Peterson

It was supposed to be his introduction to America. Not to those embedded in the game, for they already know what he’s capable of, but rather a larger audience. Much larger. 82 games in and we were all lining up to be witnesses, a new King was here. The Takeover was just beginning. But then injuries happened, fame happened and his team taking a reverse step happened.

Now Tyreke Evans is suddenly feeling something he isn’t used to: uncertainty.

Peterson knows Evans as well as anyone. He’s been with the 21-year-old since the Kings’ star was just an eighth grader, at the time already the best middle school basketball player in the country, but still incredibly shy and had, as Peterson put it, “Nothing that stood out about him physically.”

We all know what Evans, with Peterson’s help, went on to accomplish: featured in a hoop documentary, MVP of the McDonald’s All American Game and later the only freshman finalist for the 2009 U.S. Basketball Writers of America National Player of the Year award while at Memphis, as well as last season’s NBA Rookie of the Year.

His ceiling is still considered unlimited, but Evans has definitely been sidetracked.

Sometimes, manipulating a good thing doesn’t always turn out the way we expected. With a greater supporting cast, everyone wanted Evans to give up the ball more this year, distribute and improve his floor game. The change in mentality for Evans was noticeable even during the preseason. Watching the 6-6 bulldozer play off the ball, only checking for his offense once he had attempted to open the game up for his teammates, didn’t seem right. Instead of ruthlessly attacking the paint like he did every minute of every game last year, Evans was doing what he could to set up Omri Casspi for open threes and Carl Landry for layups.

Maybe this should’ve been expected. Evans called it this summer, saying, “People can’t worry about getting better stats. We just have to worry about trying to win because if we all worry about stats, then we will never get far.

“I know I can score so I just want to get a lot of help this year so I can focus on the team and us getting better so we can win more games.”

Passive might work for someone else. But not on this team and not for Evans.

Besides his unreliability as a traditional point guard, Evans knew his jump shot needed work and lived in the gym this offseason so he could come back with a more diverse game. Or at least attempt to.

The numbers don’t lie. This season, Evans is attempting a ridiculous 2.4 less shots a game at the rim as his perimeter attempts have spiked without an improvement in accuracy. While his jumper does indeed look considerably smoother this year – when he sets his feet and squares up like he did on a deep third-quarter three against the Mavs on Saturday night, the result is consistent – his inconsistency on pull-ups and step-backs has one of the best finishers in the entire league shooting an ugly 40.1 percent from the field.

So in an attempt to prove what he is, Evans has forgotten what he was.

Now, not only is he struggling to regain the core of his attacking personality, Evans is also dealing with a myriad of injuries to his lower body: a bout with plantar fasciitis on the bottom of his left foot as well as his ankle, an injury that was the tipping point in ending Evans’ time with the U.S. team this summer. For someone built to destroy, injuries were considered the last thing that could reel him in. But they have taken a toll.

Traditionally, second-year players are expected to make enormous strides in their games, especially when that person is someone like Tyreke Evans, who was, and is, just a jump shot away from becoming an all-world player. But this isn’t always a certainty. And sometimes the improvements are hardly noticeable: the knowledge of when to step on the pedal or when to slow down, learning how to hit a shooter without getting caught, recognizing where each teammate is most comfortable from.

Science and math would tell us Evans is struggling with the transition now that nobody defends him with point guards anymore or allows him to go one-on-one. And they would be right. But, sometimes growing pains are the best type.

Evans has defied expectations at every level. In high school, he went from being hailed as the best sophomore ever to not even the best in his class. In college, he was considered a ball-hogging shooting guard who couldn’t shoot. And even at the NBA level, there were many who criminally misjudged his talent and how it could be used.

Dealing with doubt and adapting is nothing new.

Sacramento came into this season with heightened expectations. In the midst of their terrible finish last season, their 14-17 record through December was hidden beneath the perils of that ending. They had a decent nucleus revolving around Evans and a core of solid role players. Then they added DeMarcus Cousins this offseason. Everything was rising; all eyes bent on a playoff push.

But after Saturday night’s terrible loss at home to Dallas, a game that the Kings led 99-90 with only five and a half minutes remaining, Sacramento is sitting at an ugly 4-14, losers of seven straight and just 1.5 games away from the Clippers and the worst record in the League. It wasn’t Evans’ fault. He scored 25 and had eight assists. It was his best performance since Sacramento’s last win over two weeks ago.

“Once we learn to play together, we’ll be okay, we’ll start winning.”

Exactly what Kings coach Paul Westphal means by that statement is not entirely clear, and perhaps not completely true. What is clear is that the Kings will start winning once Tyreke Evans becomes Tyreke Evans again.

What do you think?

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  • russ

    did they win last year when he was himself? nope. they just don’t have a good team. they won’t be winning anytime soon without some moves.

  • Spliff 2 My Lou

    It’s easy for players to be themselves but it’s not easy for players to be what their teams needs. That’s what separates the greats from the good.

  • http://www.roidrage.com Chicagorilla

    I watched when the Kings played the Bulls and it didnt seem Reke was healed from the ankle injury. He moved around at a slightly slower pace as if he didnt want to go full speed on the ankle. But i dont think the Kings have a team that needs him to pass the ball. Thats not his game anyway. Just post him up or get him some iso plays and let him go to work. Maybe he(or an assitant) should time it. At the 6min mark of the 1st Reke goes and gets buckets until he comes out in the 2nd. Some players/teams use this strategy to allow others to catch an offensive rythm then once the defense slacks, the star player attacks with his teammates already in rythm.

  • Rafa23

    “Evans can’t shoot, doesn’t play defense and apparently his teammmates don’t like playing with him cause he only passes when there is no possible way to score himself.” That’s what you read about him this season, and it is mostly justified.
    is he talented? no question. but you need to evolve your game, and he hasn’t. he isn’t super explosive, therefore he needs at least a decent pullup jumper when defenses start to really sink back.
    but seeing that this is only his second year, there is enough time for him to improve and become a real star. but not one on a winning team in the near future.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dworlds David Brandon

    man, bottom line? we need help in sac. asap. right now. yesterday. ahorita. however you wanna call it. haha but damn…ppl were talkin about sneakin in at the 8th seed for the playoffs before halloween. now?? not so much…

  • Chaos

    ya need westphal to make up his damn mind…i know its one thing to tinker with lineups and coach according to exploiting weaknesses in the opponent but he is ridiculous. there is no continuity with that team. everyones minutes are up and down. pick a lineup and let them gel.

  • Tyndel

    Sac playing below expectations is more to do with Westphal then the players. They may not be the most talented team but they are deep and they have a legitimate 1 2 in Evans and Cousins if used correctly.

    Unfortunately WP does’t understand that young players are young and his motto is if you mess up you are going to go from starter to DNP-CD until he has moved the next guy down and you are needed to fill in the required minutes. Unless you are Landry of course.

    WP has a core of young legs that he is hobbling to the point they are afraid to do anything out there for fear of a DNP the next game. He has them moving the ball across at the 17 sec mark and them getting into offense at the 4. Think maybe poor shot selection has something to do with that….

    Reke showed a little of what he will become in the Mavs game hitting stuff from outside mid range and drives dishing and defending. He can be very very good if he learns to put it together and trust himself and his team.

  • hakasan

    i concur with most of the comments here!
    too many coaches in the NBA right now are ‘playing with their rosters’ because they know they have no shot of going anywhere with these teams… see: indiana, new jersey and sac town!

    all these teams have decent pieces, but you can’t expect a team to gel if they dont know who they are playing with on a nightly basis…

    i do think that evans need some time off to heal… plantar faciatis is a bothersome injury that just needs time to go away…. putting more pressure on it might create a chronic foot problem (which will further impact his shooting)

    kings also need a much better supporting cast to play around evans… having a ‘legitimate 12′ is not enough to win for a player still in his developmental stages… can you imagine the havok if evans get traded to the clips for b.davis?

  • stefan

    I don’t know what this article is about, since Tyreke’s assists average is less than last season….

  • Ross

    Very simple solution. Make him a permenant shooting guard and find a pass first point guard. He may very well be the next great two guard if he continues to work on his shot and learn to use a back against the basket iso approach. Spend a summer with Kobe or two summers or every summer going forward.

  • http://www.roidrage.com Chicagorilla

    @Ross, let me get this str8, a team with a young SG who has the potiential to be the next great SG in the NBA but is being too selfish and doesnt trust his team enough….you want to send him to KOBE to learn how to pass and trust his team??? LMFAO, What kinda BS is that. Maybe they should show him film of Kobe and WHAT NOT to do. As good as Kobe is, the last thing i want him teaching my SG is how to not be selfish. Tyreke needs to hook up with some true PG play makers and actually be taught on how to use his teammates. Scoring is easy for him, its the rest of the game he never learned. Thats why i hate coaches like Calipiri at Kentucky getting credit for the talent that were under him. They all left UK with the same knowledge, skill set that they came there with.

  • John J

    Remember Derrick Rose’s struggles in the first 20 games or so of his 2nd yr?

    Its call teams having a full scouting report and defending these young franchise players with a game plan. It took Rose a while to figure it out and I think Tyreke will or already figured it out if the Mavs game was any indication.

    Unless he is injured worse than he shows, there is really no stopping Tyreke getting to the basket. He’ll get his if all he wants to do is score. The problem is young players on his team wanting shots, Landry on his contract year as well as a team that has over half as new players.

    Tyreke was trying to be a pure point which he is not. Rose is not a pure point either. Guys like Devin Harris, Tony Parker etc are not pure point and they’ve been effective and won championships (TP did). Tyreke just need to pick his spots and Cousins needs some time to be a big threat. Once he does, they’ll be legit contenders.

  • nizzio

    Why can’t Tyreke play at the point? They could find a reliable shooting guard who can make big plays and score big buckets. John Salmons comes to mind. He always plays great when he gets traded. And it will be a homecoming party in sactown

  • sh!tfaced

    Looking at him now? The next Latrell Sprewell if you ask me… up to you if that’s good or bad… lol

  • http://www,sactownroyalty.com Willis

    John Salmons? Really? The Kings have been there and done that. That dude was worse than Tyreke for team basketball.