Introducing Tyreke Evans.
It was an innocent case of mistaken identity.
But don’t expect the occurrence to continue once word spreads around the League this season about Sacramento Kings rookie point guard Tyreke Evans.
Not long after falling to Portland in Sacramento’s first preseason game back on Tuesday, Kings forward Desmond Mason walked to the team bus parked in the airy Rose Garden loading dock with a postgame boxed dinner in his left hand and his headphones in his right, when a group of autograph seekers shouted his way.
“I’m not Tyreke,” Mason said with a smile to no one in particular.
The way he’s performed in Sacramento’s first two preseason games though, being falsely accused as Tyreke Evans isn’t such a bad thing for any player these days.
In his official NBA debut, Evans shook off some early pregame jitters after launching the ball into the third row by finishing with 12 points, 5 rebounds and 2 assists in 24 minutes against the Blazers. The following night in Sacramento, he was worthy of an encore despite another losing effort to Portland – 14 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists. Not bad for the new kid in town. So coincidentally being a top draft pick (fourth overall) from the University of Memphis, it’s only a matter of months before pundits begin speculating if Evans can follow in Chicago’s Derrick Rose’s Rookie of the Year footsteps.
There’s plenty of time for that talk. It’s far too early.
Yet while the Kings actual success may play a part in that decision – as will Tyreke’s overall statistical production – come the end of the season, just plan on hearing Evans’ name mentioned often in the discussion.
A 6-6, 225-pound point guard, Evans should hold his own against both small and big guards alike around the League. Just ask Steve Blake and Andre Miller. They’ve surely seen enough of Evans for a while.
Seen enough of his quick drives.
Seen enough of his handle.
Seen enough of his soft jumper.
Seen enough of the game that made Evans a high school All-American and “diaper dandy” in his lone year at Memphis before coming into the League. But surprisingly enough, Tyreke’s jump from campus to the Association has actually been years in the making.
As if ripped from the reel of Hoop Dreams, the tales of Tyreke being raised by his three older brothers who kept him off the Chester, Pennsylvania streets and on the courts are purely legendary. When Tyreke was 6 years old his brothers duct-taped his right arm to his body and forced him to dribble with his left hand. He was the kid who slept with his basketball. As Evans matured, so did his talent. His brothers added a jab step, polished the dribble and instituted 1,200 to 1,500 shots every other day. Unlike William Gates and Arthur Agee though, Evans’ hoop dream became a royal reality. You know the rest of the story: a Conference USA Freshman of the Year at Memphis who led the Tigers in scoring (17.1 ppg), the Kings selected him fourth in June’s NBA Draft. From there, it was on to the Las Vegas Summer League where Evans posted 19. 2 ppg (22.3 ppg as a starter) in four games.
But Tyreke isn’t all offense.
“Defense is something I’ve been working on since I played at Memphis,” Evans recently said, with the Kings coaching staff admitting his defensive prowess is what they’ve been impressed with the most.
“I’m doing my best out there but, man, those are some big dudes.”
Self-dubbed Team Tyreke, the three brothers – Reggie, Eric and Julius – can now take pride in knowing the boy they helped raise already have Kings’ fans dubbing Tyreke “The Man” on both sides of the ball in Sactown.
No wonder Evans nearly had the local die-hards on suicide watch when an MRI in training camp revealed an acute patellar bone bruise before being listed day-to-day.
While the Kings finished with the worst record (17-65) in the League during the ’08-09 season, this year is all about building upon the youth movement under defense-minded head coach Paul Westphal. Sacramento has nine players who are 25 years old or younger, with Tyreke the youngest on the team at 20 and the franchise is anxious to include him alongside Kevin Martin, Jason Thompson and Spencer Hawes. Now if only Evans – who will challenge Beno Udrih for the starting spot — can do something about getting the Kings backcourt moving in the right direction after it finished nearly last in the NBA last season in rebounds (29th), assists (27th), steals (23rd) and turnovers (26th).
Oh, by the way. Can the kid help with the scoring load too?
That’s not too much of an organization to ask a rookie, is it?
No worries. Tyreke Evans just might have it in him.
Make no mistake about it.
Wendell Maxey is a freelance writer now in his third season covering the Portland Trail Blazers. You can read more of his writing at Beyondthebeat.net.