Following a promising rookie year for the Sacramento Kings where he averaged 20-5-5 and took home the Rookie of the Year award, Tyreke Evans hasn’t been able to match the output he attained his first year as a pro.
Since the 2009-10 season, Evans has changed positions, bumped heads with coaches, faced a rash of injuries and moved from Sacramento to New Orleans. Despite the up-and-down career thus far, Evans’ talent is undeniable. For a man standing 6-6, 230 pounds, he has handles that would make God Shammgod blush and, when healthy, he can get to the rim and finish with creativity.
Though his first year in New Orleans was largely a disappointment, the Pelicans committed four-years, $44 million to ‘Reke and with a core of Anthony Davis-Jrue Holiday-Eric Gordon-Evans, the Pelicans have a chance to climb in the West.
For the past five years, Evans has worked with VSP Vision care in the offseason to provide kids in his hometown of Chester, PA, with eye care. While hosting a eye care clinic and basketball camp over the past weekend, Evans took a few minutes to discuss his offseason, time with the Pelicans and what he’s been working on heading into training camp.
SLAM: How did you partner with VSP Vision Care to give free eye care to kids? Why are you working with them instead of other charities?
Tyreke Evans: I’ve been working with VSP for five years in Chester. I’ve been working with them ever since I got drafted by Sacramento and it’s been nothing but good. I work with them because of their commitment to helping people and providing eye care in a new way. They do a great job of helping kids. Last year they were able to make glasses for the kids right on the bus, it’s a little different this year but it’s still great to see the kids’ faces when they get a new pair of glasses. I’m happy to work with them, it’s been going well.
SLAM: You also hosted a basketball camp, correct?
TE: I’m here at the gym right now, the kids are about to eat lunch then I’ll be able to hang out with the kids and go through some drills with them. This is the first year I’ve had a camp back at Chester.
SLAM: When you were a kid, did you get the chance to go to a camp that was hosted by an NBA player?
TE: Not in Chester, and I wanted to do something like that back in my hometown because I never had one here. It was always traveling, AAU and things like that. I had the chance to do one here in my hometown and I’m really happy to be a part of it and give the kids a chance to come.
SLAM: How has your offseason been going? Are you fully recovered from your knee surgery?
TE: Not fully recovered, but I’m getting to where I want to be. It takes time, I don’t want to rush things. It wasn’t a major surgery, it was just a scope, I had a little swelling in there. I’ve been working out, but not taking contact yet. I’ve been moving pretty good and doing drills and getting better and better as I get closer to the season. Hopefully when the season starts I’ll be where I need to be.
SLAM: Have you been talking to your teammates at all about the upcoming season?
TE: We text, I talk to AD (Anthony Davis) a lot. He plans on showing the League just how special he is, and I’ve been keeping up with him during the FIBA games. He’s been one of the most productive players out there and I’m just happy for him. I’m excited to get back together with everyone.
SLAM: Last season there was some confusion how you would fit in the team and what position you would play. This year, they have you slotted at the swingman/small forward spot. Does that make you more comfortable with the team heading into training camp?
TE: Definitely, I’m really looking forward to it. I played that position with the Kings and did a good job with it in my first year and put in that position where I’m used to always having the ball in my hand or playing shooting guard, which I think are kind of the same it’s just a matter of the matchup. I can hold my own and I’m looking forward to the season and just getting back with the guys and having everyone healthy. We’re trying to get rolling and make the Playoffs.
SLAM: Is there any chance of you playing some point guard this year and spelling Jrue or will you strictly be used in that swingman role?
TE: I think I’m gonna be bringing the ball up and getting the ball in my hands. They talked to me about coming in and playing some point too so I’m definitely looking forward to that. Actually, that’s good on my end because it puts other teams in the position where they have to switch up their defense and put a 1 on a 3, and a forward against a guard [on the other end]. I think it’s going to be an interesting thing to do and I’m looking forward to it.
SLAM: How do you think the Pelicans will stack up against teams like the Mavericks and the Spurs in the West this season?
TE: I think we should we be good. It’s not gonna be overnight but we have training camp and we have everyone healthy and we’re going to give pretty much every team a run. We gotta go out there and be ready. Last year we played the Spurs good, we played the Grizzlies good—we actually won against the Grizzlies a couple times—we know we have the ability. We know it’s not going to be easy, we have to be prepared.
SLAM: What’s your relationship like with Monty Williams?
TE: It’s good between me and Coach Williams. He’s a good coach, he wants us to get better and better. He expects us to work and get better as a team. He preaches about defense all day during practice and we try and help each other out. The front office did a good job of adding [Omer] Asik and he’s going to be a big help for us and especially AD. [Monty’s] a good coach, he knows what he’s doing and I’m looking forward to being coached by him this season.
SLAM: What are a few things you’ve been working on in the offseason?
TE: Just my shot, I think I really worked hard this year—and I know I talk about this every year but I’ve been in the gym working really hard with [Pelicans’ shooting coach,] coach Fred [Vinson]. I didn’t get a chance to work with him last year, but this year, we’ve been in the gym putting up a lot of shots and I’ve been learning new techniques. I’m comfortable now more than I’ve ever been shooting the ball. I’m looking forward to it, I don’t even want to talk about it that much, I just want to show people.
SLAM: Most of your game has been predicated on getting to the rim, is that going to change now? Are you going to be the kick guy when Jrue is driving now or will you still look to get yours at the basket?
TE: I’m gonna do both but I’m not hesitating to shoot if I get an open look. I’m going to be as confident in my shot in-game as I am when I’m working out. When you know you put in the hard work and have the confidence, there’s nothing else you can do. I’ve been shooting the ball great while working out and I’m going to shoot it the same way in-game.