Evans, Rose bonded by history
SACRAMENTO -- When
With that, Evans opted for life in a very long shadow. He played point guard at Memphis, but he was never the distributor that Rose was. He took the Tigers to the Sweet 16, but Rose had taken them to the national championship game. He was picked fourth in the draft, but Rose had been picked first. By any reasonable standard, Evans was a sensation. But compared to Rose, he was almost a come-down.
Now, Evans has entered a league in which Rose is the reigning Rookie of the Year. Evans is already running second in early Rookie of the Year returns to another flashy point guard, Milwaukee's
Rose and Evans matched up for the first time Tuesday night at Arco Arena, and predictably, Rose's Bulls beat Evans' Kings. The Bulls are more experienced and potent than the Kings, just as Rose's Memphis team was more experienced and potent than the one Evans inherited a year later. But beyond the final score, Evans outplayed Rose on Tuesday, scoring twice as many points (20-10) and attacking the rim in a manner reminiscent of his fellow Tiger.
"This was weird," Rose said afterward. "It was the first time I'd ever played someone who went to my school -- and is younger than me." Rose, the elder statesman, turned 21 last month; Evans is still 20.
They have more in common than their age group and alma mater. Evans and Rose were both point-guard prodigies who grew up with three watchful big brothers and apprenticed under
In the past few weeks, Evans has finally started to slip out of the shadows. He has been the best rookie outside of Milwaukee while Rose is fighting off the initial stages of a sophomore slump, bothered by an ankle injury that has robbed some of his explosiveness and forced him to settle for more jumpers. Evans, meanwhile, has been pushed into a leadership role, just as he was at Memphis. Without Martin, he is already the Kings' primary scoring option, and he works on his shot every day after practice with 79-year-old assistant coach
"When [Martin] got hurt, I knew I'd have to play harder," Evans said. "I was thinking too much at the beginning. Now I just go out and play."
He will never be a classic pass-first point guard, in the way that Rose is, but he has already proved that he can score whether he's running the offense or not. In the final moments of Tuesday's game, Evans and Rose came together at half-court for a quick hug. Meanwhile, Memphis was in the closing seconds of a game against Kansas, the team that two years ago swiped a national title from Rose's usually reliable grasp. The Tigers fell to the Jayhawks again Tuesday, but they lost by only two points, encouraging given that Calipari, Evans and Rose are all gone.
It was a fine night in Kansas and Chicago. But with an eye on the past and the future, it might have been a better one in Memphis.