| 6' 6" rookie Tyreke Evans looks ready to run the show.|
|John W. McDonough/SI|
|9.0 Free throws made per game by Kevin Martin in '08?09. In the postmerger era only Adrian Dantley (10.3, 9.5), Michael Jordan (10.2), Allen Iverson (9.4) and Moses Malone (9.3) averaged more in a season.|
|Record: 17-65 (fifth in Pacific) |
Points scored: 100.6 (12th in NBA)
Points allowed: 109.3 (29th in NBA)
This article appears in the October 26, 2009 issue of Sports Illustrated
Tyreke Evans knew he would be nervous, and as he sat in the visitors' locker room in Portland, ready to make his preseason debut as the Kings' starting point guard, he stared silently at the floor, collecting his thoughts. About 45 minutes later, once he began to run the court, the jitters vanished and the 20-year-old took on the demeanor of a seasoned pro.
Driving repeatedly into a lane patrolled by Blazers big men Greg Oden and LaMarcus Aldridge, Evans scored on scoop shots and runners and dished to open teammates on the wing. With his ball-hawking ability he also gave Sacramento's backcourt a defensive intensity that had been absent for years. "Once I got on the floor, it was the same as every other game I had played in," says Evans. "I think I'm ready for this moment."
Although he was the No. 4 pick, it was not a given that Evans would catch on quickly. He played the point for less than a year at Memphis, switching from shooting guard 11 games into his freshman season. Evans will have his inevitable rookie moments, but his upside already makes him an upgrade over last year's starting point guard, Beno Udrih, who piloted the Kings to the worst record in the NBA.
New coach Paul Westphal won't tax Evans's nascent playmaking skills too heavily. "We're not going to ask him to be the orchestrator of all things," says Westphal. "He's not being asked to be the second coming of Bob Cousy. We're asking him to attack and make the right decision when the defense adjusts to his attack." The former Suns coach sees Evans as a blend of Phoenix's backcourt tandem from the 1993 Finals: He has Kevin Johnson's penetrating skills and Dan Majerle's size and versatility. "He just has a demeanor that inspires confidence from the coaching staff and other players," Westphal says. "Almost no point guard has the size to compete with him. Teams are going to have to figure out what to do with this guy." -- Arash Markazi