To say Tyreke Evans' first year as a pro was a success would be an understatement. As the staple of the Sacramento Kings, the former Memphis guard earned Rookie of the Year honors and became the fourth first-year player to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists, joining Oscar Robertson (1960), Michael Jordan (1984) and LeBron James (2003). This season, Evan hopes to lead the Kings back to the playoffs for the first time since 2006.
Evans spoke recently with SI.com about his first year and plans for the future.
SI.com: You took to the NBA quickly as a rookie. What was the most difficult adjustment from the college game?
Evans: College is more of an inside game. Whenever I tried to get to the basket, the lane wasn't open, and without any three-second calls in college, I would get a lot of charges. In the NBA, it is more spaced out, and guys are more consistent knocking down shots.
SI.com: Have you developed much of a bond with your 2009 draft mates?
Evans: We watch each other every night and talk about how we want everybody in our class to be good. A lot of people thought this class wasn't going to be good. But then when we got there, a lot of people came to play. So this year we're all trying to become better team players and try to get better at our games.
SI.com: How much do you keep in contact with your former college coach, John Calipari?
Evans: I talk to coach Cal a lot. He always texts me during the season, especially if he's watched my game. Recently, he told me he wished he were still coaching me and helping me become an All-Star.
SI.com: Do you think coach Cal would be successful in a return to the NBA?
Evans: I don't know, man. I think he's better off in college. He likes to ride the kids a lot and make them play harder. In the NBA, I don't know if that would work. Hopefully he can stay where he's at and keep doing the college thing.
SI.com: What was something that helped you the most during your rookie campaign?
Evans: On the road, during an East Coast trip, you're out there for maybe 10 days or so, and you need your rest. So, when I get off the plane -- after we probably just played -- I make sure to get a massage; they're free with the team.
SI.com: How do you like Sacramento?
Evans: I like it a lot. It's laid-back. When I'm there, I can work out and hang with my friends.
SI.com: Last season, you split time at both guard spots last season. How do you approach each?
Evans: When I run the point, I'll come down and get the guys to a place where they like the ball, then on the second time I'll try to make a move or make something better for my team. At the 2, when I get the ball I can try something the first time, maybe a pick-and-roll on the wing or something like that.
SI.com: Do you prefer one position to the other?
Evans: That's the coach's decision. I'm willing to play either position and do whatever it takes for us win the game.
SI.com: Who was the toughest defender you faced last year?
Evans: Portland did a good job. I watched a lot of film of them guarding me, seeing how they tried to make me go one way into their big men. But I looked at that tape a lot, too, so this year when we play them I can have a better game.
SI.com: What else did you do in the offseason to improve your game?
Evans: I worked on my shot and getting better at going both ways to try to keep the defense at bay. I'd put a chair at the three-point line and attack the chair, things like that. As for shooting, I would often do that in the evening, make 500, and then go work out at 8 or 9 p.m.
SI.com: You also spent time with Team USA over the summer before an injury ended it. What did you think of your time with the team?
Evans: I had a really good experience. It's a good group of guys. [Team USA president] Jerry Colangelo gave me a call after I got hurt and he said he wanted me to come back and be a part of the team, so I'll definitely be back.
SI.com: The Kings were busy in the summer, too. What do you think of the new additions?
Evans: It's going to be a pretty good season. DeMarcus [Cousins, the team's top draft pick] is a good big man. I could see him opening things up a lot, especially for me; he could set some ball screens.
SI.com: What are your expectations for this season?
Evans: Win as many games as possible and try to be a playoff team. We've got the talent; we've just got to go out there and put it together. That's where it starts -- playing as a team. If we come out and play hard every game and see what kind of teammates we've got this year, I think we've got a good chance to make the playoffs. If not, I'm sure we'll come back strong the following year and definitely make the playoffs.
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