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."
October 25, 2009
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE with 2008--09 statistics
|PG||TYREKE EVANS (R)||PPG: 17.1||RPG: 5.4||APG: 3.9||SPG: 2.08||FG%: 45.5|
|SG||KEVIN MARTIN||PPG: 24.6||APG: 2.7||SPG: 1.20||FG%: 42.0||3FG%: 41.5|
|SF||DESMOND MASON||PPG: 7.5||RPG: 4.0||APG: 1.2||BPG: 0.77||FG%: 43.5|
|PF||JASON THOMPSON||PPG: 11.1||RPG: 7.4||APG: 1.1||BPG: 0.72||FG%: 49.7|
|C||SPENCER HAWES||PPG: 11.4||RPG: 7.1||APG: 1.9||BPG: 1.21||FG%: 46.6|
KEY BENCH PLAYERS: G-F Andres Nocioni, 11.4 PPG; F Jon Brockman (R), 11.5 RPG; G Beno Udrih, 11.0 PPG; G-F Francisco Garcia, 12.7 PPG • New acquisition • (R) Rookie, college stats
COACH: Paul Westphal (first season with Kings) • 2008--09 RECORD: 17--65 (fifth in Pacific)
POINTS SCORED: 100.6 (12th in NBA) • POINTS ALLOWED: 109.3 (29th in NBA)
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.
ENEMY LINES | A RIVAL SCOUT ON THE KINGS
Kevin Martin is their No. 1 guy, but on a good team he would be the third-best player. He can't create his own shot. He has deceptive speed, a quick first step, and he's one of the best players at drawing fouls. I can't believe defenders still go for that exaggerated ball fake of his.... One of the things they liked about Tyreke Evans is his ability to get into the paint, draw the defense and then kick it out. That's something Martin needs, and he didn't get it last year from Beno Udrih.... Jason Thompson has a lot of versatility. Though he was very foul-prone last year, I give him credit for that because it happened from competing on every play.... Spencer Hawes is only 21, but he has a chance to become one of the better centers in the NBA; he's probably still five or six years from reaching his peak. He can shoot it facing up, and he has a decent jump hook with his right hand. He's not a physical rebounder, but he's a hard worker and very talented.... Andres Nocioni is a really bad fit. Teams like this need talent, guys who can create and score, whereas Nocioni brings toughness and competitiveness. He'd be the icing on the cake for a good team.