Kings’ Evans Leery of Trade Talk
Dealing with a barrage of seemingly endless trade rumors, Sacramento Kings swingman Tyreke Evans has had a tumultuous last few seasons. Sacramento, languishing at 7-13 as cellar dwellers in the loaded Western Conference, may have some tough decisions to make again this February and Evans could again be a prime target.
Going from a highly-prized prospect his rookie season in Sacramento to potential trade bait over the span of a little more than three NBA seasons may be taking its toll on the 23-year-old Evans.
“I don’t know yet,” Evans told HOOPSWORLD of his future with the Kings. “It’s still early. I’m just going to keep playing and see what happens from there. I got the Sacramento Kings, and the fans have been great to me since I’ve been here, so let’s see what happens.”
Trying to provide some stability for Evans and his role on this team, head coach Keith Smart publicly came out and backed his starter before the start of the season.
“I think that’s big,” Smart told HOOPSWORLD of that effect on Evans. “You share with him big time… From watching from afar, I knew if I could get into his head to help his game, it’s going to benefit him. And I think because of that he allowed me to coach him mentally. To say, ‘You need to do this, and work on these things right here.’ I think him having the confidence in me, knowing I was doing everything I can to put him in the right position, I think he felt that was a positive. Hey, when I move you from off the point guard position, and again I’ve coached against you, so I know what you do and what you can’t do. I’m not just bringing this into you, so I knew what your strengths were and what you didn’t see on the floor.”
Despite his own uncertainty about his future in Sacramento, Evans says his relationship with Smart has helped to alleviate some of the uneasiness he’s felt with the organization.
“Yeah, definitely,” Evans said. “[Smart] put me at the three, and now I’m back at the two. So I just found a way to play to my best that I can do and I just go out there and play hard every night. That’s what I’ve been doing.”
Prior to joining the Kings before the 2011-12 NBA season, Smart says he noticed Evans’ potential during his time as head coach of the Golden State Warriors. During that time, the Kings’ second-year head coach says he realized some ways he could help further Evans’ game moving forward.
“When I was at Golden State, he was a guy on our radar,” Smart said. “But I saw, you know what, maybe he hasn’t been coached yet. Maybe he wasn’t shown what to do or how to do it, so as you move through and I get to coach him, I knew I had to get him off the ball to get him to learn how to be a basketball player – because he was a basketball player with the ball. So I knew I had to move him away from there. That way he could learn how to cut without the ball, learn how to move without the ball, learn how to defend without the ball. Because sometimes when you only defend the ball, as you defend the other teams point guard, you have a tendency to not know what to do once you get to the weak side of the floor. So that’s where he had a lot of struggles.”
Although it seemed like at times last season Smart was forced to try out Evans at different positions out of necessity, the Kings head coach says that was all part of his plan to make Evans a better NBA player. Specifically for his future at the point guard position, Smart says playing those multiple spots on the floor will help Evans see the floor better and help to evolve his game at point.
“I knew I had to move him around because of multiple things but that was one reason,” Smart said. “And I knew slowly I would transition him back to the two, because I think his size and his ability to play defense at the two was a huge plus for us. Now, here he comes even falling back down again, to eventually getting him back to where he’s a really good, big point guard. And that was the whole process of how I look at things for him.”
Working in his favor (or at least increasing his trade value) this season has been Evans’ newfound potency from behind the three-point arc. After struggling with his three-point shot to the tune of shooting just 25 percent over his first two NBA seasons, Evans is shooting a career-high 31 percent from downtown to start 2012.
“Yeah, I’ve just been working on trying to shoot it the same way every time but I’ve just been throwing it up,” Evans said. “I’ve been getting good looks. Once I see a good look, I just let it fly.”
Evans’ new teammate, starting point guard Aaron Brooks says getting rid of some of the hesitancy in terms of stepping right into those open looks from the perimeter has been huge.
“I think earlier in the year we had to push him to shoot when he was wide open, but now he’s been shooting it pretty well,” Brooks told HOOPSWORLD. “But I don’t like to speak on it, I just like to let it go. I don’t want to give him praise too early because it feels like I might jinx him. It’s going in and we’re happy – let’s leave it at that.”
Despite featuring a scoring average (15.5) that ranks as the lowest of his young career, Evans’ offensive efficiency this season has been in line with some of the best of his career.
“I think coming out of training camp, he wasn’t having much success with that, so he went back to his old nature of trying to drive, trying to overrun some guys, stuff like that,” Smart said. “But I think now, knowing that we’re spacing the floor a little bit more, he’s going to be open, because teams still aren’t 100% sure that he’s a shooter yet. But if he keeps making those shots, now it comes back to where you have to come back up on him, and now the skill that he has being able to break someone off the dribble becomes really, really efficient for us.”
Even though Sacramento features a young, talented and possibly up-and-coming squad, there’s no guarantee all of these guys are going to be around when the dust settles. Coach Smart’s backing certainly helps, and the time he’s put in with him in practice can’t be understated, but Evans’ future with the Kings may not be guaranteed.
For the Kings, who haven’t made the playoffs since squeaking in as the eighth seed back in the 2005-06 season, Evans could be their most attractive trade asset to try and turn the fortunes of a team desperately trying to find it’s way.