NBA PM: Tyreke Evans Enjoying Fresh Start
Tyreke Evans Enjoying Fresh Start With Pelicans
As Tyreke Evans went through the free agency process and had to decide which team he’d sign an offer sheet with, the 24-year-old was reminded of a similar recruitment that he had experienced years earlier.
In high school, Evans was a five-star recruit and one of the best players in the country, so he received interest from a number of top programs. Memphis, Connecticut, Louisville, North Carolina, Texas, Villanova and many other colleges wanted Evans to commit. After considering his options, Evans decided to join John Calipari at Memphis for one season before leaving for the NBA.
As a restricted free agent in July, Evans met with a number of teams including the New Orleans Pelicans, Detroit Pistons and Atlanta Hawks among others. After weighing his offers, Evans signed an offer sheet with the Pelicans worth $44 million over four years. The Sacramento Kings’ brass, who had the chance to match the offer, decided to let him go to New Orleans.
Evans couldn’t help but draw parallels between the two processes.
“It was like picking a school again,” Evans told HOOPSWORLD. “It was like a picking a college. You know, you’re meeting coaches and GMs, and talking about how you can help their team basically. It was a good process for me. Now I know, if I go through it again, what to expect. At the end of the day, everything went well.”
Several months after making his free agency decision, Evans has no regrets. He’s thrilled to be in New Orleans alongside their young core that includes Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Eric Gordon, Ryan Anderson, Al-Farouq Aminu and Austin Rivers among others. The team has jelled quickly despite all of the new pieces and finished the preseason with a 7-1 record, which put them atop the preseason standings in the Western Conference.
“I think it all started during training camp; we’ve been going early and working with each other,” Evans said of the team’s early success. “Guys have been playing a lot of five-on-five together so that we can get a chance to know one another. It started in training camp; we got more and more used to each other. Then, Coach put in plays and sets, and challenged us to play defense, and we’re willing to work. Everything has been great and it transferred over to the preseason.”
When Evans first signed with the Pelicans, there were some questions about how he’d fit alongside Holiday and Gordon since they are all guards who seemingly need the ball in their hands to be successful. However, Evans loves playing with the two guards, whom he’s known since high school. He believes having scoring and playmaking threats will make the Pelicans a scary team.
“Ah man, it’s amazing,” Evans said of playing alongside Holiday and Gordon. “The way we have that three-guard lineup, three guards that can run, push the ball out in the open floor, I think it’s going to be tough for teams to stop us. [In the preseason], we’ve got it going a little bit, pushing the ball down the floor to get easy buckets in transition. That kind of makes it easier on everybody, when we all get out in open space.”
Evans has all of the talent in the world and he has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his NBA career. He’s one of the better dribblers in the league and he’s capable of scoring from just about anywhere on the court. When Evans’ new teammates talk about his skills, their eyes widen and they rave about him.
In recent years, Evans’ productivity has been on the decline. After winning the Rookie of the Year award back in the 2009-10 season, Evans has failed to match his stats or efficiency from that campaign. His rookie numbers are still his career-high in points, rebounds, assists and steals, even though his minutes and opportunities remained largely the same. Last season, Evans averaged a career-low 15.2 points, 3.5 assists and 4.4 rebounds.
That’s part of the reason Sacramento wasn’t interested in extending or re-signing Evans, allowing him walk to New Orleans over summer. While that’s a bit of a red flag, he’s still very young at 24 years old and his best basketball should be ahead of him. The Pelicans are hoping that a change of scenery will bring out the best in Evans, especially since there wasn’t much stability (or winning) with the Kings. Evans has been very impressed with the Pelicans as a whole several months into his stint with the team.
“I mean, just the way they handle things around here, it’s about holding everyone accountable,” Evans said when asked of his first impression of the organization. “We all know what we have to do. We’re going to go out there and play, and the system that Coach has for us is a great system for all of the guys on this team.”
In his four seasons with the Kings, Evans didn’t make the playoffs. In fact, the team never managed to win over 28 games in a single season. Sacramento’s record during Evans’ four seasons was 99-213.
Now that Evans is in New Orleans, he’s hoping to experience the postseason for the first time in his career. When he looks around the Pelicans’ locker room, he sees a group that realistically has a shot at securing one of the West’s eight playoff seeds.
“I think we can be a playoff team, for sure,” Evans said. “We’ve got all of the pieces to the puzzle. I mean, the sky is the limit for us. We just have to go out there and work every night.”
Horford’s Patience Wearing Thin in Atlanta?
Al Horford has been with the Atlanta Hawks for six years and is under contract through the 2015-16 season. However, David Aldridge of NBA.com recently wondered if Horford’s patience may be wearing thin in Atlanta, since the team continues to sit a tier below the contenders in the Eastern Conference.
Horford has turned the Hawks into a perennial playoff team, but Aldridge points out that Atlanta has never advanced past the semifinals and that all of the pieces around Horford have changed during his stint with the team, from ownership to management to coaches to players.
At 27 years old, Horford is at a point where he wants to win now. How much time will he give Danny Ferry and first-time head coach Mike Budenholzer before he wants to leave the Hawks?
“That’s a very fair question,” Horford told NBA.com when asked how patient he can be while Ferry’s and Budenholzer’s regime takes hold. “I do realize that, and I do want to win. I do want to be in a really good position to compete. I wonder. I do wonder what’s going to be our next move as a team. But for now, all I can focus on is this team, this year. But absolutely — I want to compete. I want to be part of a winning, successful, championship team. I do trust that Danny’s moving in the right direction, but like you said, I have been in seven years already. Some things are going to have to happen the next few years.”
Horford’s name rarely comes up in trade or free agency rumors, but that could change as he enters his seventh season in Atlanta. The big man is set to earn $12,000,000 over the next three seasons with the Hawks, but he could demand a trade if he feels the team isn’t moving in the direction he wants.
“We certainly respect Al’s value to our program,” Ferry said. “He is a high level basketball player, teammate and person. I am excited to see his continued growth as one of our leaders under Coach Bud.”
One of the main reasons that Budenholzer felt comfortable leaving the San Antonio Spurs was because Atlanta wasn’t a startup and had a franchise cornerstone like Horford down low.
“I think that was really important, to have a guy who’d been an established player, who’d been to a couple of All-Star games, and who was a good guy, a character guy,” Budenholzer said of Horford. “You need those kind of people to fulfill something. Instead of taking it down, you’ve already got a player like him to be a core-type guy. For me, looking at jobs, it was a big part of the attraction.”
Horford hasn’t talked with Ferry about his vision for building the team.
“But I see his vision in a way,” Horford said. “He wants us to be a team that plays with more pace, that plays faster, very similar to how San Antonio played. To me, as far as players’ vision, I don’t really, Danny and I don’t really talk about that. To me, I’m just kind of focusing on what we have now. I’m sure when the time comes, he’ll talk to me about certain issues, what we should do with the team.
“My bigger challenge is, as you know, half of our team is new. And a lot of the key pieces that we had in the past are gone. It’s been a matter of me, as much as we can, practicing together, and in games, starting to learn that chemistry, learning to play off of one another. For me, it’s a transition I’m still working on. But I feel like we’re making progress.”
Whether or not he continues to feel that the team is making progress remains to be seen.