HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — As if there wasn’t already enough drama in Sacramento, the Kings have another issue looming in the near future that has nothing to do with a new arena or squabbling between ownership and civic leaders.
Sooner or later they have to decide what to do with the former Rookie of the Year and former prized point guard Tyreke Evans, the former face of the franchise who has been replaced in the starting lineup by another promising rookie, Isaiah Thomas.
There isn’t a more dangerous gamble than giving up too soon on a lottery pick. Teams do it all the time with mixed results — sometimes that picks turns out to be Chauncey Billups, Joe Johnson or Tyson Chandler and sometimes he turns out to be Devin Harris or even Adam Morrison. There is really no crystal ball that allows an organization the luxury of knowing whether they have a championship piece or All-Star, a competent starter or a complete bust.
The jury is still out on Evans, whose skills and size suggest he should be able to determine his own fate based on his performance. But he’s become something of an enigma in Sacramento, where there seems to be a fundamental debate about his best position and whether or not he has the makeup to be a leader for a struggling franchise.
Ailene Voisin of the Sacramento Bee tackles this dilemma facing the Kings head on:
Kings executives will entertain trade offers for Tyreke Evans this summer, and they should.
Evans remains a major asset. His team remains in a major funk. When a franchise finishes near the conference cellar for six consecutive seasons, the general manager needs to make significant personnel changes, or the franchise needs to change its general manager.
But that’s an organizational decision.
Evans, who has a year remaining on his contract, has his own decision to make. He has to figure out what he wants and how badly he wants it. He has to determine what kind of player he wants to be and proceed accordingly, essentially controlling what he can control.
Is he satisfied with his Rookie of the Year trophy? Is it enough to be pain-free for the first time in two years? Is he content being a starter? And, most importantly, will he ever emotionally embrace the shift from point guard to small forward – a total mind, body and soul experience – and become a more engaged, consistent performer?
There is no quick answer hiding behind the locker room doors. Evans is both perplexing and a piece of the Kings’ puzzle. He has a unique combination of skills, an agreeable, accommodating personality and the 6-foot-6, 220-pound physique of a basketball god.
But the primary question asked when Evans was drafted fourth overall in 2009 remains unanswered: Where is he most effective?
“I don’t think it’s any big secret,” Princeton legend and longtime Kings consultant Pete Carril said the other night. “Tyreke’s got to learn to play without the ball. It’s all there. I see some games, and he looks very good. Other games … he just has to work harder. I’d love to see him develop a mid-range game.”
It’s too early to cast Evans off without at least exploring what Carril suggests here. But that also requires some serious buy-in from Evans. He has to be willing to reconfigure his game if the Kings, or any team, wants to make him a central figure in its long-term plans.
What’s also clear is that Evans is not considered a true point guard or even a potential point guard by the Kings. They feel they have a player better suited for that role in Thomas, the last pick of last June’s Draft.
Like many who watched Evans in his rookie season, we were intrigued by the prospects of Evans working as an oversized point guard. At 6-foot-6 and more than 220 pounds, he possesses the size to cause matchup nightmares on a daily basis. But there’s a leadership component, responsibilities as a facilitator, that come with the position. It’s unclear if Evans embraced those things or if he, like many other talented young stars before him, is simply a casualty of a faulty operation.
Remember, DeMarcus Cousins was considered an at-risk player before a coaching change cleared the way for him to become the walking double-double (granted, he still has his own maturing to do) his talent suggested he would be.
Evans has time and so do the Kings. But they’re at the crossroads …