By Kings.com Fan Correspondent Alex Kramers
Past: In 2009-10, Tyreke Evans won the Rookie of the Year award after he became just the fourth first-year player in NBA history to average more than 20 points, five rebounds and five assists – joining the exclusive company of Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James. The 6-foot-6, 220-pound guard exhibited an uncanny ability to get to the rim against any opponent, using his strength and size to overwhelm defenders and create contact, as well as his lateral quickness and deft ball-handling skills to change direction and beat defenders. A dynamic and aggressive penetrator, Evans scored at will and consistently created open looks for his teammates.
In his sophomore campaign, Evans struggled with a lingering plantar fasciitis injury that forced him to sit out 25 games and robbed him of much of his lift and explosiveness around the basket. “It was like someone stabbed [my foot] with a knife,” Evans told SLAM magazine. “It was a tough season for me.”
While his field-goal percentage and overall production dipped from his historic rookie year output, the fact Evans was able to post 17.8 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.6 assists was rather remarkable given his physical condition. Fortunately, when he returned to the court late last season, the Kings star quickly regained his trademark athleticism and explosiveness, much to the chagrin of San Antonio Spurs guard Gary Neal.
Though Evans impressively posterized Neal, his greatest highlight last season (and one of the most memorable shots in team history) was his sensational and improbable half-court buzzer-beater to declaw the Memphis Grizzlies on Dec. 29, 2010 at Power Balance Pavilion.
Present: Like many of his Kings teammates, Evans participated in numerous exhibition games over the course of the offseason, showing he’s fully recovered from the foot injury that plagued him in 2010-11. Evans was one of a handful of NBA stars who traveled on a two-game tour to the Philippines, where fans marveled at his dribbling displays and lightning-quick moves. In the USO NBA Hoops for Troops game in Hawaii, he hit a game-winning, step-back three-pointer over Miami Heat forward Mike Miller.
Evans’ incredible ball handling was on full display at The Elite 24 Midnight Run, where he crossed-up opponents with ease and elevated to finish with authority. The Kings guard staged another beautiful dribbling showcase in the Battle of I-95 in Pennsylvania and put on an absolute showin the Goon Squad Classic, seamlessly getting to the basket and knocking down eight three-pointers en route to scoring a game-high 54 points.
Future: Entering his third year, Evans is primed for a bounce-back season in which he’ll return to breaking down defenses and posing nightly matchup nightmares for opponents. With an improved jump shot and a plethora of inside scorers and outside shooters at his side, Sacramento’s floor general should evolve into an even more efficient scorer and playmaker.
Considering only four other players, all of whom were selected to the 2011 All-Star Game – James, Derrick Rose, Russell Westbrook and Deron Williams – recorded over 17 points, five assists and four rebounds last season, Evans appears well on his way to making the first of many trips to the NBA’s mid-season classic.