Tyreke Evans motivated to reach postseason with new team
August 30, 2013
Among the memories Tyreke Evans has from his four seasons as a member of the Sacramento Kings, there’s at least one aspect of his time in California he’d prefer to forget. Although Evans earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2009-10 and established himself as one of the NBA’s premier offensive talents, it never resulted in team success. The Kings won between 22 and 28 games every season of Evans’ tenure, annually putting them out of realistic Western Conference playoff contention by the All-Star break.
“I had a great run with those guys, but we weren’t winning out there,” Evans said of his Sacramento years. “I’ve been a winner all my life. I definitely don’t want to continue on that losing route.”
One of the New Orleans Pelicans’ key summer acquisitions, Evans enters Year 5 of his NBA career having played in a total of 257 regular season games, but none in the postseason. The 6-foot-6, 220-pounder’s No. 1 objective in 2013-14 is to make his playoff debut, a goal that jibes well with that of many of his new teammates. Of the 15 players currently on the New Orleans roster, 11 have never appeared in the NBA postseason. Ryan Anderson (20 playoff games), Greg Stiemsma (19), Jrue Holiday (18) and Jason Smith (12) are the only Pelicans who’ve experienced the intensity of playoff basketball.
“This is my fifth year,” the 23-year-old Evans said more than once recently, stressing his urgency to win now. “I’m definitely working and pushing the team to be in the playoffs. Everyone is pushing for that. We want nothing less. We want to go out there and make a playoff run.”
In order to qualify for the West playoffs for the first time since 2011, New Orleans made a handful of additions, headlined by Evans and Jrue Holiday. The Pelicans committed to a four-year contract with Evans, who had considered returning to the Kings before agreeing to sign with New Orleans.
“They did a lot,” Evans said of the Pelicans’ summer additions. “You could tell the organization is trying to win. They brought us all here to win. Now we’ve got to bring our hard work to the court every night and try to win games.”
The Memphis product’s play will be a key factor in determining New Orleans’ success in 2013-14, though his specific role likely will be determined during October training camp. There has been considerable national speculation that the career 17.5-points-per-game-scorer could come off the bench for the Pelicans, filling a similar role to Manu Ginobili in San Antonio or James Harden when Harden thrived in Oklahoma City.
Evans: “In my opinion, of course I want to start. But if the coaches need me to come off the bench in order to help the team win, then I’m willing to sacrifice that for the team. I just want to win. I’m going to do whatever it takes for the team to win.”
While Evans started 247 of his 257 games with Sacramento – only coming off the bench for brief stretches after returning from an injury – his position has been in flux. The Kings used him primarily as a point guard during his Rookie of the Year campaign, but later moved him to shooting guard and small forward for spells. His scoring average has dropped from 20.1 as a rookie to 15.2 last season, but so did his shot attempts. He set career highs in 2012-13 in both field-goal percentage (.478) and three-point percentage (.338).
“I’ve played (all three perimeter positions),” Evans said. “I can cause mismatches either way. So I’m sure Coach (Monty Williams) will do a good job of setting me up in different positions to help the team win, to either get buckets or set other guys up and find the open man.”
Evans’ 6-6 frame gives him a size advantage over the vast majority of guards. After spending several days as a teammate in pickup games with Evans, Pelicans second-year standout Anthony Davis believes the Philadelphia area native’s most underrated skill may be his passing. Evans has averaged 4.8 assists per game in the NBA, along with 4.8 rebounds.
“He can handle the ball very well, he can score and he can also find guys because he’s so tall that he can look over defenders,” said Davis, who coincidentally was also coached in college by John Calipari. “That’s a great thing about him.”
Evans has enjoyed spending time with his new teammates recently, enabling him to get a better feel for them on and off the court. He knows that no matter how much individual acclaim he receives with his second NBA team, it won’t be very gratifying without it resulting in his first winning season as a pro.
“I’m out here getting to know the guys more, guys like (Davis), B Rob (Brian Roberts), Darius (Miller),” Evans said. “Just getting familiar with them so that when the season comes, I know what they like and what they don’t like. It’s a new start for me, a new team and a new coaching staff. Everything’s new for me. I’m definitely looking forward to the first preseason game and playing on this team.”