Tyreke Evans Overwhelmed by Historic Feat, but Real Prize Would Be Winning
The banners, the posters, the paintings, the hysteria and hype that surrounded the Kings rookie upon arrival back in June and reached yet another high point on Monday night at Arco Arena.
This was his moment in the purple spotlight. Again. The latest achievement celebrated and promoted to the hilt was Evans' season average for points, rebounds and assists, as he officially joined the 20-5-5 club that only Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James had previously entered as rookies and that the Kings hope makes Evans a lock for the Rookie of the Year award.
The outcome was merely a subplot for Sacramento, even if Evans' oft-reckless attempts to reach the mark had much to do with the Kings' 117-107 loss to Houston in their home finale. Evans made it look easy and then hard, scoring 22 points in the first 23 minutes of play before missing eight straight shots and finally reaching the necessary 24 points with a pair of free throws with 6:46 remaining in the fourth.
And as he sat alone at his locker in what was effectively the end of his ROY campaign, Evans admitted it was all too much even for him.
"That was the most pressure I'd had so far (in his rookie season)," the player picked fourth overall out of the University of Memphis told FanHouse. "(I) was more nervous than getting drafted. I'm still shaking right now as we speak.
"But we kind of let up. I think because of the 20-5-5 and everybody wanted me to get it, I think that messed up our strategy. It was the toughest basket I ever had to get in my life but I'm glad I got it."
Amid the many signs supporting former King Kevin Martin in his first return, there was a young boy keeping score for Evans. His Sharpie creation on poster board kept a running tally of how many points Evans needed to achieve 20-5-5, with a new number taped on with every basket or free throw.
When Evans finally got there -- the Kings having gone from 10 points up before his drought to a 99-99 tie at that point -- an announced crowd 14,549 was on its feet (except for California Governor/former action star Arnold Schwarzenegger, who elected to sit and clap politely from his center-court seat). Inspirational music was cued. The same jumbotron that displayed a video tribute to Martin after the first quarter on a night in which he scored 39 points showed a highlight reel of Evans and flashed the "20-5-5" repeatedly.
The public address announcer explained the details that everyone already knew.
Well, almost everyone.
Rockets coach and former Kings coach Rick Adelman was clueless to the reason for the local mania.
"I didn't even know what was going on (when the crowd went wild), then finally they put the 20-5-5 up there (on the video screen)," Adelman said. "I'm more than happy to let him have that and we'll take the win and go home."
Adelman chuckled when he finished his thought, and there was a lesson in there somewhere for his old employers.
It was about winning when Adelman was coaching on the other side of the Kings' court, when his teams reached the playoffs eight straight times from 1999 to 2006 and became the thorn in the Lakers' side that came so close to drawing blood. Four years after Adelman was unceremoniously let go after his contract expired, a Kings team that is likely years away from returning to the postseason continues to celebrate the little things.
They did just that earlier in the day as well, picking up the 2011-12 team option on coach Paul Westphal's contract after the modest improvement from a franchise-low 17 wins last season to 25 this time around (the Kings' season ends at the Lakers on Tuesday). This came, of course, after Kings basketball president Geoff Petrie was given a three-year extension on Dec. 29 and the team proceeded to lose 40 of its next 51 games.
Thankfully for the Kings, Evans is still thinking much bigger. Asked what his reaction would be if he didn't win the Rookie of the Year award, Evans downplayed its significance.
"I wouldn't be disappointed at all," he told FanHouse after finishing with 24 points, six rebounds, four assists and four turnovers. "Maybe my family and the fans would be. But me, I didn't come into this season to just try to win Rookie of the Year. I wanted to get better every day, to learn the game and help this team try to be a playoff team. That's the most important thing. Rookie of the Year is big ... but the most important thing for me is winning."
If FanHouse's polling of 23 of the 124 voters of the award is any indication, it's looking likely that Evans will be the ROY winner. Only first- and second-place votes were counted in this small sample size, with Evans leading in first-place votes with 16 followed by Golden State's Stephen Curry (six) and Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings (one). Curry led in second-place votes with 12, while Evans had seven and Jennings had four. Voters still have time to change their minds, of course, as the deadline for votes to be submitted to the league isn't until Thursday.
While Hall of Famer Clyde Drexler doesn't have a vote, the Rockets' color commentator said he saw Evans as the Rookie of the Year "by far" when asked.
"He's had a fantastic season," Petrie said before the game of Evans, whose game may be going global as Team USA director Jerry Colangelo told FanHouse he is considering adding Evans this summer. "When you draft somebody, you never know what he's going to do for sure. He's on the precipice of having a season very few players have been able to have. Whatever value anybody wants to place on that kind of thing, it amounts to one thing: you have to be pretty good to be able to do that.
"I don't think any of us said he was a complete player when we drafted him. His game needs to grow. He still needs to add some skill things. But in general, the history of a player's talent (who reached the 20-5-5 mark) is pretty good. I think he's committed to getting better."
One thing's for sure: the Kings will be celebrating him every step of the way.
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