He's skinnier than the NBA's reigning Rookie of the Year, his muscles more natural than nautilus and the 6-foot-6 frame of this YouTube sensation both long and lean. But the most eye-opening difference is the difference in his game.
This Tyreke Evans has a jumper -- a deadly jumper. He pulls up from almost anywhere on the floor, burying deep threes and mid-range looks with a scissor-kick motion and high-arching shot that floats with swagger. This is Tyreke Evans in high school, and the modern-day Tyreke Evans has finally taken notice.
The Sacramento Kings guard was on his couch when the clip of his American Christian Academy days began, lost in a world of texting or perhaps Twittering on his cell phone while resting inside his four-bedroom house in the Sacramento suburb of Natomas. But his brothers' ruckus finally caught his attention.
Doc and Reggie Evans are using their younger brother's laptop to show these grainy highlight reels to this reporter, offering proof that the outside game that was so absent from his one season at Memphis and one season with the Kings did exist at one point. And as Evans himself stands to join the viewing audience, he stares at his old self as if he needs convincing too.
"You see this Reke?" the oldest brother, Doc, rhetorically asks. "You had it going (back then). You should watch these (movies) every night before you go to bed."
Evans, who just minutes before had been dribbling on the carpet inside his upstairs bedroom, doesn't want to wait that long. He heads to the gym for an evening workout.
Two cars and six people are off to the Kings practice facility that's fewer than three miles away. They go past the vacant security booth on the outside and past the only other person at the building on the inside, trainer Pete Youngman. Evans won't leave until more than two hours and a few hundred shots later, with the hope that this latest training session has him one step closer to rediscovering a pivotal part of his game.
With the Kings looking for significant improvement after winning just 17 and 25 games, respectively, in the last two seasons, this will be a very different year for Evans. He was often a one-man show in his debut campaign, a dazzling talent who lacked a top-tier supporting cast yet too often fell short in making the most of the crew he had.
The Kings were the early surprise story of the NBA, starting with a 13-14 record and nearly matching their 2008-09 win total long before the midway point. But their finish was as bad as their start was good, and they lost 43 of their final 55 games.
Evans will certainly be asked to evolve, to improve his point guard skills and become a more vocal and responsible leader. His attacking game will remain his go-to offensive weapon and his shot, in truth, is not the top priority when it comes to his development. But it is the most mysterious of his many skills, if only because of the way it vanished.
His brothers blame John Calipari. As they see it, the then-Memphis coach scared the confidence right out of Evans, gnawing on his ear every time the he dared to shoot a jumper instead of blowing by the line of helpless defenders. The style worked just fine for the Tigers, who went 33-4 and lost to Missouri in the third round of the NCAA Championships in Evans' one season.
Now, however, those closest to Evans say it's working against him.
"I don't blame anybody, but I think coach Cal looked at is like, 'Hey, you know what? This kid can get to the basket any time he wants, so let's play him to his strength," said Tony Bergeron, Evans' coach at the Aston, Pa. high school. "(But) I used to have a fit watching his Memphis games. I'd be screaming at the TV, saying 'Shoot!'"
Which is precisely what Bergeron shouted during Evans' prep years, too.
"His brother Doc was the one who would go in, work on that arc and get shots up with him," Bergeron said. "Doc gets a ton of credit. ... And then there was me, who loves the three-ball. I used to destroy 'Reke for not shooting. I'm yelling, 'Shoot the three, shoot the three!' Then he'd start hitting it. And then all of a sudden it clicked during his junior year. Everyone would start bellying up, and he would go right by people. The game became very easy."
According to Bergeron, Evans shot 40.6 percent from three-point range as a senior while playing under preparatory school rules that mandated 10-minute quarters. In addition to the accuracy, though, it's the contrast in volume from then to now that is remarkable.
Evans hit just 34 of 124 threes in 37 games at Memphis (27.4 percent), averaging 0.9 conversions and 3.4 attempts per game. He hit 36 of 141 threes in 72 games with the Kings (25.5 percent), averaging 0.5 conversions and 1.95 attempts per game in his first experience with the NBA's deeper three-point line. Yet during that senior season at American Christian, Evans hit 128 of 315 three-pointers in 31 games while averaging 4.1 conversions and an astounding 10.1 attempts per game.
"His three-ball, when I (had) him, was his best weapon," Bergeron said. "He didn't care about the (three-point) line neither. Some of them were close, some of them were far. The distance was meaningless to him."
It's not just about improving from beyond the arc, though, but having more inside-out balance in general. Evans has proven to be more reluctant to shoot a jumpshot than some of the game's most renowned dribble-drive specialists, among them Chicago's Derrick Rose and Oklahoma City's Russell Westbrook.
According to NBA.com's 'Hotspots' feature, Rose took 38.8 percent of his shots at the rim last season (532 of 1373 attempts), while 48.4 percent of Westbrook's shots were of that variety (562 of 1160). Yet 60.4 percent of Evans' attempts (704 of 1165) were either layups or dunks.
There have been changes to his shooting form since he entered the league, with the obvious hope that it would increase his efficiency. Evans now shoots the ball more in front of his face, going the textbook route rather than using the catapult style he had before. He jumps straight up more than fading back, and the kick-out isn't as second nature as it was before. But both Bergeron and Evans agree it's not the shot itself that needs to be fixed. It's his confidence.
"Me and my friends would talk about it at the house, how I'd miss one (outside shot during Kings games in his rookie season) and then the next play they already knew I'd be going for a layup or kick it out or something like that," Evans said. "But the guys who play this game at the top in this league -- guys like 'Melo (Carmelo Anthony) and LeBron (James) -- they shoot with confidence. That's just how I've got to think. It's not being selfish. It's being aggressive."
And while Calipari's single-minded ways might have hurt the confidence cause, Evans said the problem in his first pro season certainly wasn't Kings coach Paul Westphal.
"(Westphal) gave (the freedom) to me last year, but I wasn't comfortable shooting," Evans said.
At the start of his latest workout, he's a long ways from Anthony and James territory. He's not even shooting it like Darrin Govens, the former guard at St. Joseph's University and hometown friend who is already in rhythm by the time Evans and his group arrive. Evans, meanwhile, is having a hard time scoring on his brother.
Reggie is working with him at the moment, guarding Tyreke closely while deep on the left wing and challenging him to bury the three with the defender in his face. He misses 11 of his 12 early attempts, though, complaining with a smile that Reggie is blatantly fouling him every time.
There is no shortage of advice, with Doc, Reggie, and friends Dwayne and Oliver chiming in at various points.
"Lock your elbow, follow through every time -- like a free throw," Doc says.
"It's your legs man," Oliver adds just seconds later.
Evans seems distracted, or at least not fully engaged.
But he gets more serious, more focused, with every shot, the clutter seeming to leave his mind and the instincts taking over. Eventually, the makes start to outnumber the misses, his chest growing bigger along the way as he heats up and Govens goes cold.
He shoots. He sweats. He shoots some more. The dripping jersey comes off and leaves just the undershirt on Evans, who darts around cones and shows off his dribbling skills as the workout wears on.
Evans is hitting threes from out of bounds in the right corner now, with Govens following with his best attempt at the H-O-R-S-E style shot.
"Come on, man," he says with a smirk to his childhood friend who is missing badly. "Bring it in. It's too much for you."
Not long after, Evans finally decides he's had enough too. It's 8:30 p.m., and his Mercedes S550 finally veers out of the Arco Arena parking lot and towards his home.
There's one YouTube clip Evans has no plans to watch again. It's the one involving the very car he left his workout in.
After taking a month off from any physical activity after the season, Evans' most pressing summer challenges were mild compared to what was to come: he needed to shed the extra pounds that came with his unprecedented break (he weighed 228 pounds in mid-August after playing at 219 last season), then get his game right in time to have a strong showing at the Team USA tryouts in Las Vegas in late July (he tweaked his ankle two hours into the workout and was eventually cut).
But on May 31, the California Highway Patrol videotaped Evans driving on a Sacramento area highway at speeds up to 130 miles per hour for nearly 15 minutes. Evans was detained and released on site once the CHP caught up with him, and he eventually pled no contest to reckless driving.
When the CHP tape was finally released two months later, Evans learned the hard way how the Internet has taken the celebrity spotlight to a new level. That clip became a YouTube sensation even more viral than his most popular mix tapes. It has logged nearly 575,000 views since its debut in early August.
"It wasn't a good decision on my behalf, but at the same time I'm young," Evans said. "You're not used to the spotlight. And when something like that happens, it blows up because it gets people talking about something. It sells papers, and they try to make it as big as possible. I've just got to watch what I do from now on. At the time, I was having fun with a friend, but I've got to be smarter.
"This is a good city for me to be in. There's not much (chance) for me to get in trouble, so for me to make a decision like that wasn't a good one. I learned my lesson."
He's certainly not done paying for the mistake, though. In addition to his court-issued fines, Evans was suspended without pay for one game by the NBA last week and will serve the suspension in the regular season opener at Minnesota on Oct. 27 so long as he's healthy. He also had his license suspended for a month, and continues to work towards completing his mandated 80 hours of community service.
"I'm glad he got caught," Westphal said. "My (family member) got a ticket for going really, really fast one time, and my wife and I called the judge and said, 'Thank you.' It can't continue, and he knows that.
"It's good that there was a helicopter there. It's good that he's taking courses and being punished for it. ... He's been called on it. He's contrite about it. It's part of his journey that we don't expect he will repeat."
The Kings aren't looking to repeat their recent journey either.
They haven't been in a playoff game since 2006, when the likes of Ron Artest and Bonzi Wells led a surprising playoff charge with an edgy style that belied their reputation. Evans & Co. would be just fine if that's the case again, and the coupling of him with DeMarcus Cousins certainly has the look of an eventual postseason pairing.
The Kentucky big man whose prickly personality is so well known was taken fifth overall in June, with the Kings believing they stole the best player in the draft for the second straight year after taking Evans fourth in 2009.
"A lot of people talk about his attitude, but I'm going to be with him every way I can," Evans said of Cousins.
That included a teaching moment between teammates at summer league, when Cousins lived up to his fiery reputation by letting Minnesota center Greg Stiemsma bait him into a shouting match at the end of the first half. Both players drew technical fouls, and Cousins drew the ire of not only summer league coach Mario Elie but also Evans.
"I wasn't really a vocal leader (as a rookie), but this year I'm looking forward to speaking up and saying what I have to say," said Evans, who has been working with trainer Rob McClanaghan in recent weeks in Los Angeles. "Like with DeMarcus and the type of image he has, that wasn't a good (idea) for him to go back and forth with that center. People think he's a headcase, so for him I (told him) it would be smarter just to play basketball. Do your job on the court and smile. ... We know you're tough. You don't have to fight every chance you get."
The Kings acquired center Samuel Dalembert from Philadelphia this summer via trade as well, meaning their much-maligned frontline should be much improved and Evans won't be asked to handle the scoring load as much as before. Carl Landry and Jason Thompson return to that unit, while center Spencer Hawes was sent to the 76ers in the Dalembert trade.
"(We) have a chance to be like the (Oklahoma City) Thunder, an up-and-coming team," Evans said. "We've just got to come together, play together, not worry about scoring and just play as a team. I think we can make the playoffs. That's the goal."
It's certainly worth a shot. As for the saga that surrounds the shot itself, Bergeron plans to make a trip to Sacramento in attempt to spark a new era of Evans highlight reels from outside the paint.
"(Bergeron) will tell me, 'Watch your high school tapes -- you shot the (crap) out of the ball," Evans said. "He'll tell me, 'I'm watching the real Tyreke Evans. We can fix that.' I've just got to keep working on it."
E-mail Sam at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @samickAOL.