If you visit the Sacramento Kings “Youtube” channel, as most Kings fans of my age frequently do, you will notice the different playlists. These playlists (collections of videos) are categorized into themes or titles including “Top Plays”, “Sacramento Kings Dancer Profiles”, “Features”, and “Game Highlights”.
One playlist is called “Popular Uploads”. This section is a collection of what Kings fans have viewed the most on Youtube.
And Tyreke Evans, the newest New Orleans Pelican, dominates this playlist. Reke is prominently featured in 7 of the top 12 videos.
This is why I believe that many Kings fans had such a visceral and harsh reaction to yesterday’s news. Since the Kings drafted him 4th overall in 2009 (an unpopular pick at the time), Tyreke has been the face of this franchise. It is definitely not something the soft spoken 23 year old chose, but a spotlight warranted by a high draft position, a lack of talent around him, and the remarkable “20-5-5” rookie season. While watching Tyreke acrobatically layup to these legendary averages was undoubtably one of the better experience I’ve had watching recent Kings basketball, the season hurt Reke’s career by raising everyone’s expectations. As we heard our prematurely appointed franchise savior’s name mentioned with some of the greatest to every play the game, I think we all forgot that this was a 20 year old kid. That he didn’t have an outside shot yet. That he shot only 75% from the free throw line that year. Being named MVP of the Rookie Challenge at All-Star Weekend didn’t exactly dim the bright lights. Nor did winning Rookie of the Year, while no doubt a great accomplishment. The multiple coaching changes, poor leadership in the front office, and crumbling ownership created an environment far less than ideal for breeding a superstar. The fact is, we put too much on Tyreke too early.
Personally, I feel like I’ve watched Tyreke for a very long time. I feel like I know his tendencies. I am prepared for the spin move in the paint that leads to a fancy flip off the glass. I don’t even groan anymore when his midrange jumper barely finds room. I feel like I’ve seen him drive bullheaded into the paint a million times, like I’ve seen it all.
The fact is, he’s been a King for 4 years. He’s played in only 257 games. There is still a lot of basketball out there for Tyreke Evans. He’s just getting started.
Realistically, we shouldn’t feel the connection to Evans that we do. His assists per game and points per game have decreased every year he’s been in the NBA. His free throw shooting has not improved. He’s 28% from three point range for his career and his rebounds per game have descended as well. In terms of Win Shares, a metric that measures the average number of wins a player produces for his team, Tyreke’s totals stack up next to second rate players such as Jodie Meeks, Rudy Fernandez, Luke Ridnour, and Rodney Stuckey. From a statistical standpoint, Tyreke Evans is a basic starting guard in the NBA. He’s not a terrible player by any means but he cannot be counted on as the leader of a legitimate playoff team. If New Orleans wants to pull themselves from the depths and fly to the top of the Eastern Conference, Tyreke Evans cannot be their alpha Pelican.
So why then do we love Tyreke Evans so much? Why did the news of his departure carry so much weight? The Kings chose to not overpay him. They decided instead, correctly in my opinion, to acquire as much talent as possible for him (a starting point guard in Greivis Vasquez), and create more room for Ben McLemore to grow and prosper.
Because Tyreke Evans is a highlight man. He is responsible for arguably the best Kings moment of the last 8 years, destroyed Gary Neal on a fast break dunk, turns layups in graceful moments of artistry, and plays the game with passion and emotion (and not the same kind of emotion that Demarcus Cousins plays with… because then I wouldn’t be writing this). As I mentioned earlier, Tyreke suited up 257 times for the Kings over four years. You know who else played in over 250 games for the Kings in his first four seasons? Francisco Garcia. Do you remember anything from his “reign” as a King? Of course not. But Tyreke will live on. Because Tyreke brings the highlights. I have watched his 64 foot buzzer beater against Memphis countless times. His joyful jump onto the scorer’s table, Donte Greene’s early celebration, and Pooh Jeter excited scurrying and gleeful leaps onto teammates’ shoulders will forever be etched in my mind. I’ll never forget when Reke and former King Omri Casspi took over the 2010 Rookie Challenge with a Showtimesque fast break. Reke is, and will forever be, a talented player who produces “oohs” and “ahhs”.
So do yourselves a favor. Go watch Tyreke do his thing: http://www.youtube.com/user/kingsflix/videos?sort=p&tag_id=&shelf_index=4&view=0. Enjoy the high flying hoops and ankle breaking crossovers.
Then click this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQ_uownv2Ng
And watch this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_T0c_lfJqg
And get excited for what this trade has officially brought us:
THE NEW ERA OF SACRAMENTO KINGS BASKETBALL