Following practice today, I was able to catch up with Kings guard Tyreke Evans. This was not a one-on-one interview (two-on-one) so I will represent only the questions that I personally asked and Tyreke Evans’ answers to those questions. The Sacramento Bee’s Jason Jones was with me and asked some quality questions as well, but I will leave his work product for his own write-up. Here is The Purple Panjandrum with last season’s rookie of the year, Tyreke Evans.
TPP: Are you feeling pressure that a lot of the offense is going through you?
Tyreke: A little bit because at the end of the day, that’s what they expect me to do, to be the leader and take over the game, so I just have to stay focused and play hard.
TPP: You cleared out and got a couple of guys wide open shots last night, but they didn’t take them. The ball got swung back around and there was even a shot clock violation or two mixed in.
Tyreke: I think it’s just a matter of confidence. We just have to take those shots. Those guys are shooters- Beno, Luther, Donté, Casspi, Cisco was sitting, but they’re shooters. I tell them all the time if I get in and penetrate and they’re open then shoot it, I don’t care if they miss because eventually it’s going to fall.
TPP: Do you think this is just part of the learning curve that goes into being an NBA star?
Tyreke: Definitely, good teams, they take those shots. Rondo, he’s already on those guys. They shoot the ball when he kicks it out to them, make or miss, I think those guys have to take those chances.
TPP: Derrick Rose, in his second season last year really struggled in his first 20 or so games of the year. Do you feel like you can learn something from a guy like him that you know and that maybe he can help you get through this rough patch?
Tyreke: D’s a pretty good friend. We both have the same agent, we work out together. He went through the same thing last year, just finding our offense, struggling, not knowing when to go or when to shoot. He and his coaches weren’t on the same page. I just have to keep playing and not lose focus and put my head down. I’ve got to just go out there and play hard every night.
This interview came a day after Tyreke spoke out following the Kings loss to the Chicago Bulls. Here is his quote from yesterday that has taken on a bit of a life of its own:
I don’t know. We were down, and it looked like I was supposed to make a play every time. So I just tried my best to help the team get open and try and find an open shot.
Last season as a rookie, Evans seemed very comfortable filling the role of offensive leader. So far in his sophomore campaign, Tyreke has struggled to adapt to the new looks opponents are throwing at him and it seems to be wearing on him. Derrick Rose had a similar struggle last season (his second year in the NBA), averaging 13.4 points in the Bulls first ten games before rebounding to finish the season at 20.8 points per game. Kings fans are hoping for a similar transformation from Evans.
Coach Westphal has continued to tinker with the starting line-up, searching for that perfect combination to aid his young star. If the first three quarters of the Bulls game showed us anything, it was that the Kings can play at a high level when that combination is right. The trick now becomes sustaining that high level of play for an entire 48 minutes.
Whether he is embracing the role of leader right now or not, Tyreke Evans needs to find the mojo that made him an unstoppable force last season. It is nice that he has worked on his perimeter shooting, but the Kings need Evans to put his foot on the accelerator and get to the basket. The more successful Tyreke can be at breaking down the defense, the easier it will be for his teammates to get open shots - hopefully they will shoot them.