by Jonathan Santiago & James Ham

Tyreke Evans surveys the court against the Utah Jazz. (Photo: Steven Chea)

The Sacramento Kings appear ready to let a player who was once considered a franchise cornerstone leave through free agency. Cowbell Kingdom has confirmed through a source that the Kings have informed Tyreke Evans that they will not match the offer sheet he is prepared to sign with the New Orleans Pelicans.

The Sacramento Bee’s Ailene Voisin was first with the news.

With Evans’ departure, the Kings have reportedly agreed to a three-team, sign and trade with the Pelicans and Portland Trail Blazers.  The Kings will acquire Greivis Vasquez from the Pelicans while Robin Lopez will head to Portland.  A deal involving Evans, Vasquez and Lopez will be consummated when the league’s moratorium period ends on July 10.

Yesterday evening, Evans verbally agreed to an offer the Pelicans extended to him when free agency began on Sunday – a four-year, $44-million contract that includes incentives.  His older brother, Julius “Doc” Evans, took to Twitter to deny claims that the 23-year-old was determined to leave the Kings.  In fact, others close to Evans suggested that the fourth-year swingman would have welcomed a return to Sacramento if the Kings’ matched the offer.

Sources close to Evans maintain that the 23-year-old swingman’s preference has always been to stay in Sacramento.  “He is disappointed (to leave Sacramento), but understands it’s a business,” the source told Cowbell Kingdom.

However, he grew frustrated that the Kings would not make a commitment to him in the two days following his meeting with team officials on Monday.  Cowbell Kingdom learned earlier this week that Evans was open keeping his contract to four years in order to allow himself and the Kings future salary flexibility.

The decision to let Evans walk is based heavily on how the Kings value him.  According to a source with knowledge of the negotiations between the Kings and Evans, the team’s new management was leery of paying the 2009-10 rookie of the year anything more than $8-9 million a season.  On average, Evans’ proposed contract with Hornets would earn him roughly $11 million a year.

What the Kings do next is anyone’s guess.  With Evans’ presumably on his way out of Sacramento, it’s yet to be determined what the new front office does to address several issues, including the team’s logjam at guard and its hole at small forward.  The Kings were briefly in the lead to sign veteran swingman Andre Iguodala from the Denver Nuggets.  However, they pulled a reported four-year, $52-million deal off the table when Iguodala needed more time to weigh his options.

The Kings were also linked to in free agent guard Jose Calderon.  According to multiple reports, the Kings offered Calderon a chance to join the team, but the 31-year-old point guard passed on the opportunity today.

Evans is scheduled to be in Sacramento next week for his annual VSP camp, a commitment he still plans to honor.

Updated at 2:21 pm PT.