Tyreke Evans eager for new Sacramento Kings season despite cloudy future

Tyreke Evans throws down on the Chicago Bulls. (Photo: Steven Chea)These days, the Sacramento Kings have become synonymous with uncertainty. As a new NBA season approaches, questions surround the franchise’s future both off and on the court.

Tyreke Evans‘ prospects this upcoming year are no exception.

His potential remains an enigma, with his progress seemingly stuck on pause following a stellar rookie campaign in 2009-10.  But as he prepares to embark on a decisive fourth NBA season, Evans is confident that 2012-13 is the year he finally turns the corner.

“I think it’s going to be a great season for me,” said the Kings guard in a phone interview from his hometown of Chester, Pa. on Wednesday.  “I can’t wait.  I’m excited.”

As Yahoo! Sports reported a few weeks ago, Evans’ anticipation for the upcoming season has led to late nights spent honing his craft.  Even as recently as two weeks ago, Evans spent several hours hoisting up shots with teammate Tyler Honeycutt in the Kings practice facility until three in the morning.

“Me and my friends, instead of going to sleep, we’d be up,” said Evans, who added that he’s sometimes found fellow Kings Thomas Robinson and Isaiah Thomas working on their games deep into the night, too.  “So I’d say let’s go to the gym and get up some shots, why not?  While (they’re) sleeping, (we’re) working.”

The 23-year-old guard/forward  says he’s worked all summer long building trust in his jumper.  He’s focused on certain shot mechanics, like the position of the ball before release and jumping straight up and down as opposed to fading away.

“I can feel it (the improvement),” said Evans of his growing confidence in his jumper.  “Even when I miss one, I know I can shoot it again and I can make the second one.”

Absent from his jump shot’s development this offseason was renowned shooting coach Keith VeneyThe “Shot Doc” came to Sacramento last year to work with Evans midway through the season.  Evans had planned to work with Veney this offseason, but scheduling conflicts prevented them from getting together.

Despite Veney’s absence, those closest to Evans believe that the work he put into his jump shot and his overall game will translate into significant progress this upcoming season.

“He’s just getting back to the things he did before the NBA, the work ethic he had before the NBA” said older brother Doc Evans of his younger sibling in a conversation with Cowbell Kingdom.  “He’s always had the work ethic.  It’s just getting back to the hard work (that got him to the pros), that focus.”

Doc says Tyreke has put in similar time and effort on his play without the basketball.  At times last year, Tyreke appeared disengaged in the Kings’ halfcourt sets while playing off the ball.  Movement and improving his spacing on the floor have been additional focuses of the Kings star this offseason.

“I think before in previous games,” said Doc.  “You would see him move without the ball and then hesitate on shooting, then just try to drive to the lane.  Now you’ll see this season when he has that space between him and his defender, he’ll take that shot and he’ll take it confidently.”

Where he’ll be attempting those shots is anyone’s guess, including Tyreke’s.  The Kings swingman says he hasn’t had any substantive conversations with head coach Keith Smart about what position he’ll play this season.  But frankly, he doesn’t care.

“In my opinion, I think too many people focus on position with him,” said Kings color commentator and director of player personnel Jerry Reynolds on the latest edition of the Cowbell Kingdom Podcast.  “What I think Tyreke will eventually evolve into is what you call a friggin’ basketball player!”

Reynolds would like to see Tyreke play the off-guard role, but doesn’t believe in typecasting him into one position.  Instead, he suggests that the Kings’ swingman’s minutes be divvied up in the backcourt and the wing, wherever there’s an advantage.

“I don’t think you can pigeonhole him and say, ‘Well, he’s a 35-minute two-guard,” Reynolds said.  “I think that would be a mistake for him and the team.”

Like brother Doc, Reynolds can testify to Tyreke’s commitment to patching the holes in his game.  He says that the Kings’ swingman has “worked extremely hard this summer” and that he would be surprised if Tyreke’s jumper doesn’t see dramatic improvement.

“He wants to be good,” said Reynolds of Tyreke.  “And he’ll put the time (in)…Sometimes he’s a little misdirected, but it’s not a lack of effort.

“And he’s a good teammate,” Reynolds added.  “Guys like him.  I think sometimes that’s overlooked.  And that doesn’t mean they don’t get upset with him when he dribbles a little too much.  But, they know he’s got a good heart about him and a good competitive spirit.”

Tyreke Evans and Keith Smart convey strategy on the sidelines. (Photo: Steven Chea)Reynolds and others know and point out that this is a critical year for Tyreke.  It’s the final season of his rookie contract, but a big payday is apparently the last thing on his mind.

“He’s not talking, ‘who’s going to give me the most money?’ and ‘what team (would) I might want to play for (next season)?’,” said older brother Doc repeatedly throughout the duration of his discussion with CK.  “‘Will the Maloofs max me out?’ – those conversations haven’t come up…not one time.  The only thing that’s come up is ‘man, I’m tired of losing’, ‘I want to be in the playoffs’, ‘I want to be an All-Star’.

“I’m saying to myself, ‘man it’s your contract year’,” Doc added.  “He’s like, ‘I don’t care.  I want to win.’  So, it’s not about the contract, it’s not about the money.”

An extension by the NBA’s Oct. 31st deadline is unlikely at this point.  But the prevailing belief in the Evans’ camp is that a deal will come eventually.  With improved play, they believe the score will take care of itself.

“Once that jump ball goes, he’ll be ready,” said big brother Doc assuredly.  “Don’t take my word for it.  If you wear glasses, bring them and you’ll see for yourself that he’s about to become a name (in this league).”

Evans gives gift of sight to hometown

The Kings swingman has never forgotten about his roots.  Last week, he spent time in his hometown of Chester, Pa. providing free eye care and exams with the help of VSP Vision Care.

“It was one of my goals to try and give back to where I came from because we don’t have too many guys that make it out of Chester,” Evans said.  ” Since I made it, I talked to my brothers to do something with VSP and give back.”

In partnership with Evans, VSP has adopted the city and will provide free eyecare and eyewear for the next year to all of its residents who are without vision coverage.  This is the third consecutive year that VSP has made such a commitment to Chester.


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About: Jonathan Santiago

Jonathan Santiago serves Cowbell Kingdom as senior editor specializing in writing, podcasting and video production. He also handles the majority of CK’s day-to-day beat coverage of the Kings.