Tyreke Evans shines against Kings in Sacramento return

Marcus Thornton and Tyreke Evans of the New Orleans Pelicans. (Photo: Jonathan Santiago)

During a break in the first quarter of last night’s game, Scott Moak paused then grinned from his courtside seat at the scorer’s table. The Sleep Train Arena public address announcer knew he had made a mistake, but could anyone blame him?

For the last four years, Moak introduced Tyreke Evans as a member of the Sacramento Kings. And at the 4:40 mark of the first period, he did so again, even though Evans was checking in as a member of the opposition.

For the first time since departing the Kings last offseason, the 24-year-old swingman made his return to Sacramento on Monday. He had his way with his old team, zigging and zagging through the Kings’ defense to his third double-double of the season. Evans scored a game-high 25 points and dished out a season-high 12 assists in a 113-100 victory over his former team.

“It was fun coming out here and playing against my former teammates,” Evans said after last night’s game. “We were talking on the court having fun, but also playing hard. I definitely had a good time coming back.”

Before the game tipped off, a video montage featuring some of Evans’ greatest moments with the Kings aired on the big screen inside Sleep Train Arena. Monday’s sellout crowd welcomed the Pelicans guard with a warm reception, which Evans appreciated in first trip back to the capital city.

“It’s always been good since I’ve been here as far as the fans and the organization, things like that (go),” Evans told reporters in the visiting locker room. “I just want to thank them for that, thank them for giving me an opportunity to play for the Kings. That was big, so I thank them for that.”

Evans made his old team pay by playing the game the way he’s played it his whole career. The 2010 Rookie of the Year aggressively slashed and attacked the Kings on offense, taking 13 of his 14 shots last night in the paint.

You’d think that the Kings would know better than to give a strong finisher like Evans room to penetrate their defense. After all, he was someone they once practiced and played with on a daily basis. But the Pelicans reserve swingman wasn’t at all surprised that he was so effective against his former club.

“Not really because they know in practice they couldn’t still stop me,” Evans said. “I heard Isaiah (Thomas), when I got the ball, telling a guy what I was going to do. Did the same thing, still got to the basket. But you know, it’s just all fun though.”

Seeing Evans in a different uniform was a strange sight for a few of his former teammates. Thomas admitted that before the game, he briefly forgot Evans was even on the Pelicans. Meanwhile, Marcus Thornton had played two-and-half seasons with the former Rookie of the Year, so going against Evans was “kind of weird” for the fifth-year veteran.

“It’s a funny feeling,” Kings starting center DeMarcus Cousins said of facing off against his old teammate for the first time in his career. “I’m used to suiting up with him every night, but this is a business and that’s how it works.”

It’s a brand new world for Tyreke Evans. He looks back fondly at his time in Sacramento, but appears to have no regrets about his choice to leave for New Orleans.

“I think so,” Evans said when asked if he felt he made the right decision to sign with the Pelicans. “At the end of the day, it was my choice. It’s like starting all over again, new coach, new players. Getting along with everybody pretty well and we’ve got something nice going on over there.”

James Ham contributed to this story.

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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.