20-5-and 5 for Evans; Are you happy?
During an NBA season in which the positives for the Kings are more innate than tangible, rookie guard Tyreke Evans Monday night ensured his first professional season statistically will rank among the best in league history.
That it came during a 117-107 defeat by the Houston Rockets and former Kings guard Kevin Martin before a supportive crowd of 14,549 at Arco Arena clearly had become a secondary issue before the game ended.
Most of the fans came to cheer one of the few things enjoyable about the team’s 25-56 mark with a season-ending game tonight in Los Angeles against the Lakers.
Evans struggled through fatigue and nerves, but eventually scored 24 points to assure season game averages of 20 points, five rebounds and five assists.
Only two Hall of Famers, Oscar Robertson and Michael Jordan, as well as current star LeBron James, have had rookie campaigns as statistically strong as Evans.
The 6-foot-6 Evans entered the game needing 24 points to clinch the achievement – and scored 22 in the first half.
However, Evans missed nine straight field-goal attempts spanning the end of the second quarter through the early fourth before he made two free-throws with 6:46 left in the final quarter.
The crowd sighed, oohed and aahed every time Evans attempted a shot and exhaled disappointedly as the 220-pound rookie continued to miss shots withing five feet of the hoop.
The Kings front-office for months over-dramatized and promoted Evans quest for the statistical feat, but by the middle of the third quarter, it turned into an ordeal Evans couldn’t wait to shed.
"Man, I was so tired, I couldn’t make a lay-up," Evans said, still gasping for air 35 minutes after the game. "I’m so glad to get over that. It was hard. That was the hardest bucket I have ever had to score in my life. Coming into the game, I know everyone wanted me to break the record at home in front of my family and my friends.
"Trying to get that last bucket, it seemed like nothing would fall for me. I told the coach to take me out (in the third quarter), then put me back in."
Evans left the game with 3:43 remaining in the third and returned with 9:30 left in the fourth.
While he struggled during a scoreless third, the Kings were outscored, 26-18, and clearly this was not your average game.
Martin, in his first game at Arco since being traded to Houston Feb. 17, scored 37 of his 39 points during the first three quarters and received huge help from Trevor Ariza, who, in addition to playing solid defense on Evans, scored 19 of his 29 points in the second half.
Kings coach Paul Westphal admitted Evans attempting to reach the 24-point mark became a distraction, but also provided a bit of perspective about the achievement.
"There wasn’t much defense being played out there (Monday night)," the coach said after his team’s final home game of the season.
"There’s no doubt about that. In fact, I do think that the accomplishment of Tyreke, even though it was a distraction to this individual game, can’t be diminished when you look at the totality of this season.
"To be mentioned statistically, in the same breath as Michael Jordan, Oscar Robertson and LeBron James is a phenomenal thing."
In other news overshadowed by Evans’ feat, the Kings picked up the option on Westphal’s contract for the 2011-12 season.