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When I ran into Tyreke Evans and his brothers, Doc and Reggie last week, the burning question I had was whether ‘Reke was going to start the season at the one or the three position.
More importantly, would "Team Tyreke," the group of family members and friends that watch over him and his career, be happy if the guy who fell in love with the way Derrick Rose handled the rock had to start the season at the small forward spot?
“Do I think that it’s his natural position? No,” Doc Evans said. “Do I think that’s a position that he could play as a relief? Yes. But I prefer him to be at the one and sometimes the two, because with the ball in his hands, it creates a mismatch for smaller guards.”
With small forward John Salmons either injured or not playing to expectations when healthy, and the emergence of Isaiah Thomas at point guard, the Kings made a move that sent shockwaves through some the fan base of the Kings. The Kings brass decided to have Thomas start at the point beginning February 17 and Tyreke Evans was asked to play small forward and give up his beloved point guard position.
As the season went on, sentiment was growing to have Thomas, who was emerging as a possible replacement for Evans at the point, be the starter when everything settled into form.
When I brought up the scenario, “What if Tyreke thought that he would make a better point guard than a small forward,” Reggie informed me that a conversation very close to that occurred near the end of the season. They had a similar conversation with Kings President of Basketball Operations Geoff Petrie.
“Myself and his agent got together and had a conversation before the season ended similar to what you just asked, so yes, we will address all of his issues with management, front office people, the coach or whoever to sit down and have that conversation.”
Doc Evans then filled me in on what happened next.
“After that, Reggie, Arn, I and a few others flew into Sac and had a team meeting and told Tyreke that if this is the way you feel, you need to address this to (Geoff) Petrie in a positive way and let him know that there are some things I could be better, but there are some things that I didn’t like the way that they were done and try to make him more vocal and speak up about the things he wants. You know, you can still speak up about what you want and be positive about the whole thing.”
Let it never be misunderstood what “Reke’s quiet demeanor" means.
When Keith Smart asked him to fill in at small forward last year, he essentially said, if that is what you think the team needs, then I’ll be there for you Coach.
“I was just trying to help our team win,” Tyreke Evans said. “Whatever it takes me to do that, I was willing to do it. Coach put me in that position and I got better and better as the season went on.”
“I just want to go out there and be the best I can be," Evans continued. “When I got moved off the ball, I just tried to watch guys like Kevin Durant and other guys that played that position and see how they moved without the ball and they get open shots.”
Some fans still wonder if the move was forced onto Tyreke. Was Thomas just a better point guard than him?
“Here’s a guy that’s a team player and he’ll pretty much just be humble,” said Reggie Evans. “People were talking like it was a demotion or something and Isaiah Thomas was getting his job and it wasn’t like that. It was pretty much the John Salmons situation and they wanted Tyreke to step in and fill that void. It wasn’t a demotion at all and he didn’t take it as such.”
“Certain people that were blogging or the media saying that Isaiah Thomas took his job and now he don’t like him. No, it wasn’t like that at all. He was asked to help out in that position and he’s a team player. He did what the coach asked.”
What did Reggie think of the experience Tyreke received?
“For me, I always loved that idea that my brother got a chance to play the one, two and the three. He’s more valuable than ever! Look at what’s going on in the playoffs right now. Look at all the pieces of the puzzles that are missing. If you can play the one, two and three and you can defend the one, two and three, I think that is a valuable person. I like the idea of his making his resume great by playing all three positions.”
Tyreke Evans has some impressive stats on his side. In each of his first three years, including his second year where he was plagued by plantar fasciitis - a painful inflammatory process on the bottom of the foot - and missed 25 games, he was in the team's top three in average minutes played, steals, assists and points per game.
In the topsy turvy past year - with the coaching changes and position move - he was second in minutes played, third in field goal percentage and third in rebounds. He increased his free throw percentage to a personal high (.779), was third in boards (4.6) and even averaged almost half a block a game.
Those are numbers any player at any position would be happy with considering all he’s been through.
“What player do you know that can go change positions in three years and go through the pain and injuries that he went through and still maintain that high of a scoring average?” Doc asked. “And that’s with him not hitting his jump shot. To me, that’s scary!”
“His confidence in his shot is only gonna grow. His confidence in his game is only going to get better. So when that happens, it’s lights out for everybody else!”
Thinking I knew the answer already, I asked Doc about the possibility of Tyreke starting the season at the small forward position. Would he be upset?
The response caught me off guard.
“I can’t say I would be disappointed,” Doc said. “Because I would be interested to see his growth and maturity. He doesn’t necessarily have to play a certain position. He’s a basketball player first and foremost.”
Doc mentioned his respect for Magic Johnson and his ability to play almost any spot on the floor. He sees Tyreke in a similar way as having the ability to play many spots and guard many different types of players because of his size and strength.
“So if the season started and Coach Smart had him at the three, I wouldn’t be upset. I would be more intrigued to see how he makes the necessary adjustments. Let’s see if he can score his 25 or 30 and still get his teammates involved with the ability he has as a point guard and still find and take his shots in rhythm and move without the ball. I would be intrigued to see that.”
Now the biggest question of all for the fans, and maybe even the player, is what will become of Tyreke Evans during and after season number four.
He would love to stay here and be the starting point guard of this team. Only time, whether he gets traded or not, and Evans' own development will determine the ultimate outcome.