Tyreke Evans had a fairly ordinary Summer League premiere, in that Evans excelled in the areas you'd expect him to excel in and faltered in the areas in which you'd expect him to falter in. In other words, he got to the rim at will and defended strongly but didn't pass the ball or shoot jumpers incredibly well.
If anything came as a surprise, it was Reke's quickness. He used his power and arm strength to get to the rack, sure. But he also blew by his opponents on occasion. (One play near the end of the first quarter, in which Evans slipped by three Pistons on about two dribbles, stands out. A few minutes later, Evans drove the floor after a made Detroit basket, and got all the way to the rim without being stopped -- or noticed, really -- before slipping and losing the ball.)
All eyes, of course, are on Tyreke Evans The Point Guard. The numbers don't look great on that tip: two assists, four turnovers. But watching the game, his passing skills actually looked pretty good. Evans, in fact, looked better making tough or "vision-related" passes than he did making the standard "move the ball" passes.
(Note: there's an update at the end of the post.)
The two assists in the ledger don't accurately capture Evans' role: he was the point guard every minute he was on the floor. Jerel McNeal brought the ball up a few times, but I can only remember a handful of possessions in which Evans didn't initiate the offense. Sometimes, this was as easy as setting up Jason Thompson in the post. Other times, he played off the ball screen or in isolation.
Evans' worst plays weren't really plays at all. On a few occasions, his perimeter ball movement passes were badly off target, either resulting in a turnover or forcing the receiver to blow his position in an attempt to get the ball. But there were no stand-out bad decisions on dribble-drives or on the fast break. One such play, early in the game: Evans drove the lane from the top of the key, driving right but switching back left early. As he hit the restricted circle, the defense collapsed. Evans rose, hung in the air a second, and delivered a perfect pass to Thompson, who was set up at 12 feet on the left baseline. JT's man had helped, and JT was wide open. Thompson missed (airballed, actually), so Evans gets nothing in the box score. But it was a great play, and it's one Evans needs to repeat every quarter this season.
And that's going to be a boon to both Thompson and Spencer Hawes. JT showed how immaculate his 12-18 foot jumper was last season, but he got most of those shots because the defense simply chose to leave him open. That will change at some point -- teams learn quickly, well teams other than the Kings -- and JT will need help getting open. Evans (and Kevin Martin) drawing opposing bigs to the rim will help, especially if Evans knows how and when to kick it out. Evans could have forced contact at the rim and hoped for the whistle, or he could have flung up a shot. But he knew where JT was stationed, and he knew the best play, and he made it. It didn't result in two, but it worked.
He is also a master, it seems, of the drop-off pass. One of the assists he tallied came on an immaculate drop-off bounce pass to JT off the drive. (It's the second play in this highlight reel.) He had another great drop-off in the first quarter, a stunted drive with a quick shovel pass to wide open
Bron Jockman Jon Brockman at the rim. The refs called a foul on the Pistons before the shot, though.
The numbers don't look great for Tyreke Evans The Point Guard. But the video evidence makes me feel good. I mean, how could you ever accuse a guy who beatboxes for JT in a Happy Birthday freestyle for 79-year-old Pete Carril of not being a willing playmaker?!
(That will appear on this site 1,000 times before this summer ends.)
UPDATE: I just read Kevin Arnovitz's take on TrueHoop. (I don't read anything before I recap. I don't even check e-mail.) His opinion is well-taken, and I obviously respect his writing and analysis -- he's one of the best. But this ...
Not once did Evans complete a play for a teammate, something that should concern anyone with a vested interest in the Evans experiment at the point. A couple of times he lobbed passes into traffic, but only if his path to the basket was stymied -- and he failed on virtually every one of those attempts. Evans finished with four turnovers, and his only two assists came on simple entry passes into the post.
... is patently false. The first assist is one I described in my recap, the second play in this reel.
Hardly a "simple entry pass to the post," even if Reke made it look easy. And as I wrote, Evans had at least two other quality drop-off plays: one to Brockman on a play that was called dead, and the short kick-out to Thompson that was a missed shot.
Evans was not nearly as one-dimensional as KA made him out to be. I'm not saying we have Chris Paul on our hands, but he sure as snot didn't show any black hole tendencies on Friday.
Also, it was the first game of summer league. Also, he's 19 years old. Also, he has had two days of professional practice (depending on how you categorize John Calipari's program). Marking Paul Westphal or Kings fans as hopeless romantics for believing Evans can be a legit point guard is a bit silly at this point.