I’d love to be a fly on the wall, with super powers, including but not limited to invisibility, mind-reading, mind control, time travel, shape-shifting, retractable vampire fangs, Jerry Reynold’s pink slip invincibility, Thor’s hammer thingy, and NBA cheerleader, NFL cheerleader, and WWE diva locker room GPS microchip installed into my antennae, once the inevitable s*ht goes down.
I just hope a door, window or air vent is cracked wide enough as an escape route to dodge the shrapnel and obscenities, in the event I am too lazy to use my array of super powers to scurry to safety.
Flying f-bombs, office supplies and apathy are the kryptonite of a super fly with super powers, don’t ya’ know?
"Tyreke Evans, you are my new 6th man..."
Wait....wait....wait for it....and….
Evans is a mild-mannered dude with a too-cool-for-school attitude to life, (traffic) laws, wins and losses, when not rumbling past large men to the hoop on way to two points and another double digit defeat, but I don’t think Mr. 20-5-5, in case you've forgotten, and I don't blame you if you have, is going to take this well.
Well, guess what…
Throw a fit, throw a stapler, throw an unselfish pass while you are at it, and curse out your boss. Get it out of your system, kid, and learn to fit into one that has a chance for success. You had your chance, Tyreke, over three fruitless years nonetheless, and you blew it.
(The level of blame is debatable, the underachievement is not.)
Jaw-dropping talent, with spin moves to leave defenders grasping at air, deft handles and brass balls will take you places, but a bum foot, a broken jumper and a selfish disposition limit how far you can go, and how far you can lead others.
Hope is not lost, Tyreke, but your starting NBA job is.
Deal with it, and prove yourself all over again, for the first time.
To rev up a sputtering freight train, to solve an enigma wrapped in a bulldozer, and to project his hazy future as a Sacramento King, a future once so bright he had to wear designer shades, let’s start with a few irrefutable facts:
(1) Tyreke Evans is one of the most talented players in the NBA, and upon the Kings roster, likely second most to DeMarcus.
(2) The job of an NBA head coach is to promote team harmony and unity, to nurture growth and development, to maximize talent respective to wins and losses, to define player roles, to manage a collection of egos, to design an offensive and defensive scheme best suited to personnel, and to reward performance with court time.
(3) Tyreke Evans is not a small forward.
The sum of these facts points us towards logical conclusion, but let's expand upon the last one first. Specifically, let's not confuse experimentation nor desperation with long-term feasibility.
Coach Keith Smart shifted Tyreke to SF because no one else could play the position, John Salmons was a flop there, Donte Greene was never a serious contender, Travis Outlaw was, well…Travis Outlaw, Isaiah Thomas emerged as a PG and commanded extended minutes, and Tyreke was afforded the opportunity to view the game from a new perspective.
In retrospect, there was not much to be gained or lost, so ‘why not’?
Yet based on his ball dominant skill set, and upon the mutual feelings of involved parties, the move of Tyreke from PG to SF was designed as a temporary experiment, never proposed as a permanent solution to fill the production void.
It worked, sort of.
In 26 games, his FG% improved from 43% to 48%, as Tyreke was given less freedom within the half-court to create, and to get into trouble. His other numbers were almost identical across the board on a per minute basis. His impact was underwhelming. His defensive prowess negated. If you were hoping for emerging stardom at SF, no dice. He got pushed, as much as he pushed back.
A fleeting effort to improve undeveloped aspects of Tyreke’s game paid a few dividends, including the experience of playing more off the ball, back-cutting on cue, meshing with fellow shot creators, patrolling the baseline in search of daylight, mixing it up in the paint, and competing against sizeable players with varied skillsets.
Coach Smart effectively instructed to Tyreke:
‘Hey 6’5" dude, go check that 6’7" to 6’9" dude."
"Uh, um...OK, coach." /mutters profanity
Was it a waste of time? Probably, perhaps not, though when you are playing out the string in March and April en route to another lotto appearance, most of what players do or don’t do can be discounted, anyways.
Nevertheless, a head coach still must choose his decisions wisely, even in the dog days of another lost season, and especially when training camp opens in six weeks.
One of the most culpable mistakes a head coach may commit is to show perpetual bias against (or preferential treatment towards) one player over another, particularly one equally or more (or less) capable, equally or more (or less) deserving, equally or more (or less) proven, which can subsequently lead to regression, resentment, loss of goodwill and competitive spirit.
It happened with Omri Casppi and the Grim Reaper of Coaching, and the former King has yet to recover.
It happened with Tyreke Evans and the Grim Reaper of Coaching, and the individual stagnated and the team underachieved because of it.
It happened with DeMarcus Cousins and the Grim Reaper of Coaching, and the result was justified basis for dismissal.
Accordingly, Coach Smart cannot make the same mistakes that he witnessed as an assistant, and expect to succeed, or survive.
Coach Smart cannot grant playing time undeservedly. He cannot demote unfairly. He cannot try to fit a square peg into a round hole. He cannot placate a player’s ego ahead of the best interest of the team. He cannot deny achievement, or lack thereof.
Isaiah Thomas is the Kings starting PG on opening night.
Marcus Thornton is the Kings starting SG on opening night.
Tyreke Evans is the first guard off the bench on opening night.
Done. The Kings back court scorecard is set.
Such are the only pronouncements Coach Smart can make to open the 2012-13 campaign to earn the collective respect of those directly and indirectly effected, barring one bruised but resilient ego, and to establish a sensible back court framework to start strong and fast, and to win games come November.
While ROY accomplishment and All-Star projections belies a back-up role for Tyreke, last year’s numbers say otherwise:
Shooting Efficiency (True Shooting %):
Blobanalysis: Isaiah and Marcus were more efficient scorers last season, as Tyreke could not make a long ball (20%) while his backcourt mates were steady threats with respectable three point accuracy (38% and 35%).
Tyreke was unable to get to the free throw line (only 4.1 FTAs per game) with the frequency he did as he rookie (6.5 FTAs per game), nor even as often as his plantar fasciitis-ridden season (4.7 FTAs per game).
Tyreke was explosive in the open court, and his finishing ability at the rim was the undeniable strength of his game (65% FGs, best of career; 4.5 FGs per game), though, again, his ability to draw fouls worsened.
His short game (3 feet to 9 feet) was negligible (26%). His mid-game (10 feet to 15 feet) was non-existent (25% on 0.5 FGA per game). His perimeter shot (16 feet to 23 feet) was mostly atrocious (30%).
Notably, there has been no development over three seasons for Tyreke from these scoring areas, prompting private tutorial sessions with GM Petrie early in the off-season.
By contrast, Marcus bested Tyreke in all scoring regions (67.5% at rim; 28% in paint; 32% out to 15 feet; 40% on perimeter).
As importantly, Marcus was the go-to guy in late-game, must-score situations. He performed as a prototypical SG, wanting the ball, attacking the rim, and launching fearlessly with outcome in limbo. Teammates and coaches trusted Marcus more than any player, and he delivered. He lead his team in total scoring (18.7 PPG) and shots made late in the 4th quarter. In the 15 games Marcus missed due to injury, the team floundered (3-12) without his scoring and intensity, booking 12 losses and 3 wins, two against horrible teams (Bobcats and Raptors), and one against a Laker team that benched their starting five on the last game of the season.
The Kings were a less dangerous team without Marcus. The Kings were 3-0 (BOS, MIN, UTA) in the absence of Tyreke.
Analyze and compare, and is the overall performance of Marcus not worthy of incumbent starting guard status?
Playmaking Efficiency (Assist Rate/Turnover Rate)
Isaiah (26.0% over 10.3%)
Tyreke (19.3% over 11.7)
Blobanalysis: Tyreke has marvelous handles, and loves to show them off, with mustard added lavishly to hot dog. Due to size, Tyreke doesn’t turn a corner as fast as Isaiah, or split defenders as deftly. He has a higher center of gravity, and misses passing angles that Isaiah sees and exploits. Tyreke gets called for palming, dribbles into traffic willingly, which results in unforced loss of possession.
Isaiah dribbles with ball on string, gets to basket quicker, and loves to find DeMarcus out of the pick and roll, or pick and pop. Tyreke hesitates to use Cousins as a formidable weapon, or safety valve, for inexplicable reason over two seasons.
Isaiah assists more often and turns it over less often than Tyreke. He spaces the floor and initiates the offense sooner in the shot clock. The team scores more with Isaiah running the show. Isaiah inspires unselfish play and the extra pass. Tyreke can get into the lane with indomitable force and will, but he struggles to make positive attributes contagious among his teammates.
Analyze and compare, and is the overall performance of Isaiah not worthy of incumbent starting guard status?
Secondary Variables (Rebounding, Defense, Intangibles, Etc)
Blobanalysis: There are other variables when evaluating and contrasting Tyreke, Marcus and Isaiah, but none override the conclusions reached above, nor that predominate more than an ability to score efficiently and set up teammates.
Tyreke is the superior rebounder of the three on a team with two projected dominant glass cleaners (T-Rob and Cousins). He's the best defender too, who can effectively slow penetration at the point of attack with his long wingspan and above average anticipation. His defensive size and versatility trumps Thomas and Thornton, with an ability to guard three positions. This may allow Coach Smart to spot substitute into the game with designs to slow a hot opponent.
Intangibles slightly favor Isaiah and Marcus, who space the floor better, play with more infectious intensity, tend to hustle more consistently, share the ball with less hesitancy, and are more reliable when open jumpers need to be converted.
Of course, Tyreke has been known to have ice water run through his veins. I do not want to diminish Tyreke's willingness or ability to step up in the clutch, including game-winning plays versus the Bucks, Bulls, Nuggets, Wizards, among other victims.
However, the clear emergence of Marcus as a cold-blooded assassin, the trend away from isolation ball and the infamous 1-4 flat play, and to run plays through DeMarcus would seem to signal fewer chances for Tyreke to be the late-game hero.
Despite past heroics, and Hail Marys, Tyreke has been an integral part of an over 70% losing rate in his three NBA seasons.
The prospective issue, however, is not about assigning culpability for past adversity, but learning from it, and developing a systematic plan to best enable individual and group success.
Prior to last season, I projected that the prospects for the team would most correlate to the efficiency of the Kings two highest usage players, Tyreke and DeMarcus. One player delivered (21.7 PER). The other, not nearly as much (16.5 PER). The glue turned out to be pudding, and the team lost 44 times.
Yet talent must be nurtured, until its no longer worth the time and effort. Entering the league at 19 years of age, playing (mostly) the most difficult position in the NBA, smooth waters have given way to choppy conditions. Now is the time to adjust the sails, not abandon the ship.
Given his backcourt competition and own recent performance, a super sub role for Tyreke is most appropriate, feasting on diminutive guards, winded front-lines and slow-footed second stringers, until a higher usage rate can be justified.
In other words, attack relentlessly against inferior opponents. Find any semblance of mid-range game. Return to your aggressive foul drawing ways as a rookie. Own the second quarter. Make a statement early, and you’ll be back for crunch time.
The S.S.S.I. (Small Sample Size Institute) approves of this recommendation, as Tyreke averaged 19 points on 61% shooting in 26 minutes as a non-starter over 2 games.
Additionally, the mindset and plan of attack by Manu Ginobli, James Harden and Jason Terry would need to be adopted and embraced by Tyreke to enable optimal results, and it seems like a natural transition well-suited to his emotional makeup, and current level of skill.
Coach Smart can make four choices regarding Tyreke once training camp breaks, and the ball is tipped for real. Three of the four choices would be imprudent and inappropriate, inhibiting the best potential for early season synergy.
The best choice, the clear choice, is not an anti-Tyreke endorsement. It is not a vote of non-confidence of a former ROY. It’s a logical decision to further establish a viable and accountable culture that places team goals first, while maximizing the potential for each player to thrive.
In his brief tenure, Coach Smart has not disappointed. For the sake of the team, his own future, and the rejuvenation of an All-Star talent, here’s hoping he chooses wisely once the NBA returns.