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King of the Year: Tyreke Evans

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What Tyreke Evans means to the Kings as a player is easy to quantify.

I mean, 20-5-5, that's so tidy you can put it in your pocket like a handful of posies. Only 19 players averaged 20+ points per game this season. Only five players managed to average five rebounds and five assists per game. Tyreke is, as you well know, one of only three players to manage both, joining (near-)unanimous MVP LeBron James and former MVP Kobe Bryant.

On the court, Evans is the team's best player, no disputing it, no question. He has faults, as do all players (not named LeBron). He still can't shoot very well, hitting just 79 of 250 long two-pointers and 36 of 141 threes. Of course, he knows this, and took a ridiculous 59 percent of his two-point attempts in the paint, despite the fact that by Hanukkah every team he faced set up their defense to prevent that.


His defense, rife with potential, isn't quite there -- despite his strength, he had trouble fighting through screens, and isn't the most enthusiastic defender when it comes to chasing shooters. He still got into a lot of passing lanes, still has unbelievable make-up speed, still pokes away crossover attempts like he's a ninja swatting flies. Ask Gilbert Arenas.

A few matters improved in 2009-10 -- the coaching, for one, as well as the frontcourt in the second half of the season (thanks to Carl Landry). But those extra eight wins, accounting for the fact the 2008-09 edition had John Salmons and Brad Miller for 50 games, and that Kevin Martin missed more time this season than in '08-09, and accounting for the fact that the rest of the rotation actually got younger due to bigger roles for Spencer Hawes, Jason Thompson and Omri Casspi, accounting for all of that, and this rookie, this rookie point guard, just 20 years old, and the team got eight games better.

And that's all on the court.

The boost to our fan psyche is really something else.

When things began to come together back in 1998, during the lockout, when the team traded for Chris Webber and he didn't refuse to show up, and the team signed Vlade Divac and drafted Jason Williams and executed the disembarkation of Peja Stojakovic, when those events brewed around, it didn't take much to make us believe. We thristed, we panged for a reversal of fortune. We were a desperate fan base ground into mediocrity by 15 years of failure. Success was like snow in a drought, and we lapped it up.

I think we as a sporting city and as a specific fan base have been slightly more skeptical since. Full-on embrace of the next era was certainly never absolute, dating back to Game 7 of the 2004 Western Conference semi-finals against Minnesota. We cheered Bibby, Miller, Peja, Artest, Wells, Martin. We're still some of the most knowledgable, passionate fans around -- that's just who we are. But we had been skeptical. We had been prepared for another Dark Age. Until Tyreke.

Now, we babble like children at the mere mention of Reke. We explode into embarrassing dance in public forums. We pump our fists. We weep over crossovers. We have been made somewhat innocent all over again, and while we know the team and the star still have work to do, we see the light, and we embrace it.

Tyreke Evans did more than score 20 points, grab five rebounds and dole out five assists a game this year. He did more than win the Rookie Challenge MVP, or be the season-long favorite for Rookie of the Year. He did more than win a few games we ought not have won. He gave this fan base, this legendary fan base, life. He brought our spirit back, and I, for one, couldn't be more thrilled to watch him get Sacramento's bandwagon back on track.

As a great silver-topped man would say, Thanks Heavens for Tyreke Evans.