As any regular reader of the blog will know, I have been a strong advocate for the Kings to re-sign Tyreke Evans. As such the decision to let him go to New Orleans in a Sign-and-Trade comes as a bit of a disappointment.
However, I don't want to get too analytical right now. Instead, I want to take a moment and thank Tyreke Evans for his service to this team and to this city during these last four years, which were some of the toughest in franchise history.
When Tyreke came to Sacramento in 2009 we didn't know what to expect. We had just endured the worst season in franchise history, winning just 17 games. To top it all off, we had the best chance to win the Blake Griffin lottery and then ended up falling all the way to fourth, the worst possible scenario. Then on draft night Ricky Rubio, a player many Kings fans wanted, ended up falling into Sacramento's laps at four but the Kings went with Evans instead.
It took a little while for Evans to win us over, but he eventually did. I remember very clearly the first time that Evans wowed me. It was six games into the 2009-10 season and Evans had had a bit of a bumpy start to his career. Kevin Martin had just been diagnosed with a wrist fracture and many were declaring the season lost. The Kings were 1-4 and had to go on the road to play against the very tough Utah Jazz. I was working that night but I wasn't too upset I was going to miss the game because I figured the Jazz were going to wipe the floor with us. That didn't happen. As I checked my phone for updates on the box score throughout the night, I was shocked to see the Kings out in front and with Evans leading the way. Sacramento held on to win, and it was Evans' coming out party (32 points, 7 assists).
That next month-and-a-half was wonderful. With Evans at the helm the Kings started winning, and against some good teams too. 1-4 became 5-4 which became 9-8 (still the furthest along in the season the Kings have been above .500 in a long time).
Then came the Game Winners:
Stealing the ball from Gilbert Arenas to lock up the game.
Driving by Bogut to win the game in Milwaukee.
Capping off the incredible 35 point comeback in Chicago.
The Kings didn't see nearly as much on-court success after that first month and a half, but Reke kept rolling, joining Michael Jordan, LeBron James and Oscar Robertson as the only players to average 20 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds in their Rookie Year.
20-5-5 was both a blessing and a curse. After years of being out of the playoffs, Evans gave fans hope again; Here at last was someone we could build around. But the expectations born from 20-5-5 and being compared to some of the all-time greats turned out not to be to Evans' benefit.
Evans' sophomore year was a disappointment, as he struggled most of the year while also dealing with nagging Plantar Fasciitis that eventually forced him to sit for an extended period. Still, he managed to give us one of the greatest shots in Sacramento Kings history during this otherwise underwhelming season:
I have probably watched the replay of that shot hundreds of times. I know Grant Napear's call without having to watch the video. It's a moment I will cherish for a long time.
Tyreke Evans never became the superstar that so many of us had hoped to be. But he gave us moments like that half-court game winner. He gave us 100% effort and never had a bad thing to say about Sacramento. He dealt with injuries, coaching changes, two relocation scares, a lockout, multiple role changes and endless criticism. Despite everything, he kept on trying to improve and never complained.
We will miss you Tyreke Evans. I wish you could have gotten to be a part of this new era of Kings basketball. I hope you have nothing but success in New Orleans and I can't wait to give you a standing ovation the first time you visit Sacramento.
Thank you and Good Luck.