THIS IS NOTHING really new. They've seen it hundreds, maybe even thousands of times in pickup games on playground courts in Chester, at open gyms after American Christian practiced. They've seen it at Memphis, during many hours of private workouts. They all knew - Reggie, Doc and Pooh Evans - before the rest of us did, just how good baby brother Tyreke was, and how good he was going to be.
It's safe to say the world knows now, after Tyreke dropped 28 points on LeBron James and Cleveland, after scoring 18 against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, after a historic game in which Tyreke brought his team back on his 20-year-old shoulders from a 35-point deficit to beat the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 21.
Tyreke Evans, drafted fourth overall by the Sacramento Kings, is just 28 games into his NBA career and he already is on his way to establishing himself as one of those unique first-name brands, like "Mike," "LeBron" and "Kobe." The 6-6, 220-pound point guard has taken off beyond anyone's expectations, except for those of his older brothers.
Going into tonight's game against the visiting 76ers, Evans is averaging 20.3 points, 4.9 assists and 5.1 rebounds.
It's why Evans is being mentioned as an early candidate for Rookie for the Year, with Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings. The Kings are trying to dig out of the depths of last year's 17-65 mark, the worst record in the NBA. They're doing it with a young team guided by new coach Paul Westphal, and they are 14-16.
At the hub of this resurgence is Evans.
He couldn't have made that more emphatic than when he willed the Kings from a 79-44 deficit with 8 minutes, 50 seconds left in the third quarter in Chicago on Dec. 21. Evans was a one-man wrecking ball, scoring nine of his 11 fourth-quarter points in the final 2:13 while finishing with a team-high 23 points (18 in the second half) and eight rebounds in the 102-98 victory.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it was the second-largest comeback in NBA history behind the Utah Jazz' 36-point comeback against the Denver Nuggets on Nov. 27, 1996.
"That was the first time I was ever down by 35 in my life and I wasn't about to quit against Chicago, no way, not me," Tyreke said. "That's not part of my nature. I wanted to keep on playing. You can say my brothers made me that way.
"They were tough on me, and I started to become tougher on myself. I don't want to hear how great I am, I want to do anything I can to avoid getting bigheaded. It's why I refuse to watch any highlights of myself on TV. Once you start thinking you're something special, you stop working hard to reach that higher level. You start becoming unspecial."
It was the Chicago game that told Kings president of basketball operations Geoff Petrie that he had something special.
"We knew Tyreke can impact a game in so many different ways, but that night told us a little more," said Petrie, a standout at Springfield High and Princeton who went on to become the NBA's co-Rookie of the Year in 1971 with Hall of Famer Dave Cowens before injuries truncated his career. "Tyreke showed real leadership qualities, the kind of qualities you can build a team around.
"Tyreke wanted the ball and the other four guys out there with him wanted him to have the ball. He's doing all these things playing the most difficult position on the court. He has special qualities, an inner confidence about him that says he wants to be the best player."
Not on just the Kings, but in the league.
As the season wears on, Evans seems to be getting stronger. He averaged 12.7 points in his first three games in October, then picked that up to 20.3 in November and 22.1 through December. He is rebounding, he is distributing the ball and he is shooting 46 percent from the field. Each month that has improved, too, going from 40 pecent in October to 47 percent in December.
It was all part of the grand design, where all the pieces couldn't have fit any better. The Evans brothers had a vision for Tyreke. They had their doubters, but their every move has proved to be correct.
Now Reggie, Doc and Pooh watch from a distance. They all still live in the Delaware County area. None of them has quit his job and moved to Sacramento with Tyreke. They don't hold his hand. The cord's been cut. But they all text him after every game.
"Yeah, I can't get a break," Evans said, laughing. "They tell me the things that I need to work on, like they always have. They're my brothers, and I'm always going to be their little brother. They want what's best for me.
"I'm in a pretty good position right now. But I want to win, and I want us to get in the playoffs. I want each team that plays us to know they're going to be in a game every night."
The Kings, who have been playing without leading scorer Kevin Martin since he fractured his left wrist on Nov. 6, pushed both Cleveland and the Lakers to overtime last week, losing to the Cavs, 117-104, and to Los Angeles in double-overtime, 112-103. In those games, Evans attracted the tough assignment of being defended by James and Bryant.
"I just didn't expect to come in and have this kind of impact. I came into the NBA thinking I'd have to take my time before I got a chance to play," he said. "I want to be at the level with Kobe and LeBron. Those are the guys I followed and watched growing up, and now they're guarding me and telling me they like my game, and to keep it up.
"I'm just 20. I have to get used to this. I really don't want to hear how good I am. When people tell me that, I tell them thanks and keep moving. I have a long way to go before I'm like LeBron or Kobe."
But Evans is certainly headed in that "Tyreke" direction in his rookie season. *
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