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Sacramento's Tyreke Evans leads all rookies in scoring.
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images

Kings' Evans having rookie season for the ages

By Frank Hughes, for
Posted Dec 18 2009 10:44AM

Sacramento Kings rookie Tyreke Evans was watching television with his cousin the other day when the announcers started talking about what Evans has accomplished thus far in his rookie year.

Evans said he got up and turned off the television.

"Why'd you turn off the TV?" his cousin asked.


"I don't want to hear that," Evans told his cousin. "I don't want to get big-headed."

His cousin turned the TV back on -- about the only time this year that Evans hasn't been able to do whatever he wants.

What they both saw was the incredible stat that now follows Evans wherever he goes: He is averaging 20 points, five rebounds and five assists a game.

Pretty impressive feat in and of itself.

But somebody came up with the idea to see what other rookies had accomplished this statistical plateau, and the answer happened to be Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James.

And now, because he has been lumped in with those names, Evans is gaining national attention.

"I was getting a haircut today and they were talking about me at the barber shop -- but I didn't pay it no mind," Evans said. "If I get into it, I am going to start thinking, 'Wow, this person did this, this person did that.'

"So I just try to ignore it and keep playing. At the end of my career, I will look back and see what I accomplished."

Milwaukee's Brandon Jennings has gotten most of the publicity regarding rookies thus far, mostly because of his 55-point breakout game early on. But Jennings, while talented, has been every bit his equal. He's had some inconsistencies. But hes still averaging his 20, five and five, even without Kings leading scorer Kevin Martin, who has missed most of the season with an injury.

Evansmay not yet be front of mind when it comes to the MVP discussion, but he certainly should garner a mention. And if his incredible growth curve continues, Evans could be a mainstay in The Race in the future.

"Tyreke is one of the best young players to come in this league in a long time," Kings coach Paul Westphal said. "He is extremely versatile, cares about playing the whole game and about getting better. He is very, very special.

"He can be somebody who can be talked about with the great ones. He is no fluke."

Here is what impresses The Race most about Evans: He is dominating games at a position that is ostensibly the most difficult to learn. He seems to sense when to drive -- which is often because he has only a middling jump shot right now -- or when to find his teammates.

Because of his size he's able to overpower smaller guards, which includes just about everybody at the point. Against Washington on Tuesday night, Westphal, never one to shy away from offensive experimentation, put Evans in the post with the ball.

Evans easily backed down Gilbert Arenas, turned and flipped the ball in the basket. Arenas looked stunned -- he couldn't believe he just got posted-up by a rookie.

"It actually is surprising me a lot that I can overpower NBA players," Evans said. "In college, I never got a chance to post guys up and get easy baskets like that. Everything is (smaller) and you have three seconds and things so guys would help. So I would create things for my teammates out of the double-team.

"But in the NBA, things are spaced out. So I get to pick and choose: Back 'em down, or kick it out and find my teammates. So it is different."

At the end of a close game against the Wizards, Arenas isolated Evans out top and was setting up a drive to the basket on the larger Evans. Westphal did not send help, leaving the rookie on an island.

As Agent Zero started his move to the right, Evans reached in and flicked away the ball, stealing it cleanly to secure the victory.

"Gilbert told me after the game he hopes I get the Rookie of the Year award," Evans said. "But he also told me he hopes I start playing the 2 so he doesn't have to guard me anymore."

1. Kobe Bryant, Lakers, (20-4)
Last Week's Rank - 1
The Race was listening to Jeff Van Gundy on a broadcast the other night, and Van brought up an interesting concept: "I think Kobe just comes up with stuff to challenge himself," he said. Breaking one's own finger to make the game more invigorating is a novel idea, indeed, but Van's point is well taken: How do you fracture a finger, then go for 42 one night and 39 the next, including the game-winner? Because your game is extraordinarily sick, that's how. This is the Lakers' star's third consecutive week at No. 1.

2. LeBron James, Cavaliers (19-7)
Last Week's Rank - 2
This is a big week for James, who has led his team to four consecutive victories by averaging 34 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists in that span. On Sunday, James faces Dirk Nowitzki in Dallas, which should be a fine matchup. Then on Monday, the Cavs go to Phoenix, where Shaquille O'Neal is, well, highly likely to get booed. The Cavs won the first game of that revenge series, we'll see how this one goes down.

3. Carmelo Anthony, Nuggets (19-7)
Last Week's Rank - 3
The Race was listening to the radio the other day, and the guy on the mike said that Kobe Bryant and LeBron James are the only untradeable commodities in the NBA right now. And The Race thought: I can't imagine Denver giving up Anthony for anybody (especially since Kobe and LeBron are apparently not available). Since his season-low 14 points, Anthony has averaged 35 points a game.

4. Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks (19-7)
Last Week's Rank - 4
Does everybody have an easy schedule right now, or what? Like the players above him, Nowitzki has the Mavericks on a five-game win streak – though somebody's streak has to come to an end in the aforementioned Sunday showdown with Cleveland. Interestingly, Nowitzki threw up a 10-spot two games ago against New Orleans, easily his lowest output of the season. He did not even score less than that during the preseason.

5. Dwight Howard, Magic (19-7)
Last Week's Rank - 5
The Race is starting to see some consistency in its standings, as it predicted so many weeks ago that it would. Howard, at 5 for the second straight week, is beginning to elevate his game to a new level. When El Capitan had 18 points, 14 rebounds and eight blocks against Toronto, it was the third time he this year he had at least 15, 10 and eight. Nobody else in the league has done that even once this year.

6. Dwyane Wade, Heat (13-11)
Last Week's Rank - 6
The Race would really like to see Wade's shooting percentages come up. He is shooting a career-low 43.3 percent from the field. To put that in perspective, his previous low was 46.5 point – and that came during his rookie year, when he was trying to figure out everything. He also is shooting just 26 percent from 3-point range. If he started making more shots, his scoring average of 26.6 would be closer to the 30.2 he averaged last season.

7. Brandon Roy, Trail Blazers (16-11)
Last Week's Rank - 9
This is The Race's first shakeup of the week, Roy moving up from No. 9 to No. 7. It's because he has his team on a two-game win streak after it came off a four-game road trip in the East. Roy is averaging 26 points, seven assists and seven rebounds in those games. He'll have to keep it up this week, however; in succession, the Blazers face Orlando, Miami, Dallas and San Antonio on the road, then return home to host Denver with Carmelo.

8. Steve Nash, Suns (17-9)
Last Week's Rank - 8
Nash is doing what he can to help the Suns, averaging nearly 13 assists a game over the past four games. However, he needs some help; the Suns have lost six of their past nine games and are looking mortal again. Nash appears as if he is trying to decide whether to score or distribute. The Suns seem like a better team when he dishes.

9. Tyreke Evans, Kings, (11-13)
Last Week's Rank - 10
The kid played in his first nationally broadcast game on Tuesday night and fared exceedingly well, scoring 24 points to go with six assists, six rebounds and two blocks, both on Gilbert Arenas. Now that he is getting exposure, it will be interesting to see how Evans responds. But he seems like a down-to-earth chap – and it helps he is residing in Sacramento rather than New York or LA.

10. Tim Duncan, Spurs (13-10)
Last Week's Rank - n/a
We have to go with Tim Duncan over Kevin Durant for the final spot. While Durant's Thunder have lost three in a row, including a loss to Dallas in which Durant had 12 points and four turnovers, Duncan just keeps plugging along at a high level of play. He is averaging 20 points, 10 rebounds and three assists, and just because he is not flashy does not mean he should be forgotten. Almost healthy, the Spurs have won four of five, putting Duncan back in the upper echelon of players.

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