PAUL KITAGAKI JR. / pkitagaki@sacbee.com

Tyreke Evans says he wants to do whatever he can to keep the Kings on the right track.

Kings' Evans hopes to fit back in

Published: Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1C
Last Modified: Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013 - 5:56 pm

It's been more than three weeks since Tyreke Evans played.

During that time, the Kings have gone 6-5, including wins in four of their last six games.

It's hardly a record that makes headlines nationally, but it qualifies as a solid stretch for the Kings (13-21).

Evans is planning to play tonight against the Memphis Grizzlies, as long as his sore left knee cooperates. He has watched how the Kings have performed during his absence and likes what he sees.

"They're playing good," Evans said. "I just have to go in and try and continue the effort."

As his team begins a five-game homestand, coach Keith Smart expects a shake-up to his rotation. In addition to Evans getting back on the court, Marcus Thornton is targeting a return from a sprained left ankle this week.

"It's going to get disrupted," Smart said. "There's no way you can escape it, and that's the tough part because we do have a nice chemistry taking place on this basketball team right now and things are flowing in a unique way."

The Kings have focused more on passing lately and not settling for contested, one-on-one play.

DeMarcus Cousins has begun to establish himself as the focal point of the offense while doing a good job of keeping his teammates involved.

Watching how the Kings have played only makes Thornton want to return sooner.

"It's fun when guys move the ball and everybody gets touches; everybody's scoring and helping out," Thornton said. "Doing stuff that a team needs to do to win."

Evans doesn't expect to make a splash immediately.

"It's going to be a little rough," he said. "I've been out for 10 games or something like that. So I know when I come back, I'm going to be a little bit rusty, but I'm going to play through it. And once I get in a groove, I know I can do it."

Though the Kings have played better recently, they need what Evans and Thornton bring to the lineup.

Evans' size will be a boost to the backcourt offensively and defensively. And the Kings' second unit needs the lift Thornton is sure to provide.

"They're very talented players who are two of our franchise guys," Jimmer Fredette said. "We need them to come in and play hard and do what they do on the floor and make sure we share the ball the way that we have been."

The return of Evans and Thornton will affect minutes for players such as Fredette and Francisco Garcia, who have played well lately.

"Hopefully, those guys, while they've been out, have been watching," Smart said. "We've been sharing minutes, sharing playing on the floor and sharing shots."

There's also the fear Evans and Thornton will try too hard to fit in. Both are scorers. If they come back trying to become full-time facilitators, that will not be ideal.

"Sometimes, (players returning from an injury) hurt the team because they don't do what they normally do," Smart said. "We've just got to make sure they are who they are and get them to fit back into the team."

Fredette said the Kings were improving with their ball movement before the injuries. Thornton has missed only the last four games, so he was a part of some wins.

Being short-handed only made the emphasis on sharing the ball more sensible.

"Now that they were gone, we felt like we wanted to move the ball around more and spread it around and make the defense work and not just load up on one or two guys," Fredette said.

Evans has no plans of disrupting what he's seen. After three seasons of losing, he wants to do whatever he can to keep the Kings on the right track.

"We're doing a better job of moving the ball," Evans said. "Hopefully, we can keep it up because we can go far with it."

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Read more articles by Jason Jones



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