HECTOR AMEZCUA / hamezcua@sacbee.com

Tyreke Evans (13), shooting over O.J. Mayo (32) of Dallas on Thursday, will return to the Kings' starting lineup tonight.

Evans will return to Kings' starting lineup against Cavaliers

Published: Monday, Jan. 14, 2013 - 8:10 am | Page 2C
Last Modified: Monday, Sep. 23, 2013 - 8:09 am

Kings coach Keith Smart said there is no need to explain the latest tweak he's making to the starting lineup.

Tyreke Evans is a starter, and it's time to get him back in that capacity and playing to his capability.

Evans returned from a knee injury last Monday after being out since Dec. 16. Smart asked Evans if he was ready to start Saturday against the Miami Heat, and Evans declined, saying he wanted Francisco Garcia to stay in the lineup because Garcia played well while Evans was out.

But the Kings have lost their past four games, and Smart is in search of the chemistry the Kings displayed before the skid.

One step toward finding more success is putting Evans back in the starting lineup, where he's most comfortable, but that doesn't mean things will go smoothly tonight against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Sleep Train Arena.

Isaiah Thomas reassumed the role of starting point guard while Evans was out, so tonight will be their first start together with the frontcourt of DeMarcus Cousins, John Salmons and Jason Thompson.

Evans said he's up to starting again following a 128-99 blowout loss to the Heat.

Evans is averaging 15 points in 17 starts and 12.5 coming off the bench in four games. In hindsight, Evans said he might have been better off starting against Miami.

"I'm a team player, and I let Cisco go out there to do what he can do," Evans said. "Everyone played hard. I don't think we meant to lose like that. I'll just get ready to start and try to get a win."

Evans said there wasn't any one reason he thought he wasn't ready to start before tonight.

Evans was playing well before bruising his knee Nov. 27. Evans' scoring was increasing, and he was showing confidence in his jump shot.

Now, Evans must figure out how to not dominate the ball and keep his teammates involved. The Kings were playing well and 6-5 in 11 games before Evans' return.

"(Evans is) in two worlds right now," Smart said. "One world is the conditioning factor, trying to get a rhythm conditioning. The other part of that is how can I be me again when I was playing very well, averaging around 20 points but yet I'm trying to do what the team concept was while I was out."

Thomas will play a big part in helping Evans find his game again and knowing when to "pick his spots."

"Knowing when to be aggressive and when to attack the basket and when to get others involved," Thomas said. "You can tell he's still a little rusty, but who wouldn't be? He was out a month, and he really wasn't with us five on five (in practice).

Smart and Thomas said Evans playing with confidence again will benefit the Kings.

If Sacramento can figure out how to keep Cousins playing at a high level and add Evans to that, it will create more opportunities for teammates.

"He's one of the top guards in the NBA, and he gives us a lot of aggressiveness on the offensive end, and he also gets out and defends," Thomas said. "We need him to be the Tyreke that everybody knows him as, and once he gets back to that, I think we'll be a better team."

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