Toney Douglas was in Sacramento the day Tyreke Evans turned heads with his size and length, with his ballhandling and bruising strength, and mostly, with his slashing, scintillating drives to the basket.
Steph Curry. Jonny Flynn. Patty Mills. Nick Calathes. They were here, too, participating in the high-profile, high-octane workout that left the Kings' front-office folks salivating and preparing to select Evans with the No. 4 pick in the 2009 NBA draft.
A man among boys, an excited Paul Westphal described the audition.
Fast-forward a few years, to the waning weeks of Evans' fourth season, and what do you have? An unfinished portrait for sure. He is leaner and wiser. His shooting percentages continue to rise. He moves more instinctively without the ball. His death-by-dribbling sequences also diminished after Keith Smart made Isaiah Thomas the starting point guard and to his credit when Evans accepted the change and moved on with his career.
But Evans is not a point guard, was never a point guard, never should have been thrust into the role of a point guard. He sees the basket and he thinks "score." His coaches wish he would see his teammates more often and think "pass."
While Evans' development at shooting guard has offered some clarity, the search for that elusive point guard continues. And in today's NBA, it's impossible to ignore the obvious. That 2009 draft spit out quality playmakers like widgets on an assembly line.
Ricky Rubio is in Sacramento tonight with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but since the Spanish sensation made the T-wolves wait two years for his services, the Kings get a pass on that one. But then there are all the others: Jrue Holiday is an All-Star. Brandon Jennings is starting to win. Darren Collison, Jeff Teague and Eric Maynor can play. Ty Lawson is the MVP on a Denver Nuggets team that runs and rebounds and dunks and leaves opponents gasping in thin air.
And now here comes Toney Douglas. Mercifully, here comes Toney Douglas. Douglas, Patrick Patterson and Cole Aldrich have made Kings fans forget about rookie Thomas Robinson, Francisco Garcia and Tyler Honeycutt, and applaud the trade that was depicted in the national media as a panic move and a money grab.
While it's too early to fully assess the Feb. 20 trade one move can lead to better moves the newcomers have brought energy and intensity, and, particularly in the case of Douglas, reintroduced the concept of harassing, extended defenses. It's been how long now since Bobby Jackson made a nuisance of himself?
"Players hate being pressured, being picked up early," Smart said. "It tires them out. Control the ball from the point of attack."
Douglas says his passion for defense was a revelation. He played "no defense" as a prep star in Jonesboro, Ga., played very little defense during his freshman season at Auburn, and became interested in containing opponents only after transferring to Florida State and matching up against North Carolina's Lawson, among others.
"I didn't want to get embarrassed in the ACC," Douglas said, "and after a while, I wanted to be known as a dynamic defender. Now, if I'm not pressuring the ball, I hate it. I can't just sit back and let a guy shoot and dribble."
In the Kings' wildly entertaining victory Tuesday over the Clippers, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Douglas was a royal pain. He frustrated Chris Paul throughout using his long arms and quick hands to deflect balls, his strong legs and low center of gravity to impede the All-Star's movement.
His barrage of three-pointers and his team-high seven assists were bonuses; most NBA scouts retain reservations about Douglas' decisions and playmaking. Nonetheless, Smart has a need to fill, Douglas senses an opportunity, and on and on it goes.
Call The Bee's Ailene Voisin (916) 321-1208 and follow her on Twitter @ailene_voisin.