OKLAHOMA CITY There used to be questions about whether the Kings could follow the Oklahoma City Thunder formula for becoming one of the NBA's elite teams.
That's to acquire cornerstone players with high draft picks instead of free agency and watch them grow.
That obviously hasn't happened for the Kings. And one of the players who figured to be a key to future success saw his season end with a thud on the floor at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
Tyreke Evans left the game for good in the first quarter with a left quadriceps strain as the Kings lost 104-95 Monday to the Thunder, which clinched the Western Conference's top seed with the win.
Evans said he landed on a wet spot after he made a layup. "It's a little sore," Evans said. "So I'll ice it and maybe take some pain pills."
Evans said he wanted to try to play in Wednesday's season finale against the Los Angeles Clippers, but coach Keith Smart said that won't happen.
Smart joked he might have to fight Evans over that decision, but he won't expose the fourth-year guard to further injury.
"No need for him to go out there and limp around or do anything else to that," Smart said. "We've got a long flight, and once you get on a plane, you never know how much swelling will occur."
Evans landed hard under the basket in front of the Kings' bench with two minutes left in the first quarter.
Evans immediately grabbed his left knee. When he was helped off the floor, he was unable to put weight on his left leg. Evans' reaction scared coaches and teammates, who thought he had injured his knee.
"I was hoping it wasn't his ACL or anything like that because he was grabbing his knee and leg real bad, and I couldn't tell what it was," said guard Isaiah Thomas. "Then he wasn't moving, so I was hoping it wasn't too serious."
It was the Kings' last road game of the season. But the bigger question is if Evans in an injured heap will be the last image of the 2009-10 Rookie of the Year as a King.
Evans will be a free agent following the season. The Kings can make him a restricted free agent by making him a qualifying offer. At the beginning of the season, it seemed certain the Kings would do so and match any reasonable offer for him if the team did not reach an agreement with him on a multiyear deal.
But with the ownership uncertainty, there is no telling what will happen with Evans.
Smart praised Evans' work last offseason to become a better three-point shooter while playing shooting guard instead of point guard full time.
Smart said the next stage of Evans' development will be improving his mid-range shooting off screens and becoming a better facilitator.
"The young man is a great young guy, and I was sad that he hurt himself at this stage of the season," Smart said.
Smart said Evans (eight points on 4-of-5 shooting) was on his way to a good game until the injury. Without Evans, the Kings gave up too many points off turnovers (19) and shot just 43.7 percent.
That wasn't enough to keep up with Kevin Durant, who led the Thunder (60-21) with 29 points, eight assists and seven rebounds. Russell Westbrook had 21 points and eight assists before being ejected with 2:28 to play for his second technical foul.
Thomas led the Kings (28-53) with 16 points. Travis Outlaw scored 15.