Bill Haber / The Associated Press

Tyreke Evans (1) enjoyed a productive month of March, averaging 20.4 points in 15 games for the Pelicans.

NBA Beat: Former Kings top rookie still trying to claim his role in New Orleans

Published: Saturday, Apr. 5, 2014 - 8:55 pm

Three players from the 2009 NBA draft class have become all-stars and cornerstones on playoff teams.

The player that won the 2010 Rookie of the Year from that class is still finding his way.

Tyreke Evans was the Rookie of the Year (top overall pick Blake Griffin sat out the season with a knee injury) when he averaged 20.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 5.8 assists for the Kings.

Evans has not topped those numbers since amid injuries and position changes, while Griffin, James Harden and Stephen Curry have become marquee names in the league.

Curry was second in voting for the rookie honor that year.

Evans won Rookie of the Year playing point guard and recently enjoyed his best stretch of games last month with New Orleans playing a lot at that position.

Evans averaged 20.4 points, 5.3 rebounds and 6.7 assists in 15 games in March. He shot 51.1 percent during that span.

“A lot of injuries, moving me around, trying to get in the right rhythm and playing a little bit of point when Brian (Roberts) was down,” Evans said. “It’s still rebound, push the fast break, try to put the pressure on the defense. The same old Reke.”

Finding the “same old Reke” hasn’t been easy. Evans was moved to small forward at the end of his third season and played shooting guard most of his fourth season.

Evans had always played point guard, but the belief was that he was best suited not to have the ball in his hands as much. But his declining statistics showed a player who was still trying to figure out how to play without the ball.

The transition to New Orleans also did not go smoothly. For the first time in his career, Evans was going to be coming off the bench full time.

One of Evans’ favorite NBA players is San Antonio’s Manu Ginobili, who has carved out a Hall of Fame-caliber career as a reserve, so the idea of being the sixth man didn’t bother Evans.

But it still wasn’t easy.

“I wasn’t used to that, so I was trying to come in the game and find a rhythm,” Evans said. “It was a little bit frustrating at one point. Some games I’d get it, some games I’d goback; it was just a matter of trying to get the system.”

The injuries didn’t help.

Ryan Anderson (Oak Ridge High School), who would have been a big part of the second unit, has been out since January with a neck injury.

“The second unit we had was going to be a dominant second unit with me and Ryan and open up a lot of things,” Evans said.

Jrue Holiday, who was acquired to be the starting point guard, also has been out since January.

When Roberts, Holiday’s replacement, missed time last month, it provided an opportunity for Evans to handle the ball more, and he responded well.

But next season, Evans could find himself searching for a role again. He might be a small forward once more.

His other two positions are manned by high-priced players in shooting guard Eric Gordon and Holiday.

But the Pelicans learned in March that, if needed, Evans can and is willing to be the same old Reke at point guard.

Trending up

Admitting you’re wrong isn’t easy, but the NBA has come out several times this season when blown calls by officials have altered the outcome of games.

One of the latest examples came when the league announced that Warriors center Jermaine O’Neal should have been called for goaltending late in their overtime win at Dallas. The play was not reviewable and the NBA said the call was not obvious to the naked eye (even though several Mavericks would say it was clearly goaltending).

That play set up Stephen Curry’s game-winning shot, putting the Warriors closer to clinching a postseason berth.

But if Dallas misses the playoffs by a game, the NBA admitting the mistake won’t make the Mavs feel better.

Trending down

It’s been a rough season for Milwaukee center Larry Sanders, starting with injuring his hand at a nightclub early in the season.

Now, Sanders is out for the season with an eye injury.

Sanders, however, still managed to earn a five-game suspension he’ll have to serve next season when healthy for violating the NBA’s drug policy. He tested positive for marijuana and advocated for its use even though it is banned by the NBA, saying the league has been “deprived” of its medical benefits.

Last words

“The stigma is that it’s illegal. I hate that. Once this becomes legal, this all will go away. But I understand for my work it’s a banned substance. I will deal with the consequences and I apologize again to my fans for that.” – Sanders to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on his suspension for marijuana use after his third positive test.

Read more articles by Jason Jones

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