It was a flashback to 2010.
That’s when the Kings thought they’d found their franchise player in Tyreke Evans, who was on his way to winning NBA Rookie of the Year.
A lot has changed since then. The Kings made DeMarcus Cousins the foundation of the franchise and under new ownership added Rudy Gay to become a cornerstone of future success.
But Monday night, Evans ruled Sleep Train Arena as he did during that Rookie of the Year campaign.
Evans had 25 points and 12 assists in his first game in Sacramento as a New Orleans Pelican, leading his new team to a 113-100 win over the Kings.
“If guys didn’t think he was going to try to come into this arena and get off, I question their IQ,” Kings coach Michael Malone said. “Because he played here, and he’s going to come in here and show everybody what we’re missing, and he did.”
The score was tied at 77 after three quarters. Then the Kings allowed the Pelicans to score 36 points in the fourth quarter to coast to the win. It also helped New Orleans (12-14) that it scored 29 points off Sacramento’s season-high 22 turnovers.
Evans had six points, four assists and four rebounds during the decisive fourth period.
Evans did what many other perimeter players have done: He took advantage of the Kings’ shaky defense and drove to the basket seemingly at will to score and create for his teammates.
For Malone, it was a flashback of what he’s seen far too often as the Kings dropped to 8-19.
“It’s the same problem every night,” Malone said. “I guess we’ve got to get some better players to contain the basketball because right now we can’t.”
It was also another night when the Kings failed to execute what even casual fans know what to do against an opponent.
As long as Evans was a King, opponents would dare him to shoot from the perimeter, the weakest part of his game.
“We didn’t do what we wrote on the board,” guard Isaiah Thomas said. “We want to make a guy like that shoot jumpers, not live in the paint, where he’s great at, and we just fed into what he was doing. We didn’t stop him. We’ve got to know he’s a guy that’s been here for four years, he’s going to try to come in play a great game, and he did.”
Evans, however, was up on his scouting report on the Kings.
“I knew they didn’t have no shot blockers so I was going to attack every chance I get,” Evans said. “My goal was to attack and put the pressure on them.”
The Kings have said their lack of practice time lately has hurt them, but some of the mistakes they’ve made defensively are errors of mental preparation.
In last week’s loss at Atlanta, the Kings treated Kyle Korver, who owns the NBA record for consecutive games with a 3-pointer, as if he was a driver, dared him to shoot and watched him make eight 3-pointers.
Then they allowed Evans to drive instead of daring him to shoot.
“Guys not dialed in?” Thomas wondered aloud when asked about the mental focus. “(Short) attention span? I don’t know what it is. It’s simple things.”
Evans said he knew the Kings would try to force him to shoot and not drive, but he knew how to counter that.
“I’m a crafty player,” Evans said. “I just pick my angles, and if I see a good angle I’m quick and I can take it and draw fouls and get to the basket.”
The way the Kings watched Evans do that all night, one would have thought they didn’t know it was coming.