New York – A music critic, after viewing a concert in the early 1970s put on by a young singer from New Jersey became semi-famous for stating the unique observation, “I’ve seen the future of rock and roll, and its name is Bruce Springsteen.” Well, tonight, it would not be a stretch to utter similar feelings as they apply to professional basketball because tonight, boys and girls, I saw the future of the NBA and its name is Tyreke Evans.
During tonight’s 118-114 Sacramento King win over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, Evans decided,with the Kings losing at the half and making up no ground in the third quarter, he would take over the game as the bright lights of Broadway were shining clearly on him. The kid didn’t flinch as he led his team.
Evans finished with 27 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, scoring 12 points in the final seven minutes of regulation after the Knicks had built a 15-point lead, repeatedly finding his way into the lane.
“I think the people in New York got a little idea of why we like Tyreke so much,” Kings coach Paul Westphal said. “The Garden got kind of quiet when he did that little two-step slippery thing he does. It’s something you don’t see very often.”
With 7:15 to go in the fourth quarter and the Knicks leading by 15 points, Evans scored 12 of the Kings final 15 points to bring them to a tie as the final buzzer sounded. He was an unstoppable force as his skill with the basketball, quickness, 220 pound strength, long arms, and court sense led to a variety of drives to the hoop for layups and penetration and dishes to a waiting Kevin Martin as the Knicks, even with their defensive stopper, Jared Jeffries guarding him, could do nothing to stop the kid.
The 6’6” first year player, fresh off of John Calipari’s previous point guard development program in Memphis, Tennessee (before moving on to Kentucky and John Wall) has taken the league by storm and is the leading candidate for NBA Rookie of the Year. The reality is this – if this kid, just 19, stays on the straight and narrow and continues a normal maturation process for any young player, he will become among the greatest of players in the games’ history. He’s that talented.
Meanwhile, the Knicks continue their precipitous drop into basketball oblivion as any previous hopes for playoff participation this season disappear into the netherworld of NBA also-rans.
Knicks coach Mike D’Antoni was left scratching his head again after his team lost it’s 10th game out of their last 13, a streak that couldn’t come at a worse time as their record dropped to a season-worst 13 games under .500 (13-32).
“We’re up 15 with about seven to go and we didn’t get up on Donte Greene’s shot,” he said. “Then they had a lay-up, we didn’t get back in transition and Donte hits another one. So, it went from 15 to about 7 in about 30 seconds.”
His team was missing Danilo Gallinari, who went out with an injured forearm with one minute left in the third quarter. But, that’s not what beat the Knicks tonight. It was a lack of floor leadership when the game got tight, and according to D’Antoni, a lack of spirit.
“We’re struggling to find a way to get the ball in the right place,” he said. “Gallinari being out is no excuse, we just, for whatever reason, I don’t know, there’s a lot of spirit that has gone out of this dog and we’re just not fighting.”
Evans, on the contrary, noticed the huge amount of fight his side exhibited, particularly in the second half.
“We just never gave up, we kept fighting, trying to get the win and coach Westphal believed in us,” he said. “I think the main that got us the win was me pushing the ball, getting an easy bucket and an easy transition point.”
He’s correct. Until Westphal told him in the fourth quarter to go win the game, Evans was not playing aggressively. It looked like he got the green light to take things over when it mattered most, though.
“We got a great performance from Tyreke,” said Westphal. “We did like we’ve been doing all year. If we get behind, we don’t quit, keep playing. Tonight, we happened to close it out.”
Sounds very different from D’Antoni’s laments, doesn’t it. And, this Sacramento team has a worse record (17-34) than the Knicks yet they seem hungrier and more aggressive than a Knicks team that’s falling faster out of the playoff discussion than one of Chris Duhon’s recent flings at the basket disguised as shots.
Al Harrington scored 17 for New York, Jeffries had 13 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double of the season and Nate Robinson had 11 points on 4-of-15 shooting, also leaving the game at one point after having the wind knocked out of him.