Evans had a less-than-stellar homecoming

Posted: January 16, 2010

Tyreke Evans estimated that two of his brothers had doled out about 230 tickets for last night's game between the 76ers and the Sacramento Kings at the Wachovia Center.

It did seem that half of Chester, Evans' hometown, occupied Section 116 behind the basket, brimming with anticipation as the 20-year-old Sacramento rookie they know as "Reke" came home for the first time since he first pulled on a purple Kings jersey.

Unfortunately, Evans played as if every one of his friends and family members in the seats was looking over his shoulder as he plied his trade, or made the attempt. Which, of course, they were.

In fact, the broad-shouldered 6-foot-6 point guard who was the No. 4 pick in the draft wasn't even the best homegrown player on the floor. That honor went to one of Evans' teammates, 6-11 Jason Thompson of Mount Laurel and Lenape High. Thompson scored 19 points and hauled down 16 rebounds, but it still wasn't enough to overcome all the mistakes made by the other Kings, most notably Evans.

After the Sixers completed their 98-86 win, Evans conceded that playing so close to home made his head swim a bit.

"I was thinking about it out there a little bit too much," he said. "I just didn't want to come out forcing anything. I just wanted to go out there and play my game and let it come to me."

Instead, things got away from the former American Christian Academy and Memphis star. It took him 13 shots to score 14 points - he made three - and he had three turnovers compared with four assists. Evans went into the game playing the best ball of any rookie in the league, with a chance to become the fourth rookie in NBA history to average 20 points, five assists, and five rebounds. The three others make up a decent group - Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James.

"Oh, I don't know," Sacramento coach Paul Westphal said when asked whether playing at home affected Evans' performance. "Tyreke doesn't show jitters much. He missed some shots he ordinarily makes."

One of the night's low points for Evans came in the fourth quarter, when he was called for obstructing a clear path to the basket by Andre Iguodala, who drained a pair of free throws before a drive down the lane by Thaddeus Young extended the Sixers' lead to 87-76. It was their first lead in double figures, and the Kings never recovered.

"It was nobody's night tonight," said Evans, apparently unaware that it was a pretty good one for Thompson. "I had a couple of looks. I just didn't make some layups. We didn't get out on the fastbreak like we usually do."

The Sixers, to no one's surprise, made Evans the focus of their defense. They did an excellent job crowding the lane whenever Tyreke deked his defender and exploded toward the basket.

"They did a good job with their big men running back and protecting the paint," Evans said.

Before the game, Evans said he took a red-eye flight from Sacramento after Tuesday's game so he could spend as much time with his family as possible.

"I only had a certain amount of tickets, and we gave them out to the people we thought were deserving," he said.

Whether they were deserving or not, he felt their presence - just not in the way he wanted.

Contact staff writer Ray Parrillo at 215-854-2743 or rparrillo@phillynews.com.

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