Posted by: Kingsguru21 | July 12, 2009

The Stain of Ron Artest: Is it too much to bear in the case of Tyreke Evans?

We all remember. We watched Ron too many times stand around dribbling, or simply trying to make a play that wasn’t there.

Isolation basketball. It’s ugly; It’s anti-Princeton. It’s anti-Pete Carril. So how on God’s Green Earth could Tyreke Evans ever be a Kings basketball pick? Oh my goodness gracious, I do wonder.

Today, TZ, of all people (how dare he!), there was a writeup on StR about Tyreke Evans and how his physical presence comes & goes. (If you haven’t read it, read Exhibit G’s fantastic writeup on PG’s as well.) As in, one moment Easy Reke (hold the apostrophe) vacillitates passive facilitation, and the next he explodes. That is the essence of who he is. That’s what makes him such a great talent, and that’s probably one reason the Kings selected him 4th overall on June 25th.

However, isolation, in Kings fan lore, is a dirty word among the more indoctrinated brethren. We remember the days where Vlade Divac was at the high post making Magic Johnson’esque passes to a cutting “fill in Kings player here”.

Those days are gone. And, the Kings didn’t run the Princeton then. As Pete Carril said the other day, the “Princeton” isn’t really a Pro Offense.

After watching this, he didn’t seem too concerned about not running the offense. He just seem concerned that they were disjointed. (Which could be described in terms of not running the offense.) But, that’s the beauty of Coachie. He didn’t get to the Hall of Fame for nuthin folks. He’s an incredible basketball mind. And, he recognizes that the Princeton, most of it, is not really a pro offense because the players would be too LIMITED by it. Yet, this perception exists that the Kings run the Princeton.

The Kings did. Last year. Do you want that again?

Which brings me to the main part of my point, and something that one LPA got me started on this diatribe in the first place: Are we hurt by isolation basketball after witnessing Ron Artest for 2 1/2 seasons?

First, I think it’s important to recognize why Tyreke Evans and Ron Artest are different AS BASKETBALL PLAYERS.

Artest is a SF/PF hybrid has incredible strength (maybe the strongest player in the NBA right now), can score and play physical, aggressive defense. He’s also an adept ball handler, and is a good shooter (not bad; not great; just good)

We often saw, though, a player who would take the ball and try to drive it at the teeth of the defense to create a shot. The problem with Ron, and the problem with the Kings, is that they never had the perfect athletic 4 to complement Ron and his weaknesses. Since those don’t exactly grow on tree’s, it was rather easy to start over and rebuild.

Tyreke Evans is 19. He’s strong, and long (something Ron is not). He needs the ball in his hands to be effective offensively (he’s not going to be a guy who runs off screens). He’s physical and aggressive.

I’ll give the StR reader lttg credit: He claimed all last year that the Kings needed that physical tangible presence to be effective. He was right. (I also think that Kevin Martin’s injury was equally important, but I don’t want to get any more sidetracked than I already have.)

The Kings made a great effort to portray themselves getting tougher. The Kings are tougher, and they’re still skilled. Toughness, rebounding, defense, skills tend to mesh together well. Even though the Kings don’t have the perfect team by any stretch, it’s easy to see how Donte Greene and Tyreke Evans already fit in with this roster.

Jason Thompson seems like a perfect complementary player who can do a lot of little things that will help the Kings be far more effective on 2 ends of the court. Sort of a poor man’s David West if you will. And, Spencer Hawes recent mental midgetry aside, Spencer Hawes, and all his skills, fit in well with Jason Thompson. If only they rebounded the defensive board at a higher rate……

I’ve regressed goddammit. Or, maybe not.

Last season, TZ had a great writeup about aggressiveness and that in the aftermath of 1140gate, Theus believed that having an aggressive approach would create easier baskets and force the opponents to somewhat adjust to the Kings rather than the other way around.

Theus was right. He wasn’t Geoff Petrie’s coach. That’s why he got canned. Period. (That, and his insistence on ignoring things that Westphal hasn’t, like veteran 78 year old hall of famers.) At the time of his firing, he mentioned there wasn’t anything Natt could do to change the course of the team. And, Theus, unfortunately, was wrong. Natt made the team WORSE. One of those reasons was that the Princeton was being run, and unfortunately, some of the tiger was being tamed by keeping SOME players from doing some things. (Stupid insistence to shoot 3’s rather than pass it to a big man who has his guy pinned on the block is usually a ripe ingredient for losing in every ridiculous fashion. I might tear my hair out, and I don’t have much up top, if I ever see Francisco Garcia do that again.)

I’ve regressed again, FUCK!

The point, I think, if I haven’t gotten swamped in my attempt to try and write 15000 things in 1000 words, is that aggressiveness was something that Theus got right. The other details, and how to implement it, was something he never quite figured out.

Which is why Paul Westphal is a fortunate find. We’ve all read the prevailing opinion that Westphal made a mistake, but I beg to differ. Westphal needs the Kings, and despite what may be written elsewhere, the Kings desperately need Paul Westphal.

One of the important things that Westphal has insisted (whether we are paying attention or not) that is truly important to a running team is defense, rebounding, and outlet passes. Duh?!? Yet, the point (obviously) is important. Every coach is aware of the “points per possession” statistic and how it correlates to defensive/offensive strength. That level of efficiency is far more important than how many points a team scores or gives up. (Simply put, if you score 120 points and give up 112 points a night, or you score 97 points, and give up 93 points a night, which is better? I think you can count. If you can’t, I hear Ebonics is looking for more folks to speak it as it might be a dying language as literacy comes to all races in the US. Oh wait, nevermind: I forgot about Text Messaging.)

If players think they can run without a commitment to the following listed in the above paragraph, they have another thing coming. Westphal seems clear that he wants a fast, free flowing offense that is augmented by an aggressive, opportunistic defense. Works for me.

Now, back to Artest.

One reason I always thought Artest was a mistake is something along the following lines: He’s a very good but not great player. He does many things across the board well, but not anything particularly great. You say defense? Really? Is he a truly incredible defender? What makes Artest unique is his unusual physical strength that allows him to play 2 positions because he is quick enough to do so (or was) on the perimeter and down closer to the basket. But, he isn’t great at anything and because of that he doesn’t create mis-matches that force teams to adjust what they’re trying to do against his teams. Kobe Bryant he is not.

Tyreke Evans is a player that creates mis-matches, and there isn’t a NBA team that will openly lie to you and say they don’t want a player like that. The Kings are a NBA team, and they need a player who can create mis-matches.

More importantly, they need a guy who can create his own shot and shots for others. Without Tyreke Evans, the Kings don’t have that player.

Whether Easy Reke is a PG, or not, is not the point. Whether he’s capable of creating mis-matches, fitting in with Kevin Martin (or a player who plays off the ball as effectively as Martin), making plays in the open court, and being a physical, long presence defensively is probably where the Kings believe Tyreke Evans fits in. That DEFINITELY IS the point.

I always look at a player, and I always think to myself of what he DOES do. For too many reasons that I couldn’t articulate if I wanted to, I don’t think I could state all of that particular statement. But, for simplicity terms, what Ron Artest did as a player wasn’t enough to be a franchise player. Whether Geoff Petrie knew it, he certainly was aware by Summer ’08 that Artest did not fit that bill.

I remember Artest having the ball 20 ft away from the hoop, and looking for a play. His teammates, including Kevin Martin, would look for him to get a hoop in those moment. Then, he tried, and, most of the time, he didn’t succeed.

Tyreke Evans is EXACTLY that kind of player. Don’t let the bad memories of an isolation player who you weren’t particularly enamored of misle mis-lead you into the belief that a player who plays well in isolations (that means scoring on a guy 1 on 1, and, if Easy Reke is anywhere as good as I’m insinuating,that won’t be for long in all likelihood) is a bad thing. You got something against LeBron James too? (And while Easy Reke isn’t Bron Bron, there’s no reason he couldn’t be a D-Wade type of player. You got something against him also?)

Ladies and Gentleman, the creation of a franchise player. And, unlike Chris Webber, Easy Reke might just fit the bill.

(Note: I also said that Jason Thompson had a chance at being Chris Webber-lite. Listening to me is doing so at your own peril.)

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