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Wednesday, June 29, 2011
Tyreke Evans' improved vision

By Zach Harper

Tyreke Evans
Jonathan Santiago/Cowbell Kingdom
Tyreke Evans sees the big picture a lot clearer now.

The concept of vision has many different levels.

On the surface, it can simply mean how well someone reads a street sign or if they need glasses to read a book held in front of their face. Vision can also go much deeper than that. It can relate to a sense of perspective. Knowing that you should sit out a basketball game because you can see the signs of injury plaguing you, and you know your body needs to rest.

For Tyreke Evans of the Sacramento Kings, his vision has improved over the last year, even though his eyesight is still perfect.

Teaming with VSP Vision Care, the largest not-for-profit vision insurance company in the United States, Tyreke is holding an off-season basketball camp at the Dr. Ephraim Williams Family Life Center in Sacramento, to help promote vision care to young students. The underlying theme to the camp is that you need good vision to be able to play sports and participate in everyday activities, but for Tyreke, vision goes into that deeper meaning after the past year he endured.

A little over a year ago, Tyreke Evans was coming off one of the most historic rookie seasons in NBA history. He finished with season averages of 20.1 points, 5.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game. It was just the fourth time in NBA history that a rookie finished with 20-5-5. Aside from a couple of turned ankles and a concussion in his rookie campaign, Tyreke was relatively healthy all season and able to impose his physical dominance on the defense almost every night.

But as he entered his sophomore NBA season, with high expectations for himself and the team he leads, Evans was already battling a dreaded plantar fasciitis injury to his left foot and trying to be tough for his team. “Just because I’m young, when I got hurt, I tried to play through it, “ Evans said as he reflects on his second season.

Tyreke did try to play through it early on and struggled while doing so. He played in 46 of the first 53 games of the 2010-11 season. While it may be unfair to call his averages of 18.3 points, 5.5 assists and 4.9 rebounds in those first 46 games struggling, those were the types of expectations his rookie play brought about. He couldn’t explode to the basket in the same way he was used to, and with his struggling jump shot unable to fall, he was constantly left with a physical disadvantage.

“It was pretty hard, “ Tyreke admits. “Just knowing that I like to get to the basket, I’ve got to use that leg to push off with.”

His attempts at the rim fell from 8.4 per game his rookie year (best in the league) to 6.2 last season (ninth in the NBA). His biggest asset was now his greatest limitation. Without the ability to break down the defense whenever he needed, he and his teammates struggled mightily to get any kind of offensive continuity. The pain eventually became too much for him to endure on a nightly basis and he decided to get serious treatment.

“I used to wake up and feel like a knife was stabbing me in my foot.”

Finally, Evans sat out for about three weeks starting in mid-February and underwent shockwave therapy on his injured left foot. “Some games, I’d rest it, come back and feel better. Then I’d start playing again and it started hurting again. Once I got the treatment in LA, it stopped hurting. Now, it feels pretty good.”

For Tyreke, he looks back at this past season as a frustrating and yet invaluable lesson on how to treat your body in the NBA. He endured a pretty debilitating injury, struggled because of it, and can now use it as a learning experience on knowing when to rest his injuries.

Tyreke’s vision on the court has been questioned in his first two years as people try to figure out the exact position he should play. While he says his vision is “on point”, many critics question his ability to see the court and find open guys. But even before the Kings drafted Jimmer Fredette, Evans was talking about playing off the ball more and trying to round out his game.

Last summer, he was making sure to work on his weakness of having a suspect jumper and getting his body in better shape after an initial month of off-season rest. In retrospect, maybe it was sort of a myopic viewpoint on what he needed to do to improve on a stellar start to his career.

This summer, he hasn’t taken any time off and continues to work on his all-around game. He doesn’t give any focus when you ask him what he’s working on. The answer is simply “everything.”

I think that’s where you see the growth with Tyreke now from Tyreke one year ago. There aren’t any nearsighted viewpoints on what he needs to do, what his team needs to do, or how they need to go about it. Not just one thing will make him better, nor will one single thing make his team better. It’s simply all about becoming better everywhere.

He’s learned from his injury that looking at the bigger picture down the road is what’s best for everybody around him and in the Kings organization. For a young player who has had early individual success, it shows a pretty special form of vision.

Everybody should be able to see it clearly on the court next season.