The Curious Case Of Tyreke Evans
First of all you are not a bigger fan of Tyreke Evans and his game than me.
When it was announced that the Memphis Grizzlies had signed him to a super cheap one year deal late in the free agency period I jumped off of my couch and ran around my house screaming like we had just won the world title on a buzzer beater. I picked up the phone and called every local media member in town whose number I had that I also knew would not be a fan of the oft-injured and ball dominant Evans coming to town. In a town full of nerds and naysayers in Memphis sports media, its the safe assumption that a player like Evans wasn't high on their lists. With excitement and pure joy I dog-cussed everyone of them out with pride. Chris Herrington, Kevin Lipe, Joshua Coleman and Chip Williams among others all have receipts for this. Not really sure what my purpose or end goal was in cursing them all out but it felt good - plus we were adding one of my favorite players, so I was in my feelings.
I immediately took to twitter. I sang Tyreke's praises to all who had ears and eyes to witness it.
"He's still a top 5 ball handler and will be getting fans out of their seats this season!" I said confidently.
"He's a top 5 shooting guard in the league when healthy!" proclaimed my co-host of the Outsiders Podcast and co-Reke fan Cam Rose.
We took to our podcast to continue our celebration after being attacked by every twitter nerd and know-it-all both locally and nationally.
"This isn't 2010, Sain!," they said
"You guys are drunk!" they said
"We'll be lucky if he doesn't hurt himself at his introductory press conference!" they said
I argued with all of these same people all of November when Evans came in playing like he had an Infinity Stone in his arm sleeve. Tyreke was killing it off of the bench. The Grizzlies were winning and all was well but I still had to battle 1,493,823 or so fans plus their spreadsheets and calculators who still were knocking Tyreke.
"He's a ball hog!" they said
"He's playing for himself!" they said
"Marc is getting frustrated and we don't need Marc to be frustrated!" they said while watching him lead the team in points and assist, while shooting 40% from 3. I literally had to defend a guy that was having one of the best seasons in Memphis Grizzlies history. A guy that looked like the answer to so many things that we'd been missing for years on this team.
Oddly enough these same people are now pitch forks-a-blazin' after it became imminent that the Grizzlies were not pursuing Evans in free agency. Tyreke's brother Doc Evans was a guest on The Jason and John Show on 92.9 ESPN Monday and opened this can of worms saying that they had not been contacted by the Grizzlies at all during free agency. This was shocking considering the Grizzlies, namely GM Chris Wallace decided to not move Tyreke at the trade deadline and stated that confidence in being able to bring him back was his main motivation for not doing so. Since then I reported on Johnny Radio's Happy Hour Thursday afternoon that the Grizzlies had in fact contacted Evan's agency to tell them that they were going in another direction. This was also confirmed by John Martin later that on the Gary Parrish Show later that afternoon, only adding to the confusion.
Evans how now signed another one year contract; this time with the Indiana Pacers for $12 million causing fans and media members alike to understandably be in an uproar. How do you hold on to a guy regardless of your opinion of the offers that were made as if letting him walk for nothing was better? How do you justify not even calling him to discuss a deal regardless if you felt like your mid level exception offer would be enough or not? It's truly a "curious case" what happened between then at the trade deadline and now, but one that I'm not only informed on but both logical and rational enough to shed at least some limited light on.
A lot has changed concerning Tyreke and the Grizzlies since February. If you are looking for me to go into great detail I won't. I'm not here to do that but merely to say that the situation between the two parties had soured well before the free agency period began. There were several events that took place that if fans would go back and recollect on with a different outlook, they would see more clearly how and why the two sides fell apart.
The Grizzlies have a new coaching staff - a coaching staff that is led by a JB Bickerstaff who although was the interim head coach at the time, nothing was set in stone that he would be the head coach. Wallace's opinion and viewpoint on retaining Tyreke were based on a Grizzlies team that simply needed a new coach next season and not necessarily Bickerstaff. Evans and Bickerstaff had an early run-in that included Evans playing a half without taking a shot. Could this have led to a poor relationship with Bickerstaff and Evans who also had several run-ins with former head coach Dave Fizdale? Possibly - and with a new coaching staff committed to developing young players, a high maintenance and potentially toxic vet can be an issue.
There are several other things that went down concerning Tyreke and the Grizzlies but like I said I'm not really here for that. I just challenge people, especially fans to think. Are Chris Wallace and company dumb? Yes. But this would be a new level of stupidity unless something major happened. Something that in their eyes made Tyreke go from priority number one to not a priority at all. Is it 100% fair to say that if these issues are true now were they not true then or at least showing signs of being there? - YES! that's very fair to say. Tyreke didn't go from Boyscout to Bastion Of Malcontent overnight.
Wallace and company are not exempt of criticism because bottom line they took a risk in keeping him and knew that a major PR blunder was at risk. Something also worth noting is that the Grizzlies front office structure is evolving and keeping Tyreke instead of trading him at the deadline was not a unanimous decision by the front office team. As a long time fan of Lord Tyreke it hurts me in a different way but from the times that I heard the whispers and rumblings until now I was prepared for the inevitable. I even held out hope that both sides could come to terms and do what's best. But in the end because I know more about what lies beyond the veil, I get it - but I also don't.