(Sports Network) - Reigning NBA rookie of the year Tyreke Evans just had his contract exercised and can focus on leading his team into tonight's season opener against the Minnesota Timberwolves at the Target Center.
Evans averaged a team-best 20.1 points and 5.8 assists last season and also grabbed 5.3 rebounds per game, joining LeBron James, Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson as the only players in league history to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists in their rookie campaigns.
The Kings hope the Philadelphia-area native has more up his sleeve after they missed out on the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season. Sacramento hasn't made the postseason since the 2005-06 campaign and hopes it added a rather significant piece to a promising foundation with former Kentucky center DeMarcus Cousins.
Sacramento feels Cousins was the second most talented player in the 2010 draft behind Washington's John Wall, a prospect with amazing strength and passing skills that defy his age.
Some other NBA teams labeled Cousins lazy and out of shape, an immature player that loses focus easily and will never possess the intestinal fortitude to excel at this level. Cousins averaged 15.1 points and 9.9 rebounds in his only season with the Wildcats.
The Kings also acquired veteran center Samuel Dalembert from Philadelphia in a deal that sent Spencer Hawes and Andres Nocioni back east but he will miss the beginning of the season with a left adductor strain.
Kings head coach Paul Westphal had a rough first campaign and is counting on a new breed of young players to improve on last season's 25-win total.
Minnesota is also making a transition to youth and has three solid candidates in Kevin Love, Jonny Flynn and Corey Brewer. Love will be counted on to provide scoring an leadership and the addition of Michael Beasley brings toughness and attitude down low.
Talented Syracuse product and candidate for this year's Rookie of the Year Award Wesley Johnson has tremendous upside in the Twin Cities. This season couldn't go any worse than 2009-10, when the Wolves played to a miserable 15-67 record last season, the second worst mark in the NBA.
Head coach Kurt Rambis won't have forward Al Jefferson this season, however. He was dealt to the Utah Jazz in the offseason and was the centerpiece of the trade that sent Kevin Garnett to Boston.
Sacramento and Minnesota split four matchups a year ago, but the Kings have won five of the previous seven contests between the teams. The Kings have lost two straight and four of five trips to Minneapolis.