NBA

Why Former NBA Rookie of the Year Tyreke Evans Was Disqualified From the NBA

When Tyreke Evans was selected as the number four pick by the Sacramento Kings in the 2009 NBA draft — chosen three spots before two-time MVP Steph Curry — his future was bright. The point guard drew national attention even as a high schooler in Pennsylvania, then played an impressive “one-and-done” season at the University of Memphis. Going pro was all but guaranteed.

Evans immediately exceeded expectations in the NBA and was named the 2010 Rookie of the Year. What happened, then, that caused the rising star to fall so far from grace? 

From Rookie of the Year to sophomore slump

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According to Basketball-Reference.com, Tyreke Evans finished his rookie season with an average of just over 20 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game. He was only the fourth rookie to have ever done so, following in the footsteps of legends Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James. 

Following that first-year performance, Evans’ career became distinctly less remarkable. While he had a few notable moments in his sophomore season, like that famous game-winning shot taken from half-court in a December 2010 home game against the Grizzlies, a recurring plantar fasciitis issue held Tyreke Evans back from greatness.

Over the next couple of seasons, Evans saw less and less playing time with the Kings and in 2013, he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans. He didn’t get much time on the court at first in New Orleans either, but by the end of the season, his stats more closely resembled those from his dynamite rookie year. Evans’ second season with the Pelicans ended up being the second-best of his career, and the team made the 2015 playoffs.

Multiple knee surgeries forced Evans to miss the majority of the 2015-2016 season, and he was traded back to the Kings halfway through the following year. Evans’ time in Sacramento was short-lived and he was traded yet again before the start of the 2017-2018 season, this time to the Memphis Grizzlies. 

Tyreke Evans: the comeback kid

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Something clicked for Tyreke Evans in Memphis. He put up numbers that were nearly identical to his rookie season stats and he had developed much more as a player. Unfortunately for Evans, the Grizzlies were intentionally tanking that season and his contract was up. He signed with the Indiana Pacers in the offseason, fresh off of his bounce-back year. 

The Pacers’ season opener was against the Grizzlies, and Evans helped defeat his former team 111-83. After that, Evans had an inexplicably terrible season, though the team did make it to the playoffs. 

DQ’d

In May 2019, ESPN reported that Tyreke Evans had been “dismissed and disqualified” from the NBA for violating the league’s Anti-Drug Program.

According to the program’s comprehensive rules, players can be banned under one of two circumstances. The first is testing positive for a “drug of abuse.”

The second is being convicted of or pleading guilty to using, possessing, or distributing a drug of abuse. Players can be randomly tested as many as four times during the regular season and twice during the offseason, as well as up to four times in a six-week period if there’s “reasonable cause.”

NBA rules prohibit the Pacers and the National Basketball Players Association from discussing Evans’ ban in any context. Several other players have been similarly banned, including O.J. Mayo, Roy Tarpley, and Chris Andersen and some have been subsequently reinstated.

Rules of reinstatement

According to the NBA and NBPA joint Anti-Drug Program, players banned for substance abuse can apply for reinstatement two years after their violation. Tyreke Evans will be eligible to apply in May 2021. 

In order for a player to be reinstated, both the NBA and NBPA consider several factors and they must be in agreement on his return. The circumstances surrounding the original ban are examined, as well as the player’s behavior and treatment — or lack thereof — during the ban.

Players must also prove they have not failed a drug test for a minimum of one year before even applying for reinstatement.