When the Nets acquired Reggie Evans this offseason, it was hardly front page news.
The 32-year-old PF was joining his sixth team in 11 seasons, and he came at a price commensurate with his stature - a small salary for a role player whose main function was to provide depth, toughness, confidence - an attitude. Someone who could set the tone on the first day of practice, someone who could help give a team of strangers some sense of identity.
It made a lot of sense at the time.
Evans has never been a multifaceted player, but as he's gotten older he's become even less so. He now possesses exactly one tangible NBA skill - rebounding - which he excels at not through anticipation and athleticism, but through sheer willpower. His style is bull in a china shop. He just points himself at the ball and people get out of the way - sometimes willingly, sometimes not.
His other calling card is something some might call competitiveness, but that's a euphemism for what it really is - he is one dirty S.O.B. He has done and will do anything to gain an advantage. He is famous for his flopping (NBA video example #1), elbows, knees, forearms and the kung-fu grip he famously put on (and Sam Dalembert's) family jewels. He does what he has to to help his team, because if he doesn't, he won't be on a team. Every year more young players are available and virtually all of them have more skill. This is what Reggie Evans has. It's how he eats.
A player like that, who plays hard all the time and never talks about needing more "focus" or "energy", is someone teammates appreciate, fans are drawn to, and opponents absolutely cannot stand.
So what's going on right now with Reggie and the Brooklyn Nets?
When the season started Evans was a bench player who played when necessary and provided his usual array of tricks and hustle. Brook Lopez praised him for being so tough to play against in practice that Brook had no choice but to develop some of the aggression he previously lacked. The team was winning, Evans was doing his job, and he was working out exactly how everyone envisioned when he signed.
But then circumstances changed. Starting PF Kris Humphries started slowly, then missed nine games and was limited for nearly a month around Christmas. Evans began filling in as the starter. Bosnian rookie Mirza Teletovic was still becoming acclimated to his extremely unfamiliar surroundings, and Evans seemed to be the only trusted option to step in for Humphries.
In the midst of that stretch, head coach Avery Johnson was fired, and under interim coach P.J. Carlesimo Evans kept starting and the team kept winning, and Evans kept starting and the team kept winning, and all of a sudden it was mid-February. Humphries was a ghost, Teletovic had been given no chance to make progress or integrate himself into the team and the Nets suddenly (inevitably?) started coming back to Earth. And the glaring weakness that stuck out to anyone and everyone who watched the team play? Reggie Evans, the 32-year-old role player with one discernible skill, playing a lot of minutes at a position that requires many skills.
It's March now, and there are signs that Evans may be returning to his more traditional role soon. Carlesimo has vowed to take a longer look at Teletovic, a player who showed a lot of promise in Europe and who the Nets were very happy to lure to Brooklyn. He has also indicated a willingness to play backup center Andray Blatche some minutes at PF, which could lighten Evans' load. And, of course, there is always the possibility that Humphries extricates himself from his season-long funk and starts looking more like a player who earned a $12M/yr. contract.
Any or all of those things could mean the end of Reggie Evans' unexpected, eventful and increasingly unsuccessful reign as an NBA starter.
And, for the Nets, the welcome return of Reggie - just being Reggie.
Time to switch up the lineup? - Mike Mazzeo - ESPN New York