By Warren Shaw
A lot has happened to Tyreke Evans since becoming a player for the New Orleans Pelicans. He’s seen roster turnover, a coaching change, endured the death of teammate and witnessed countless injuries to core players and overcome a major injury himself. It clearly hasn’t been easy for him or the organization but Evans isn’t one to lament woes—especially those out of his control.
Evans is confident about his skills and knows exactly what he does well. He’s taken constructive criticism about how to improve his shot and best help his team in the four years he’s been in New Orleans. His recovery from injury has him on a minutes restriction currently, but his per 36 minute average this season project out at 21.2 points, 8.3 assists, 6.9 rebounds and 1.8 steals.
At the midpoint of his eighth season, he accepts his role as a veteran, including the responsibility of ribbing rookies like Buddy Hield. Evans and company have forced Hield to carry around the infamous pink backpack that many rookies have had to adopt as part of their regular apparel in their first year.
The combo guard spoke with us honestly about his recovery, his team and dished out some candid comments about his NBA colleagues regarding All-Star voting.
Warren Shaw: What have you learned about yourself since coming to the Pelicans?
Tyreke Evans: Just trying to figure out how to take care of my body better. As I’ve got older–I’ve dealt with injuries. I just came off of surgery and I feel better than ever. Before I came I was playing pretty well but I was playing bone on bone in my knee for like four years. I was getting in drained after every couple games. Nobody really knew about it except the doctors out here and after that I got the surgery this year. Now I’m back—playing limited minutes—but at least the knee is feeling better than ever.
WS: What was the most difficult part of your recovery this season?
TE: In the summer time the rehab part; it was a struggle for me. The surgery I had was a big one and the doctor said it might take almost a year to recover. I just had to put the work in to get my knee stronger. I’m still working on it as the season goes by. It hasn’t been swelling. I haven’t been feeling any pain and that’s a good thing. Now I’m able to go out there and help my teammates on limited minutes, but hopefully after All-Star break I can play regular minutes.
WS: Your team has had some bad luck with injuries, is there anything that you think you can implement moving to mitigate some of that?
TE: I don’t know what it is. The team we had last year—Jrue (Holiday), Ryan (Anderson) and Eric (Gordon)—we never really got a chance to play with each other to see what type of team we had. It was always two playing, two hurt or one playing, three hurt. It was really all over the place and we couldn’t see the pieces that we had, how they fit together. Now, this year, I was coming off an injury, Jrue was dealing with some family issues, but it’s going well now. We are kind of hitting a rhythm now. Jrue and I still haven’t played that much together but we’ll get there. We are getting a rhythm as a team, winning more games and helping each other. But as far as the injuries, I don’t know what it is. Hopefully we can finish the season healthy and make a run for the playoffs.
WS: I hear you on that. It’s probably only been you all and the Clippers that have suffered really debilitating injuries to key guys all at once over the last few seasons. Do you guys have discussions about the things that could have been over the last few seasons and is there a sense that this could be the final season you all are together?
TE: We talk about it some. We talk about how it could have been if everybody was healthy but nothing is perfect. Injuries happen in basketball all the time. Hopefully nobody else gets hurt and we can just move forward, get to the playoffs and continue to play the game we love.
WS: How has your relationship with Alvin Gentry evolved since his arrival?
TE: Coach Gentry is cool. He’s been around the league a long time. He just wants us to play a fast pace. He doesn’t have a problem with people taking open shots. He wants everybody to play freely. If you have an open shot, take it, and he wants us to play defense. Other than that, off the court he’s funny. He interacts with the players. I’ve never heard anyone say he’s a bad coach or person off the court.
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WS: What is something funny that he’s done or said that’s stuck with you?
TE: He always has a bunch of stories about how it was when he was playing. The funny things they were doing on the road trips. Even some stuff about when he was in Golden State and the bond those guys had…the trust they had with each other. Another story about Grant Hill and how he was one of hardest workers he’s had. Coach has been around the league a long time and just always has a story.
WS: Coach Gentry’s referral to the chemistry level on a championship roster should have a lot of weight. The roster has had a lot of turnover since your arrival and things like that impact chemistry—what is that like for you as a playmaker and the overall chemistry of the team?
TE: It helped when I came back especially with the ball distribution and the scoring, same thing when Jrue got back. I know we started 1-8, and we wanted a better start, but we are right there
WS: What parts of your game are you are most happy with?
TE: Attacking the rim, that’s just natural to me, also my ball-handling and my size as a guard. I’ve been working on my shooting more. Working with Coach Freddy, he’s definitely changed my shot a lot. If you look at my shot in Sacramento compared to here, the form is different and the percentages are better.
WS: You have reached the status of being a veteran already in the league. What role do you take in the development of some the young guys on your roster, including Buddy Hield? How good can he be?
TE: He can be good. He’s young and it’s a different game for him adjusting from college. He’s come along and gotten more comfortable in these last couple games. He’s still got a lot to learn but I think he’s going to be the future of the team as long as he keeps working hard. He’s always in the gym.
WS: What did you think about the league’s decision to let the players have a say in All-Star voting?
TE: Man it didn’t really matter to me. Most of it is right, I didn’t vote for guys who don’t deserve it. You don’t just vote to vote and if you don’t deserve it that’s just part of the game. That’s the bottom line.
WS: So it’s safe to say you voted for the “correct” people?
TE: I don’t know if it’s the correct people but my vote was pretty accurate. Maybe change out one or two guys, but most of it was accurate. .
WS: Do you think players should have more input in other accolades like MVP and All-NBA?
TE: Man, I think if they are going to vote correctly then yes, but if not, just leave it to the coaches and the fans.
WS: So it sounds like you are disappointed in how some of your colleagues handled the voting. Is that a fair statement?
TE: Yeah, I mean some of these guys just voted for themselves and I understand that attitude that they think they want to be in the game. But it is what it is…guys at that (All-star) level do what they do and should be in the game. That’s what it’s for. I could have voted for myself easy but I wanted to vote for the right people.
WS: If there was an award or an All-NBA team for the league’s best penetrator you’d probably have to be on it. Who are some of the guys around the league that you think are on par with you when it comes to getting at the rim? Give me the Tyreke All-Penetration team.
TE: Right now, me, Russell (Westbrook). Isaiah (Thomas), the way he’s playing right now, he gets in the lane really well. That’s three–oh John Wall and James Harden for sure.
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