It seemed inappropriate for a player whos found instant chemistry and contentment with a blue and yellow team, so it was enough to make one wonder if there was a hidden meaning.
Count that as the only ill-fitting moment for Evans related to the Pacers season-opening victory over Memphis on Wednesday. Coming off the bench, he contributed 14 points, six assists, four rebounds and just one turnover in his 23 ½ minutes.
More than that, he provided several ah-hah moments that no doubt made some new friends within Bankers Life Fieldhouse. He put it out there for all to see, making the sort of instinctive plays that result from honing your game on a playground rather than a basketball camp.
I think Doug is a great addition and when he plays with confidence, hes just a great player. Hes so much more than just a shooter and thats what people dont realize about him. Hes pretty athletic and he guards people pretty well. He has a chance to really compete for a lot of minutes this year. I think Kyle OQuinn is going to be a big help for me and Domas because hes such a vocal guy and hes actually a really good defender. He challenges us in practice every day. And Tyreke is just… He’s just so good, man. Hes such a great pick-and-roll player. Hes still so underrated. I think hes great. I think he joined us because he wanted to be part of a great culture and thats definitely something we have here in Indiana.
“Ive always admired his game from afar, just seeing some of the things he can do,” Thad Young said following Thursdays practice at St. Vincent Center. “He has a great ability to make guys around him better. Hes grown and matured over the course of his career and hes been able to make sure guys are involved in the game.”
MT: It was a lot of dedication, and it definitely took a team of people to make that happen. But, more than anything, it was a lot of work. I did this because there was a point last season when I just felt dead out there on the court – I felt so drained and I wasnt myself. I knew a lot of that was due to my eating habits and me not taking care of my body as well as I shouldve been. I think the biggest was just me wanting the best for myself, and my team obviously wanted whats best for me too. Once we got to the point where we started putting together a plan and we knew I had to make some big changes, we realized it was something that had to be done over the offseason. Then, we just executed the plan.
While the Pacers had an effective pick-and-roll tandem with Lance Stephenson and Domantas Sabonis last season, the Evans-Sabonis pairing could be an upgrade, based on the micro sample size of Game 1. Like Stephenson, Evans has the size to see over defenses and the knack of getting a pass through traffic. Unlike Stephenson, he doesnt attempt a crowd-pleasing flair while doing so.
Flair, in fact, has no part in his persona, either on the court or off. While hardly friendless, and always pleasant, he tends to keep to himself and speak through his actions. His summation of his performance on Wednesday?
MT: I think it is , but theyd have to be willing to fall in line with the culture. Thats the biggest thing. It would have to be someone who understands that this is something thats bigger than just themselves. This is about the organization, about the city and about this team. It cant be about individual contracts or guys money or anything. We all come together and fight for each other. If theyre willing to be a part of that, then yeah, this is a great place to be. But some people cant fall in line with the culture.
“Tyreke averaged 19 points last year (for Memphis) so everybody has to respect him,” Sabonis said. “That makes it easier for me to screen his man and then he makes his decision.
MT: Aaron is a really solid player. Ive been a fan of Aarons for a while. Hes very confident and hes always so poised. I think he could actually carve out some minutes and get some playing time . Hes easily one of the best players in practice every day, which is what you want to see from a rookie or young guy. Thats been big for him, and his confidence is through the roof. I think him having older brothers in the league really helped him get to this point. Im a really big fan of Aarons.
Evans might present a blasé demeanor, but hes clearly excited about having an essential role with the Pacers. And why not? Hes got a total of four playoff games to his credit, from his brief time with New Orleans in 2015. Hes not accustomed to winning, and not accustomed to positive team cultures.
The moment when Sabonis picked him up off the court midway through the fourth quarter meant something to him. Hes on his fifth stop in his 10th NBA season, and never experienced that brand of school spirit.
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Video: Memphis Grizzlies vs. Indiana Pacers | Full Highlights – 10/17/18
Evans impressed in his Pacers debut, scoring 14 points and dishing six assists (Photo Credit: NBAE/Getty Images)
“Theres a big-time difference,” he said. “Just the energy we have as a team. Were always helping one another, picking one another up.
“The organization is just amazing. Its one of the best organizations Ive ever played for, just the things they do and how they do it. Everythings a team thing and its about the players. Its definitely the best organization Ive been with.”
Evans arrived in the NBA from a different avenue than most players coming into the league these days. While most have been coached in school and AAU programs and often have been tutored by specialists, Evans game evolved from the asphalt and the lessons he learned from his older brothers.
One of them, Eric, who played point guard for Cheyney State, taught him about ballhandling in traffic and how to react in the open court. “Making me crafty, playing east and west,” Evans says. “When I get the ball I try to make the defense work. If they cut one way I try to go another.”
Another brother, Julius, described as a playground star in their hometown of Chester, Pa., worked with him on shooting, a late-arriving feature of Evans game.
So hes been coached, but he does things that arent taught in the traditional coaching environments. Especially the things that can be done in the open court or in pick-and-roll situations.
The Hawks are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games playing on 1 days rest, 3-1-1 ATS in their last 5 road games and 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games overall. The Grizzlies are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 home games, 7-0 ATS in their last 7 games playing on 1 days rest and 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games overall. The Hawks are 6-2 ATS in the last 8 meetings in Memphis, the underdog is 5-1 ATS in the last 6 meetings and the road team is 5-1 ATS in the last 6 meetings. The under is 21-8 in Grizzlies last 29 Friday games and the under is 12-5 in Hawks last 17 road games. The Memphis Grizzlies have to be eager for a bounce back showing, as you dont see NBA teams shoot under 30 percent from the field very often. The Atlanta Hawks showed flashes offensively in their season opener, but Im not sure how much stock you put into that considering they played the New York Knicks. The Hawks are widely expected to be the worst team in the league this season. The Grizzlies are a prideful, veteran group that should put together a complete performance at both ends of the court against these young, raw Hawks. Ill eat the chalk.
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“Hes like a great running back in football, able to plant his feet and change direction and avoid people,” legendary coach Bob Hurley from St. Anthony High School in New Jersey told The New York Times when Evans was in high school.
The Memphis Grizzlies also look for a victory to avoid their first 0-2 start since the 2011-12 season. The Memphis Grizzlies are averaging 83 points on 29.8 percent shooting and allowing 111 points on 56.6 percent shooting. Marc Gasol is averaging 13 points and six rebounds while Garrett Temple is averaging 12 points and two assists. Mike Conley is the third double-digit scorer and Jaren Jackson Jr. is grabbing five rebounds. The Memphis Grizzlies are shooting 34.5 percent from beyond the arc and 82.1 percent from the free throw line. The Memphis Grizzlies are allowing 38.5 percent shooting from deep and are grabbing 28 rebounds per game. The Memphis Grizzlies have lost 10 of their last 13 home games.
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Like many players who evolved from the playgrounds, Evans has a reputation as a “gamer,” a player who doesnt take practice as seriously as a coach might like but rises to the occasion when the lights come on. He doesnt deny it.
“Definitely,” he said. “Practice is not really my thing. When the lights come on, thats when I really come out and play.
“I still go hard and play the right way (in practice), but when the game is on it counts more so Im more active.”
Video: Grizzlies hit 5 three-pointers in the 2nd Quarter vs. Indiana Pacers
Bogdanovic scores 19 points, Pacers rout Grizzlies 111-83 – Indiana Pacers
Pacers coach Nate McMillan smiled skeptically when Evans admission was presented following Thursdays practice.
Told yes, McMillan talked of the need to practice hard all the time, the mistake of thinking you can “flip the switch” and play better in games than in practice.
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McMillan can afford to be patient, and even forgiving In Evans he has the ideal first guard of the bench, one who can play three positions and play with anybody because of his multiple skills. Evans stands 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds. He weighs five pounds more than 6-foot-8 Bojan Bogdanovic, the same as 6-8 Young and only about five pounds less than 6-10 TJ Leaf and 6-8 Doug McDermott.
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Evans can overpower smaller defenders and beat the taller defenders off the dribble. He can find open teammates more easily because of his height and finish around the basket in traffic because of his bulk, as he displayed on Wednesday.
Besides, he appears to be conforming to his new environment. While he didnt stand out in the four preseason games and wasnt talked about much during training camp, some people who watched every practice claim he had been the best player. The way to make friends in any environment is to fit in, and Evans is doing that by playing harder in practice and doing the dirty work in games.
“The knock on him was that he doesnt play defense,” Young said. “But in training camp, once we explained to him what our culture was, he was all for it. The biggest thing for him, and a lot of guys who come to a team with a different culture, when they see the four guys theyre playing with playing defense and getting after it as hard as they can, it makes them want to help their teammates.
Young and Victor Oladipo were voted captains by the players on Monday. Oladipos selection wasnt surprising, because he won the Backbone Award selected by players after last season for his positive attitude and had organized an off-season workout in Miami.
Young, though, is much quieter and less prominent than Oladipo. His selection was less obvious but equally telling.
“It just says a lot about my character and professionalism,” he said. “Id say Im well-respected by a lot of guys around the league, and my teammates definitely showed it. Im very happy and enthused.
“I just try to lead by example, which is through my play on the court. When something needs to be said, I say it. You have some people who say stuff to say stuff. I dont say stuff to say stuff. I say stuff when it needs to be said. And I get guys to believe in what we do.”
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Mark Montieths book on the formation and groundbreaking seasons of the Pacers, “Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis,” is available in bookstores throughout Indiana and on Amazon.com.
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