The Pelican Blog

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Healthy Tyreke Evans making strides in reserve role

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

What a difference a dozen pounds and a clean bill of health can make.

After struggling for much of the first eight games of the regular season, New Orleans Pelicans reserve swingman Tyreke Evans has looked like a different player recently. The reasons behind the transformation are actually very straightforward: His left ankle finally feels 100 percent after he severely sprained it in an Oct. 5 preseason game, and he’s sliced 12 pounds off his 6-foot-6 frame, going from 235 to a svelte 223.

In a new reserve role with a new NBA team, Evans did not appear to be adjusting well over the first two-plus weeks of the season, averaging 7.8 points and shooting only 32.1 percent as the Pelicans started 3-5. Over the past two games against Utah and Philadelphia, however, the career 45 percent shooter has averaged 17.0 points on 14 of 23 shooting (60.9 percent).

Early in the regular season, Evans often penetrated into the paint on his trademark drives, but couldn't complete plays at the rim, critical for a player who does so much of his damage in that fashion. According to NBA.com/stats, Evans has taken 66 of his 104 attempts from the field in the restricted area, going 32-for-66. He’s 8-for-38 from every other spot. Unable to run due to the ankle injury for a big chunk of October, Evans put on weight, but eventually lost the pounds once he was cleared for physical activity, allowing him to regain his explosiveness.

“It’s a little bit of adjusting, but also just feeling better, being able to cut on my ankle,” said Evans, a full-time starter in his previous four NBA seasons. “That’s been a big part. Before, it was feeling weak, but now it’s feeling stronger.”

The 24-year-old’s personal highlight reel in Saturday’s 135-98 victory over Philadelphia included a few of his patented, dizzying spin moves around 76ers defenders. The result of all of the pivoting and nifty drives: six layups, accounting for all of Evans’ baskets during a 6-for-10 shooting performance. The twists and turns off the dribble were perhaps the best indication that the former Rookie of the Year in 2009-10 for Sacramento is back to being the player the Pelicans believed they were acquiring this summer.

“Now that I’m healthy, I just want to get out and run,” Evans said. “I’m in attack mode and trying to put the pressure on the defense. My mind-set is to go at guys. There’s no waiting. I can’t let the game come to me; I just have to go and attack. I felt like I was much quicker, much more explosive and was able to finish like I usually finish.”