Tyreke Evans a catalyst for faster-paced Pelicans
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
If he wasn’t already determined to outrace opposing big men down the floor – as he’s done consistently all season – Anthony Davis sometimes gets a humorous reminder from Tyreke Evans about the importance of sprinting. Evans uses a car-trip analogy to hammer home the point that he wants to accelerate the pace of play.
“Every game you’ll hear Tyreke say, ‘We’re not stopping at no stores,’ ” Davis said, smiling. “Even during the game. He’s like, ‘AD, we’re not stopping at no stores. We’re not stopping for drinks or chips!’ It’s like a little comedy thing, and we just get rolling from there.”
Since Evans moved into the starting lineup five games ago, the New Orleans Pelicans have often heeded the small forward’s advice. The results have been eye-opening for both Evans and the Pelicans (25-37), who’ve scored 132 and 112 points while winning consecutive games over the Lakers and Bucks, respectively. Prior to the two victories, New Orleans hadn’t scored more than 112 points in a game since Dec. 23.
Evans has also undergone an individual metamorphosis since shifting to a starting role. The fifth-year NBA veteran was experiencing one of the least productive stretches of his career through Feb. 26, but in the handful of games since he became a starter on Feb. 28, he’s averaged a stunning 22.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 7.0 assists.
Evans’ teammates have been so impressed by the 2009-10 Rookie of the Year’s recent play that they’ve begun heaping praise on the first-year Pelican, who arrived in a sign-and-trade from Sacramento last summer.
“I think he’s more locked in now than he’s ever been in his career,” said New Orleans guard Anthony Morrow, a key off the bench in this week’s pair of wins. “He’s not just a scorer, he can rebound, he can pass. He’s a triple threat right now. I think he can be an All-Star one day.”
“That’s what we need from Tyreke,” Davis said. “He’s an All-Star-caliber player. The things he does on the floor, he’s unguardable going to the basket. When his jump shot’s going in, he’s a force to be reckoned with. We need him to keep playing like this. Keep playing with this passion and this aggressiveness. I think he definitely can be an All-Star. We’re going to try to do everything that we can to get him on the All-Star team next season.”
Evans has often been a reluctant perimeter shooter in 2013-14, somewhat understandably given that he’s dropped to a career-low 20.0 percent from three-point range and has struggled on deep twos as well. Yet even his jump-shooting accuracy has improved drastically as a starter – he’s 38-for-76 overall from the field and 6-for-15 from three-point range (40.0 percent). Prior to the move to the first unit, he was just 8-for-55 on treys (14.5 percent).
Davis sees a player who has become less hesitant to fire away, knowing that it will help open up the floor for his frequent, daring drives to the basket.
“He’s got a lot of confidence in his jump shot,” Davis said. “So do we. We tell him to take it. Take that jump shot and make people respect you. They want to stop him from getting to the basket. If they have to come up on him on his jump shot, then he can drive past them and then get anything he wants.”
The Pelicans hope to extend their brief winning streak over the remainder of a lengthy homestand, which continues Sunday against the Denver Nuggets (5 p.m., Fox Sports New Orleans). It wouldn’t be surprising to see another high-scoring game – the Nuggets play at the third-fastest pace in the NBA. The Pelicans rank only 23rd in pace, but given some of Evans’ on-court conversations with Davis lately, that could change in the near future.
“We’re not stopping at stores,” a laughing Davis described. “Straight gas. We’re pushing the ball and trying to outrun teams and play aggressively. When we’re out and running in transition, we’re a tough team to play against. That’s what we’ve got to do in these few games that we have left.”