Notebook: Evans Still Adjusting to Role

Tyreke Evans had been a starter in nearly all of the NBA games for which he was healthy before this season, so one might assume starting in place of Victor Oladipo would bring out his best.

It hasn't. Apparently job description has more impact on him than playing time or the order in which he enters the game.

Evans has averaged 11.2 points on 40 percent shooting in the 15 games he's played off the bench. He's averaged 9.3 points on 31 percent shooting in the seven games he has started, despite playing 4.3 more minutes per game as a starter.

More tellingly, the Pacers have outscored opponents by 4.1 points during the minutes he's played off the bench, but have been outscored by 1.2 points when he's played as a starter. Needless to say, he won't complain when he goes back to a reserve role when the sore-kneed Oladipo returns.

"I just want to win," Evans said following Monday's practice at St. Vincent Center. "That's why I came here."

Evans has been erratic in whatever role he's played this season. He scored just two points in 15 minutes at Minnesota, but followed with 19 points in 22 1/2 minutes at San Antonio. He scored eight and six points in the games at Miami and Houston, then came back to score a season-high 23 points in 25 1/2 minutes against Miami at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

He scored two points on 1-of-12 shooting in the home court loss to the Spurs, then averaged 10.8 points, 2.8 assists, and 4 turnovers on the recent four-game Western Conference road trip.

The primary difference between starting and playing off the bench has been how much control Evans has in the offense. His usage rate is higher as a reserve despite less playing time, meaning, generally, he has the ball in his hands more. As a reserve he feasted on pick-and-rolls with Domantas Sabonis. As a starter, the ball needs to be shared more often. He believes he can play more aggressively with the second unit.

Add the switch to a more structured offensive system than what he's accustomed to, and you have a 10-year NBA veteran going through an adjustment process.

"Just trying to fit in," he said. "It's different here. It's definitely different than Memphis.

"The offense is different, the pace is different. In Memphis it was similar to what Golden State runs, here there are more sets. It's me getting comfortable with that and knowing where people are going to be most of the time."

Evans takes some confidence from his performance in Saturday's loss at Sacramento, when he scored 12 points and had four assists, along with three turnovers.

"The Sac game, I thought I was pretty aggressive," he said. "They don't need as much scoring out of me, but I need to be aggressive."

Pacers coach Nate McMillan has encouraged Evans to play as he did growing up near the playgrounds of Philadelphia, but obviously wants turnovers to be kept to a minimum.

"We want to find ways to get him involved and allow him to be creative," McMillan said. "He hasn't shot the ball as well (as in the past). But Tyreke is a guy we feel is capable. That's why we brought him here. We just have to have better execution."

Given the disappointment many Pacers fans felt over the loss of Lance Stephenson in the offseason, and the fact Evans has replaced Stephenson as the backup shooting guard, it's only natural to compare the two. Stephenson is averaging 7.3 points on 43 percent shooting for the Lakers, along with 1.9 assists and 1 turnover.

He seems to have fallen out of favor with Lakers coach Luke Walton, however. He played just 4 1/2 scoreless minutes against the Pacers last week, and then had 5 1/2 and 10-minute appearances in the next two games. He was averaging 16.2 minutes before the games against the Pacers.

Sumner Ready for Whatever

Edmond Sumner got the wakeup call on the Fort Wayne Mad Ants' team bus in Chicago. It was literal, in the form of a nudge from coach Steve Gansey, who told him the Pacers were recalling him to join the team on its Western road trip as insurance to help cover for the absence of Oladipo.

Sumner didn't celebrate. Nor was he disappointed.

"I was still asleep, so I was like..."

Like, numb.

Should a player be happier to be playing and excelling in the G League or watching from the bench in the NBA? Sumner has no complaints either way, and realizes he'll likely do plenty of both this season.

He's averaged 24.6 points, 3.2 assists, and 1.6 steals in 20.8 minutes in five games for the Mad Ants while hitting 57 percent of his field goal attempts, including 42 percent (10-of-24) of his 3-point shots.

That last stat is noteworthy. 3-point shooting was regarded as the weakest element of his game when he was drafted two summers ago, but appears to be on its way to being solved. Sumner hit 2-of-5 3-point shots in four preseason games with the Pacers, and averaged 9 points on 67 percent shooting and 1.5 steals in 14.9 minutes. He's unusually long and quick, so becoming a 3-point threat would be a valuable addition to his skill set.

He was as much of an eye-opener as first-round draft pick Aaron Holiday in those games, but Holiday has been getting extended opportunity with the Pacers during Oladipo's absence while Sumner has been laboring mostly in Fort Wayne.

He's played in six games with the Pacers, for an average of four minutes. He got off the bench for the final 4 1/2 minutes in the blowout victory in Utah to begin the road trip and hit his only shot, a 3-pointer from the left corner.

"I'm definitely better, but I still have a lot of room to improve," he said of his perimeter shooting. "I want to get to the point where a player can't think about going under screens (on defense). If you can't go under screens, it's going to be hard to guard me coming off screens."

He realizes he'll likely be sent back up (down?) to Fort Wayne when Oladipo returns. And he'll go without complaint.

"Right now as a young guy, I'm OK with wherever they send me," he said. "I know the business and how it is. You have a good preseason and a good training camp you would hope to stay here and get minutes, but it's how things work. You just have to be patient and know your hard work will pay off.

"They believe in me and believe in my future here, so I have to trust what they say. Everybody wants to play in the NBA, especially when you're playing well, but you have to trust what they're saying."

Holiday burst onto the scene in the Pacers' victory over Atlanta on Nov. 17, when Oladipo played the first 4 1/2 minutes before leaving with knee soreness that has kept him out since. Holiday scored 12 points in that game and 19 in the following game against Utah, but has averaged 8 points on 39 percent shooting since then. After hitting 5-of-8 3-pointers combined against Atlanta and Utah, he's hit just 3-of-22 since.

Hoiberg Out

Chicago will be playing its first game since Monday's firing of coach Fred Hoiberg when its meets the Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Tuesday. Nate McMillan knows first-hand the short-term impact an in-season coaching change can bring.

"Normally energy" he said. "You expect energy and a lot more effort when teams make coaching changes.

"You (also) could see some changes as far as what they'll do. You can expect to see some tweaking."

McMillan never experienced an in-season coaching change as a player, but was part of one when he replaced Paul Westphal as Seattle's head coach 15 games into the 2000-01 season. The Sonics won their first game under McMillan, 105-93, at Portland.

Hoiberg, who played his first four NBA seasons with the Pacers, was replaced by Jim Boylan, who was an assistant coach to Frank Vogel in the 2011-12 and 2012-13 seasons.

McMillan is now the only Central Division coach - and one of just six in the Eastern Conference - not to have been fired this calendar year.

"That's a good thing," he said.

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