Rebounding, which has become Evans' specialty in his 10-plus seasons in the NBA, wasn't a top priority until his rookie year in 2002 with the SuperSonics. That's when Seattle coach Nate McMillan pulled Evans aside and shared words that have stuck with him ever since.
"He just told me that he had certain things that he needed me to do for our team to be successful, and rebounding was one of them," Evans said. "Also, bringing energy to the game and making sure everybody is ready to go. He was like, 'I need you to get the guys motivated.' I never understood that, but once he broke that down to me -- he looked me eye to eye -- I just started doing it. Now, I pretty much carved my own lane by some of the things that he told me to do."
Ever since P.J. Carlesimo called Evans up to the starting five on New Year's Eve, the Brooklyn Nets have gone 13-6, including a 10-1 stretch in January. During that time, Evans has averaged 4.1 points and 10.1 rebounds per game, and he's had two games with 20-plus boards. Evans, along with All-Star center Brook Lopez, has helped the Nets establish a bigger and better defensive front line.
"It feels good to play with Lopez," Evans said. "It feels like I made the All-Star team, too."
ESPNNewYork.com takes you inside the mind of the first-year Net:
1. When a shot goes up ... "I don't really have one specific thing I do. Some guys, if they're taller than me, that means I may have to box them out early, whereas a lot guys that are so athletic are really not that physical. I hit them first. Once you hit them first, a lot of times they get stuck and run out to the 3-point line. If a guy's soft, you pretty much just kind of beat him up -- just be physical with them the whole game.
"Some guys, I just do my best to outwork them and get to the loose balls a little quicker. Sometimes you've got to have a feel of the ball, just knowing that if they're going to shoot on this side, the ball is going to go to the other side."
2. During practice ... "I don't ever do rebounding drills. Never. I just make sure I'm in the best possible shape I can be. That way, I can outwork my opponent. I've just got that endless motor. Even when that motor goes out, the jewelry kicks in. The jewelry is like the second wind. That's my motto."
3. But what's key is ... "Getting used to your teammates. You try to get a feel of when they're going to shoot the ball, when they're not going to shoot the ball. I'm still learning them because it's only February now. When we practice, we play one-on-one or if I'm on the sideline, I'll evaluate all these things."
4. What's challenging are ... "Long rebounds. Those are the ones I hate [laughs]. There's definitely a lot of teams, like the Knicks and Rockets, that shoot a lot of 3s, and a lot of times they come off the front of the basket and real hard."
Reflecting on his time in Brooklyn, Evans said he's "loving" it because the fans are passionate about basketball, like his fellow Floridians are about football, and they respect blue-collar work. That's how he wants to be remembered.
"A guy who just went hard, who respected the game, who respected his peers and never took days off practice," he said.
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