It has been a long time since Reggie Evans suffered that minor preseason mid-foot injury that sidelined him until the All-Star break.
But it didn’t take long before Raptors fans restarted the “Reggie, Reggie, Reggie” chant from that first preseason game in London, Ontario when Evans was the best Raptor on the floor.
After only five minutes in his first game back, the completely winded Evans was being honored for his efforts at the ACC by fans chanting his name.
And after only a handful of games back, Raptor fans have seen why Bryan Colangelo went out to acquire the 76ers little-used big man with career averages of just 4.3 points and 6.8 boards in less than 20 minutes of play over the past 7.5 seasons.
Evans is one of those players who does contribute more than his stats might indicate.
One of league’s true hustle players, Evans only plays at one speed and that’s full speed. And as one of the league’s true physical players, Evans makes up for an apparent lack of skill with effort, force, and a never give-up attitude.
It also doesn’t hurt that he is known for an element of dirty play.
In the picture run on Raptors Republic of Evans guarding the 76ers' Samuel Dalembert in his first game back, Evans’s hand vanishes into the folds of Dalembert’s shorts.
Sometimes a picture is worth a thousands words.
Since Evans has made his way into the Raptors rotation, he has left an impression by drawing charges, chasing down rebounds, and bullying his way into the paint—effort plays that stand out on a highly skilled finesse team like the Raptors.
And unlike the much younger Amir Johnson who plays a similar game, Evans has the brute strength to contest and even overpower other big men.
Where Johnson has the better offensive skill set and greater potential, Evans is already producing similar points and rebounds per game in about a third less minutes.
In the recent game against Cleveland, Evans showed his veteran savvy and toughness with a 13 point, five rebound effort in 25 minutes. By feeding Evans the ball deep in the post, Reggie could use his brute force to go 4-8 and get to the line nine times.
But in the previous game, fans witnessed the other side of Reggie’s offensive talents. The Raptors ran him in pick-and-roll with Calderon and Evans could not complete a moving play.
Evan's game is all about the effort. He has never shown Johnson’s ability to consistently catch and finish in motion.
Evans has never averaged more than 24 minutes per game in his NBA career. His offensive limitations and the arrival of “high potential” talent on his teams have always precluded this.
But Evans has always had the potential to lead the NBA in rebounding—something his career 12.6 rebounds per 36 minutes would indicate. Unfortunately, a career 46.6 percent shooting and 52.4 percent free throw rate for someone who only makes plays directly under the basket, has always held him back from playing enough minutes to capture the rebounding crown.
This season with the Raptors, Evans has started off rebounding at a 14.8 boards per 36 minute rate and he provides the “skills” other Raptors players are missing.
Evans could be the missing player needed for a successful playoff run.
Maybe if the Raptors can learn the lessons from his first few games and avoid putting Evans in offensive sets where he is likely to fail.
And maybe if Evans is used offensively solely within three feet of the basket against players he can take advantage of.
Then maybe Evans will be more than just a rebounding machine who annoys the opposition and out hustles everyone on the floor. But even if that’s all there is, Evans is still a much needed addition to this Raptors line-up.
The unexpected stand-pat position of Bryan Colangelo at this season’s trade deadline might have been just little confusing to fans who have followed this GM’s usual pattern.
But maybe this time, the Raptors GM had his big mid-season acquisition already on the roster and about to join the team’s rotation.
Reggie, Reggie, Reggie!