SALT LAKE CITY — In the span of a wild week, Jeremy Evans went from playing in the D-League, to making an appearance at Madison Square Garden, to starting three NBA games.
"That's a lot of pressure," Jazz power forward Paul Millsap said, cracking a smile. "It didn't happen to me, but I can feel his pain, his burden."
On Monday, the bouncy and athletic rookie returned to his reserve role while fellow Jazz freshman Derrick Favors filled in for the injured Millsap.
Evans admitted that lineup change happened, in part, because he didn't respond well to pressure he put on himself.
"I understand it," he said, referring to coach Tyrone Corbin's decision to put him back on the bench. "Then again, you know you didn't do as well as you wanted to do and obviously he seen it, too."
While Evans did establish a career-high in scoring with 14 points in Minnesota, he struggled with early fouls against Toronto in his first start and then simply struggled overall in Chicago (as did most Jazz players).
Evans used one word to evaluate the first three starts of his NBA career: "Horrible."
He also admitted that he had "the jitters."
And the 6-9, 196-pounder felt he especially struggled on the defensive end of the court where he was required to bang against bulkier players like 260-pound Kevin Love.
"I'm all about defense, and so many times I felt out of position," Evans said. "I just wasn't physical enough, and I'm just working on it."
Corbin and Millsap weren't nearly as harsh in their assessment of the rookie, who averaged 6.0 points and 3.7 rebounds as a starter.
"Bless his heart," Corbin said. "I think he want to do it and he want to do well so bad that I think he pressed a little bit too much, putting too much pressure on himself to do well. He got in foul trouble the first game early and then he just couldn't get himself going after that."
Evans said he came away from the experience wanting to "just go out and work harder," and Corbin added that he appreciated that the 2010 second-round pick tried hard.
"It's a learning process for him. He got to learn to relax a little bit more," Corbin said. "I know his desire's there, because he continue to work to try and get better. He will get results in the game once he get more comfortable."
Millsap also spoke highly of the likable 23-year-old, who kind of seems stuck between the small forward and power forward positions in the NBA.
"He did good, did good," Millsap said. "Especially for a guy who went from not really playing much to starting actually. . . . (He) feels like there's a lot of pressure on him, and there is really not. He's just got to get out there and just play."3 comments on this story
Corbin hoped Evans wouldn't take his return to being a reserve the wrong way.
"It's not a demotion for Jeremy. I don't want to make it seem like I'm taking him out because he didn't perform well," Corbin said. "I thought that he tried. He didn't have the success that he or I thought he would have, but he was trying to do the right things."
Evans bounced back nicely in Monday's 112-107 overtime win over Philly, earning the in-arena sub of the game award after scoring eight points with six rebounds in 20 minutes.