Utah Jazz: Big opportunity ahead for a bigger Jeremy Evans
Matt Gade, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — Jeremy Evans isn’t like most people.
Not because he can jump up and touch something nearly 13 feet in the air.
Not because he makes millions of dollars to play basketball.
Not because he is a talented artist, either.
The Utah Jazz forward stepped on the scales Friday morning and got excited when he saw a much bigger number than the previous time he’d hopped on to check his weight.
“I came in this morning and picked up six pounds,” he said, grinning before Friday’s first two-a-day session. “So I’m feeling good, especially during training camp.”
If his beard keeps growing, Evans might even hit the 200-pound mark. The 6-foot-9 player’s current weight: 199.
Here’s another thing that should help the Jazz’s second-longest-tenured player — he was picked a round after Gordon Hayward in 2010 — he feels good during camp.
His coach flashed a big smile when asked about the 25-year-old this week.
“The thing that I’m really excited about this year with him is getting him time on the floor — as a big guy, a small guy, whatever,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “He’ll make plays.”
Or at least have a chance to do so on a consistent basis.
That certainly hasn’t been the case in his first three NBA seasons. Though he’s made a name for himself with his athletic ability, the 2012 NBA slam dunk champion has not been able to crack the regular rotation since being drafted 55th overall out of Western Kentucky four Junes ago.
In fact, Evans’ playing time average has slipped steadily in each of his first three seasons — from 9.4 minutes per game as a rookie, to 7.5 mpg in 2011-12 and only 5.8 mpg in 37 appearances last year.
Evans knows that a golden opportunity lies ahead of him this season, and the springy 6-9 forward is doing all he can to earn big-man minutes behind Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter.
“He’s so lean and slight in build,” Corbin said. “But, man, he competes.”
Evans has also been fine-tuning his mid-range game and is feeling confident enough to take those shots when they’re available (something coaches have had to convince him to do).
And he’s trying to absorb as much as he possibly can from part-time big man coach Karl Malone. He said it's been "tough" working with The Mailman, but the Hall of Famer is helping him better use his quickness to exploit bulkier bigs.
It's all making Evans feel ready to make his mark.
“For me personally, (I feel) a lot more comfortable, just shooting the ball, doing more on offense,” Evans said. “I love playing defense. Of course, I’m going to block shots, go for steals and help my teammates out.”
The Jazz will have a lot of competition for small-forward minutes between Hayward, Marvin Williams and Richard Jefferson, so it’s likely his time will come off the bench to spell Favors and Kanter while giving the Jazz frontcourt a different look. He's mostly worked with the big men during camp.
Wherever and whenever he plays, Evans said you can expect his usual high-octane output.
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