OKLAHOMA CITY — Jeremy Evans has yet to miss a field goal this season. The forward has taken and made 11 shots since returning from his rotator cuff injury.
“The guy’s hot,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “We’ve got to make sure we get him more shots if he’s going to be perfect.”
Which raises a question: Why is anybody else on the Jazz even shooting?
Corbin and Gordon Hayward, Evans’ best buddy on the team, smiled when asked that light-hearted question before Saturday’s practice.
“That’s a good question,” Hayward said. “We should just let him shoot all the shots, and we’ll be all right.”
Added Corbin: “I don’t think anybody should shoot except for him at this point.”
That isn’t the only question being asked about Evans, who’s mostly been known in the NBA for being the 2012 Slam Dunk champion.
Warriors power forward David Lee recently asked Evans, “When did you start knocking down jumpers?”
Hayward has seen it since the two joined the Jazz in 2010.
“I knew this from Day 1,” he said. “From Year 1, we shot every day after practice. He just didn’t really shoot those shots back then. Now he‘s stepping up shooting them with confidence and playing really well.”
Evans’ basketball coach in at Crossett High School in Arkansas also knew he was more than just an athletic leaper. The 26-year-old has been told he needs to shoot more since he was a teenager.
Judging early results, including Friday's 7-for-7 outing, it’s about time he listened.
“It started with my high school coach,” Evans said. “I’ve been told to shoot the ball from Day 1. It’s finally clicking.”
Evans has gotten so used to doing non-scoring things — defense, rebounding, blocking shots — he figured that was the best way to use his talents.
“There are a lot of guys that can shoot it, but not a lot of guys can jump as high as I do,” Evans said. “Mainly, I was always focusing on rebounding the ball because a lot of other players are going to take shots. I feel like that was a good way to help the team.”
Since camp started, Corbin has been enthusiastic about giving Evans more chances to contribute after his sporadic appearances.
“I’m really excited for him to have the opportunity for him to play more this year and to see how he’s blossomed,” Corbin said. “He’s shown that so far to be true. The time he’s on the floor, he makes good things happen, not only for himself, but the way he plays it helps the team because of his energy.”
Evans’ ever-showing mid-range game is only a bonus. He’s hit more jumpers than dunks this season.
“It felt pretty good,” Evans said of his Friday dunks, which included one alley-oop from John Lucas III. “But I think the jumpers feel a lot better.”
How ironic that Evans has been hitting jumpers — and everything — while Hayward struggled through a 1-for-17 game Wednesday and Friday’s scoreless first half.
“It was just good to see the ball go in in the second half,” said Hayward, who scored all 13 points in the Jazz’s second-half rally Friday. “I’m trying to move forward from it.”
Evans couldn't be happier.
“It’s big time, because I told him the other night I don’t like seeing him down and in a slump,” Evans said. “He wouldn’t even talk to me.”
Evans said he repeated a familiar message to Hayward on Wednesday: “Just keep shooting it, because he always tells me (that).”
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