Tyreke Evans said he wanted to play for the New Orleans Pelicans even before General Manager Dell Demps made his pitch to join the team.
The 6-foot-6, shooting guard/small forward said his interest in the Pelicans was piqued on draft night when the team obtained point guard Jrue Holiday in a trade with Philadelphia.
“I’m actually good friends with Jrue,” said Evans, who was introduced to local media Thursday. “I played AAU basketball with him. We both played in the (2008 McDonald’s all-star game). And the group of guys they have, young guys willing to play together and want to win, I was willing to be part of that.”
Evans, a 23-year-old who was a restricted free agent after playing four years with Sacramento, accepted a four-year, $44 million offer sheet from the Pelicans shortly after free agency opened July 1. The Kings could have retained Evans by matching any offer, so the Pelicans obtained him by executing a three-team trade that involved Portland.
“Tyreke was the guy we identified,” Demps said of his discussions with coach Monty Williams. “He was the first guy we wanted to go see in free agency. There was not Plan A or Plan B or Plan C.”
Williams said he’s excited to have a player “who scared me” when he coached against him.
“I could never figure out how to stop him from getting to the basket or knocking down big shots, stealing the ball on the weak side,” Williams said.
The team also signed 3-point shooter Anthony Morrow and center Greg Stiemsma and re-signed small forward Al-Farouq Aminu. They join power forward Anthony Davis, shooting guard Eric Gordon, forward Ryan Anderson and guard Austin Rivers as players previously under contract.
Bringing in Evans, who averaged 15.2 points last season and is at 17.5 for his career, heightened speculation that Gordon might be traded. Gordon, who led the team in scoring last season at 17.0 points, has missed nearly 100 games with injuries and rehabilitation the past two seasons.
Evans played point guard when he was chosen the NBA’s Rookie of the Year in 2010 after averaging 20.1 points, 5.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds. He then switched to shooting guard and last season played small forward, a position he reportedly does not prefer. But on Thursday, he said he didn’t have any qualms “at all” about playing small forward.
“This is a new process, and I’m just looking forward to going out there and playing,” he said.
Williams said Evans’ versatility — that he could play both wing spots and also back up Holiday at point guard — was something he found attractive. Williams said he would figure out Evans’ role in training camp, after seeing how he fits with Holiday, Gordon and Aminu.
With the way the pieces fit together on the retooled roster, Williams said his team is in line to be more efficient offensively. Last year, New Orleans was 15th in the NBA in field goal percentage (44.8 percent) but 25th in scoring (94.1 points).
“When you have dynamic guys at a number of positions, it gives you a chance to score more points,” Williams said. “I think we can push the ball more than we have the past two years.”
The Pelicans may not be done making moves. Asked whether there were more coming, Demps said he felt comfortable with most of the roster but that he was keeping his eyes open.
Asked whether the moves of the past week heighten expectations for a playoff run, Demps said, “We just want these guys to learn how to play together.”
Williams, though, seemed to like the idea.
“Expectations,” he said, “are what you want.”