Pelicans’ Tyreke Evans adjusts to new role

Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ -- New Orleans Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps, left, shakes hands with Tyreke Evans as coach Monty Williams stands nearby during a news conference July 11 at the Pelicans facility. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by ELIOT KAMENITZ -- New Orleans Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps, left, shakes hands with Tyreke Evans as coach Monty Williams stands nearby during a news conference July 11 at the Pelicans facility.

Tyreke Evans came to New Orleans this summer having signed a new four-year $44 million contract with a new team that has the look of a winner.

And the thought of playing as a starter and being an integral piece alongside Jrue Holiday, a friend he has known since their AAU basketball days, also was very appealing.

However, as far back as when New Orleans Pelicans General Manager Dell Demps and coach Monty Williams began talking to Evans about playing for the team, he was asked about the prospect of coming off the bench.

“It didn’t seem much of an issue to him,” Williams said. “He said he just wanted to win.”

As Williams watched his team play pickup games and tossed ideas around in his mind, he decided it indeed will be in the best interest of the Pelicans to have Evans coming off the bench.

“It will be an adjustment coming off the bench for the first time,” Evans said. “I’ve been a starter all my career. But if that’s what the team needs, the team comes first.”

Evans said that at first, his not being a starter did not seem definite. He had a meeting with Williams on Monday and appeared somewhat disappointed. However, after Wednesday’s practice, during which the team scrimmaged for the first time, he seemed to embrace the idea more, appearing more upbeat.

“I don’t mind coming off the bench,” he said. “I’m getting adjusted and helping (the team) out a lot, and it’s helping me out a lot.”

Williams said the move was about fit. Evans is strong driving to the basket, and the second unit boasts shooters. Ryan Anderson finished second in the NBA last season in 3-pointers, and recently acquired Anthony Morrow is a career 42 percent shooter on 3-ponters. Jason Smith, at 7 feet, also shoots well from the perimeter, as does guard Brian Roberts.

“I think Tyreke needs to have shooters around him,” Williams said.

Evans liked the idea of being a central piece.

“I’ll be able to suck the defense in and pass it out to the shooters,” Evans said. “I’m more effective with the ball in my hands. With that group setting screen-and-rolls, and Jason and those guys with the pick-and-pop, it’ll definitely make the game easier to me when those guys are knocking down shots.”

Williams said that when putting the pieces of a team together and bandying about ideas, there is at least some guesswork involved, especially with no games having been played.

“You hope that Ryan’s ability to shoot the ball and Jason’s ability to shoot the ball will allow Tyreke to agitate and get to the basket,” Williams said. “And, he does have the ability to play pick-and-roll and pass. That’s what you’d like to see. (Wednesday) was the first time we scrimmaged, and you could see a little bit of what might happen.”

When Evans was obtained from the Sacramento Kings and signed, it was expected that he would play shooting guard, signaling the inevitable departure of Eric Gordon. Then it appeared Gordon may be retained, with Evans, 6-feet-6, at small forward, the position he played last season with the Kings.

Evans said early on that he didn’t mind playing small forward, although he reportedly prefers not to because of the having to guard players two to four inches taller nearly every game.

This week, he again said there’s not much preference. He just wants to be on the court and win.

“There’s not much difference between the two (shooting guard) and the three (small forward),” he said. “Sometimes, defensively, you’re at a height disadvantage.”

However, that may not have to be a concern with what appears will be his new role, which will help strengthen a vital area.

Williams said that whether or not Evans is a starter is not important, and that at times he will play three positions: shooting guard, small forward and point guard, his position when he was selected as the 2010 NBA Rookie of the Year with Sacramento.

“I don’t think guys worry about (starting) as much any more,” Williams said. “I think they’re more concerned with the minutes. If I could get him in the game for 28 minutes to 30 minutes a game, that would be optimum for us. I think it would keep him fresh but keep him on the floor. Now that could change because of circumstances.”

Notes

Backup point guard Brian Roberts turned an ankle during Wednesday morning’s practice and was to be evaluated Monday night. ... Forward Ryan Anderson gave the team a break when he made three consecutive free throws at the end of practice, saving the Pelicans from more practice time. It’s a tool Williams uses to get his players accustomed to making free throws with the game on the line. ... Williams said Wednesday’s practice was very physical and that the team was “getting after it defensively.” … The Pelicans are practicing twice each day to get ready for the start of preseason games. Morning sessions are used for teaching and scrimmaging, with the night sessions used strictly for teaching in compliance with NBA rules. … Williams’ radio show will be broadcast from 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursdays on WWL-FM, 105.3.