Following the Celtics rout of the Pelicans on December 7th, Tyreke Evans stated that he was going back to playing much like he has throughout his career. "I just got to play the way I play. That's the bottom line. I think if I do that, everything will take care of itself."
Sure enough, after averaging 3.8 seconds per touch and 3.4 dribbles per touch against Boston (a performance that resulted in 0 points in 18 minutes of action), Evans held the ball for much longer periods against the Washington Wizards. He averaged 5 full seconds per touch and 4.7 dribbles with each possession. The Pelicans won the game and Evans' individual line was spectacular: 27 points, 5 threes, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and fantastic shooting percentages from the field.
Common logic dictated that Evans shouldn't, nor would he, attempt to reduce his stale ball movement ways. However, against the Bulls the very next night, and without Jrue Holiday in the lineup mind you, Evans possession time noticeably dropped (4.5 seconds per touch, 4.2 dribbles per touch).
This pattern continued in Portland (4.10 seconds per touch, 3.8 dribbles per touch), but so did the result of the game for the Pelicans, another loss. In New Orleans prior two wins (Cavaliers, Wizards), Evans held onto the ball for five seconds or more per touch. With the Utah Jazz and their slowest pace in the league looming, Tyreke was primed to flip the page back to the 2014-15 season.
To my amazement, he did just the opposite. Through his staggering 107 possessions, he averaged a season-low 3.7 seconds per touch and 3.4 dribbles per touch. Guys, it was noticeable from the start, yet many failed to notice because the results were not there.
Can't agree. His probes and looks for teammates are the #1 reason the Pelicans ball movement tonight has been great. https://t.co/hUTeAUNyNa— Oleh Kosel (@Redhopeful) December 17, 2015
It remained difficult to praise Evans for much as his stat line (11 points on 12 shots and 3 turnovers) and numerous head-scratching moments: nearly turned the ball over several times in transition, still attempted to shoot over bigger defenders and picked up a ridiculously silly personal foul miles from the rim with a second remaining before halftime that gifted Gordon Hayward two points. The Pelicans should have had a three point lead at intermission but it was one, and Dell Demps' expression on his face as the players headed in the locker room was priceless.
However, I implore you to put all of that, and yeah I know it's a lot, aside for the moment for one very important reason. Tyreke Evans appears to be trying to adjust to Alvin Gentry wishes.
I truly think the Pelicans effective ball movement throughout the first half largely stemmed from the play of Evans. He set the tone by moving the ball quickly or if he did attack the basket, looked to pass instead of shooting it first. There were moments in the second half, both by Evans and the team, that signaled they might fall apart and revert back to their hero-ball tendencies when under pressure.
But they did not.
Just as the Pelicans have been lauded within the last 24 hours for their play in the fourth quarter, so too should Tyreke Evans. He's trying to make it work in Alvin Gentry's system, something that seemed almost unthinkable a little more than a week ago. Demps and the rest of the front office will now be able to properly access whether Evans has a future playing alongside Anthony Davis in an uptempo setting. In a season that may already be lost, this may end up counting as one of it's better positives.