Tyreke Evans looking for stable role in New Orleans

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A few things made the last few seasons in Sacramento tough for Tyreke Evans.

First, there were a series of injuries that slowed him down. There was a coaching change and just a general instability with the franchise as the Maloof era sputtered to its inevitable end.

Then there was how Evans had different things asked of him all the time by the coaching staff.

“It was definitely hard for me going from the point to the three, back to the two. It really was a challenge for me,” Evans told ProBasketballTalk while speaking from his youth summer camp sponsored by VSP Vision Care. “I think I handled it well, didn’t complain, just went out there and played. So this will definitely be different.”

What will be different is New Orleans, where Evans is headed as part of a sign-and-trade, where he will sign a four-year, $44 million deal.

Evans has yet to speak in any detail with Pelicans coach Monty Williams, but with Jrue Holiday at the point and Eric Gordon at the two (for now, he is reportedly being shopped), Evans is hoping he gets a defined role to fill.

“Pretty much,” Evans said of his hope for some definition of what he will be asked to do. “I’ll have a talk with coach and see what kind of role he wants me to play, it can be any type of role. We got a lot of ones out there, so it’ll be interesting to see kind of role he wants me to play. He’ll quite sure he’ll have me switching a little bit.”

Evans is headed to New Orleans as part of a three-team trade. The Pelicans will send Greivis Vasquez to the Kings and Robin Lopez to the Trail Blazers, while Portland will send the rights to sign No. 39 pick Kansas center Jeff Withey to New Orleans, and a future second-round draft pick to the Kings.

Evans averaged 15.4 points a game last season and played a little better on offense at the three than at the two. However, at times he struggled to defend threes. However, he is now heading into a different system with the Pelicans.

What Evans expects is an up-tempo team that, in his words, will just get out there and play basketball.

“I definitely think we’re going to be a running team,” Evans said. “We got point guards and players who can finish in the open court, and Anthony Davis who can jump and you can throw lobs to him in the pick-n-roll. I think it’s going to be fun just going out there and playing basketball.”

Evans is spending his summer he said working on his all around game, particularly his shooting (he shot a career best 33.8 percent from three last year and wants that part of his game to be more of a threat).

But first he is doing what he has done the past three summers — working with at-risk youth in the Sacramento area at a free camp sponsored by VSP Vision Care.

“I been working with VSP for three years on the camp. I’m pretty excited about it’s, it’s for the kids and it’s free…” Evans said. “They all get an eye exam as too, so that’s a good thing.”

Those kind of health checkups can find things that often may be missed otherwise, Evans noted. The camp is more than just hoops, they get with school supplies and some Nike gear, all paid for by VSP and Evans.

These are youth trying to overcome disadvantages and Evans wants to share with them from his NBA experiences that what pays off is hard work;

“That’s number one thing, beside school, it’s about putting the work in,” Evans said. “What you put in is what you get out. I wouldn’t be in the NBA, I mean, I’m talented, but I worked hard. I tell them if you work hard you get better, and that’s the key to push themselves and just never stop chasing your dream.”

Sometimes, those dreams lead to New Orleans.

Russell Westbrook threw it down all over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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A rough night for the Thunder will not stop the Russell Westbrook highlights.

The Thunder had another poor game and fell to a Hornets. Westbrook tried to push the team back, but the Thunder defense that has kept them in games all season was not good enough against Charlotte, and the OKC offense was once again up and down.

Westbrook had 30 points on 22 shots on the night, and none of them were as impressive as this transition throwdown on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Jahlil Okafor excited about fresh start with Nets

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jahlil Okafor finally got the fresh start he wanted.

Okafor was the consensus No. 1 high school player in his class, won a national championship at Duke, and averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds in his rookie campaign for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Then things changed drastically.

Okafor struggled with injuries and a logjam at his position in his second season.

“When I first got drafted there, we already had Nerlens (Noel) there, Joel (Embiid) was there, so we’re trying to have three starting centers on the same team,” Okafor said Monday at his introductory news conference with his new team, the Brooklyn Nets.

“It just never really was the right fit.”

The 76ers traded Okafor along with seldom-used guard Nik Stauskas and two draft picks to the Nets on Thursday. Philadelphia got forward Trevor Booker from Brooklyn.

Okafor also had off-court problems during his time in Philadelphia. He got a speeding ticket for driving 108 miles per hour and was suspended by the 76ers for two games after in an altercation outside of a Boston nightclub with a heckler.

“Speeding obviously is illegal,” Okafor said. “I know that’s not what you’re supposed to do. I guess you just learn how the page can turn on you and how everything can flip. I can’t really say I learned anything, because you know going in that’s not right. You just learn from your mistakes, but (it was) a tough thing that I went through, I got past, and I’m looking to better times now.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, joins D'Angelo Russell, the second overall pick in the same draft class, on the Nets.

“We’re just very excited to get on the court together,” Okafor said. “You never would’ve thought the number two and number three picks would be playing on the same team a few years after, but like I said, everything happens for a reason and I’m really excited.”

Russell also had problems on and off the court with the team that drafted him. He was criticized for recording a video of former Lakers teammate Nick Young that aired sordid details about Young’s private life. The Lakers gave up on Russell and drafted Lonzo Ball as his replacement.

“I feel like we’re similar in that we have a lot to prove,” Okafor said. “I know he’s working his (butt) off as well. Right now he’s rehabbing, trying to get back on the court. I think we both have a chip on our shoulder and we have a lot to prove. We’re definitely similar in that regard.”

Okafor understands he has areas to improve, mainly defense and rebounding.

“I’m not a perfect player,” Okafor said. “I’m 21. There are things that I need to work on, that I have worked on and that I’ll continue to work on.”

He’s excited about fulfilling his potential with a new team.

“I feel really motivated right now, but I’ve always been motivated,” Okafor said. “This is the first time where people are against me in a sense because I’ve always been the hyped-up guy. It’s something new for me to experience, so I’m glad that I am experiencing it.”

 

Report: Celtics’ Marcus Morris to miss “extended time” to let knee heal

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Marcus Morris missed the Celtics’ first eight games of the season in an effort to get healthy. Upon his return he’s been solid, first as a starter, then coming off the bench, but his left knee continued to be an issue.

Morris was out Sunday when the Celtics beat the Pistons, and he’s going to miss more time trying to get a troublesome left knee right, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

How much time is “extended time?” Probably at least a couple of weeks.

Morris has averaged 12.1 points and 5.5 rebounds a game this season, with a true shooting percentage of 52.5, which is right around the league average.

This could mean more run for rookie forwards Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis, both of whom have played well in limited minutes.

Tristan Thompson expected to return to Cavaliers Tuesday, come off bench

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson could play for the first time since Nov. 1 on Tuesday against Atlanta.

Thompson has been sidelined with a strained left calf. The team initially said Thompson would be out for up to four weeks, but he said Monday that timeline was inaccurate and that his injury was more serious. Thompson did not divulge any other details about the injury.

Coach Tyronn Lue says Thompson will not start when he returns, meaning Kevin Love will remain at center. Thompson says he’s fine with a reserve role and made it clear he’s willing to do whatever Lue needs.

The Cavaliers have won 14 of 15 and their defense has improved dramatically over the past month.

Thompson says he’ll have the same mindset on the floor as always and “just be myself. Being myself has worked out pretty well for me.”