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.

Giannis Antetokounmpo out a couple of games to manage sore knee

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It’s not discussed much, but Giannis Antetokounmpo has a chronically sore knee that has been an issue since last summer. It’s not debilitating, it doesn’t require surgery, but it’s something Antetokounmpo and the Bucks need to actively manage.

Hence, Antetokounmpo is sitting out the next couple of games. From Matt Velazquez of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Milwaukee Bucks all-star Giannis Antetokounmpo will sit out Saturday night’s game against the Philadelphia 76ers as well as Monday’s home game against the Phoenix Suns as the team actively manages the health of Antetokounmpo’s sore right knee….

Antetokounmpo’s injury, which is not considered to be tendinitis, is regarded as something that is always going to bother him to some extent, according to a league source. There will be days where the discomfort is higher and some when it’s lower, and the team’s goal is to manage that on a daily basis to keep the injury from becoming severe or significant — something it is not considered to be at this point.

Antetokounmpo is going to get eight days of rest this way, which is the smart long-term move for the Bucks.

The challenge is the Bucks may be sixth in the East as you read this, but they are just one game up on the nine seed Pistons. They need to get wins without Antetokounmpo, which is hard because they have been outscored by 10.6 points per 100 possessions. However, they could be without him a lot longer if Antetokounmpo’s knee isn’t managed now.

Kristaps Porzingis: “Players know” he’s All-Star starter

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When picking the East All-Star starters, two of the three frontcourt choices were obvious: LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

For the third slot there were a few players who could make a case. The fans chose Joel Embiid third, Kristaps Porzingis fourth, and Kevin Love fifth. The media also had Embiid third and Porzingis fourth, but Al Horford fifth. That was enough to earn Embiid the starting nod.

The players voted Porzingis third, Embiid fourth, and Andre Drummond fifth. Needless to say, Porzingis thinks the players got it right, as he told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

“Players know,” he said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”

If one were cynical, one would note the players also voted for Tyler Cavanaugh and Tyler Zeller, so how much do we trust their vote? Fortunately, we’re above such crass things.

Porzingis is a lock to make his first All-Star Game this year as a reserve (picked by the coaches).

What separated the two? Embiid has been a little more efficient this season, he’s stronger on the boards and had been a bigger defensive presence. Also, the Sixers have a better record than the Knicks, who have stumbled of late. Or, maybe the fans just like Embiid’s big personality more — he’s blowing off Rihanna.

Both of these guys should have a lot of All-Star starts in their future. This year it goes to Embiid.

 

Lakers make 14% of their free throws, win

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Jordan Clarkson‘s free throw rattled around the rim before falling out late in the first quarter. The Los Angeles crowd groaned. The Lakers missed their first five free throws, and the visiting Pacers led by seven.

It appeared to be one of those nights.

And it was. The Lakers shot just 2-for-14 (14%) on free throws Friday. But they still won, 99-86.

That’s the worst free-throw percentage with at least eight attempts by any team and the worst free-throw percentage regardless of attempts by a winning team in the Basketball-Reference database, which dates back to 1963-64.

Here’s the “leaderboard,” winners in purple and losers in gold:

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The Lakers are shooting an NBA-worst 69% on free throws, but last night took the cake. The offenders:

Knicks’ Jeff Hornacek brushes off concerns about job security

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We saw this pattern earlier this season with the Lakers. Young team gets off to a better-than-expected start, shows real promise, but as things move toward the middle of the season they take a step back. As happens with young, developing teams, they are up and down. However, major market media and an impatient fan base wants to blame someone, so the coach is suddenly discussed as having “lost the locker room” and that his job was in jeopardy (a coach not hired by the current GM). Even though in Luke Walton’s case, it wasn’t (and isn’t).

Now that same pattern has come to New York and the Knicks with Jeff Hornacek. The Knicks started 17-14 and had fans prematurely thinking playoffs thanks to a home-heavy schedule. Reality has hit them the past month.

Hornacek tried to brush off questions about his job security in New York, speaking to Stefan Bondy of the New York Post.

Hornacek also believes he has the backing of GM Scott Perry and president Steve Mills, despite being inherited by them as Phil Jackson’s hire.

“We were talking about rebuilding and we got off to a good start because we had a lot of home games,” Hornacek said. “Scott and Steve, everybody’s still on the same page of trying to get our young guys opportunities. We’re still trying to win games. We still want to establish an identity where defensively we’re going to get after it all the time and we’re building toward that. It’s great to have their support…

“I think the expectations come from the players where all of a sudden you hear them talking about, ‘Oh we can make the playoffs.’ We never said that,” Hornacek said. “We said we want to get better and we want to grow. Part of our talk was you can’t worry about the results. You just got to go out there and if you do your best and try to improve the results will come. When you start thinking about win or lose all of a sudden your mentality becomes different. We got to get back to that.”

Is Hornacek the long-term answer in New York? I don’t know. However, finally unchained from the pseudo-triangle disaster Phil Jackson imposed, he has done a solid job this season, putting Kristaps Porzingis in better spots to lead this roster. The Knicks are projected to win around 38 games at this point (according to Cleaning the Glass), and they have about a 14 percent chance of making the playoffs still (according to fivethiryeight.com). Heading into the season, that would have been about anyone’s best-case scenario for this team.

Not that it matters when you’re coach of the Knicks — job security speculation comes with every paycheck. It just isn’t deserved in this case.