Maurice Evans always had the challenge of finding ways to stay in shape as he traveled back and forth between his home in Katy, Texas, to New York to help with labor bargaining sessions during the lockout. Evans, a union vice president, sometimes found himself working out at odd hours, after long meetings, but rarely could he find a good run.
Realizing that Evans and Derek Fisher, the union president, were basketball players first and negotiators second, a National Basketball Players Association attorney invited the two to play in a lawyers league game and the two jumped at the opportunity.
“We took him up on it and had a great time. It was an awesome way to clear our mind,” Evans said. “Went and dunked out a little bit. Had some fun.”
Evans is back to his full-time gig, and back with the Wizards, after helping players and owners reach a deal that salvaged a 66-game season that begins on Christmas. But as a free agent, he also had to adjust to an unusual circumstance in which training camps began as players were allowed to negotiate contracts.
Evans didn’t want to miss much more time, so he chose the Wizards over New York, Houston and San Antonio and signed on Friday. Before walking through the tunnel as the Wizards prepared to host the Philadelphia 76ers in their preseason opener, Evans said the team “wore me down.”
But as he watched the Wizards fall behind by 40 points in the third quarter, Evans joked, “For a quick initial second, I was like, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ All the others I had options for . . . I’m committed to this. I had great talks with [Wizards owner Ted] Leonsis and [General Manager] Ernie [Grunfeld] and just the organization as a whole. I’m committed to this organization as a player and hopefully beyond that.”
Evans averaged 9.7 points in 26 games after arriving with Jordan Crawford and Mike Bibby in a trade deadline with Atlanta that involved Kirk Hinrich. With Rashard Lewis and Josh Howard nursing knee injuries, Evans became a dependable defender and perimeter shooter, bringing a gritty, professional attitude to the team. He isn’t expected to get the same opportunity, with Lewis back healthy, the recent selections of Chris Singleton and Jan Vesely and the recent signing of fellow union vice president Roger Mason Jr., but Evans does plan to help the team win.
“I think my role is a little bit different this year. We were very banged up last year and I had a significant role,” Evans said. “I’m a vet now and I have in my opinion nothing to prove, so whether I score 20, 10 or 5, I’m trying to bring leadership to this team, trying to bring some intangible things I’ve learned from all the playoff teams I’ve played on.”
Coach Flip Saunders and several members of the Wizards have discussed the possibility of reaching the playoffs this season and Evans won’t dispute them.
“It’s a very realistic goal,” Evans said. “I spoke to Ernie about that in-depth in my exit interview especially about the possibility of a shortened season and having a young team, and if you can get off to a good start there’s a lot of ifs in there, that’s a big if you can get off to a good start, and if guys are focused and committed and can play, they got young legs. Back to backs shouldn’t be as much of a problem for a young team as it is for a veteran team like the Celtics and other such teams. If we can take advantage of that. And if we can get better, learn from your mistakes and don’t compound them, then this team has a chance.”