Washington Wizards Coach Randy Wittman spoke recently about inserting veterans off the bench to give the team a lift, and on Monday night, he did just that by turning to 6-foot-5 swingman Maurice Evans. The nine-year veteran played a season-high 15 minutes in the Wizards’ 111-108 overtime win, scoring just three points.
But Evans contributed in meaningful ways other than points. His defensive intensity, for instance, carried over to his teammates and helped Washington limit Toronto to 40 percent shooting.
It was the first game for Evans since Jan. 27, when he played five minutes and scored two points in a 103-76 loss to Houston that was the club’s second game under Wittman, who took over three days earlier fired Flip Saunders.
“It was some good minutes especially the first time getting incorporated back into the rotation,” Evans said about Monday night. “I just wanted to bring a lot of energy and try to focus on making the right plays that were going to help our team and not hurt us.”
Evans has played in just four games this season, but he’s been a mature and stabilziing presence in a locker room filled with youngsters. Evans was with the Wizards for part of last season after joing the team in a trade deadline deal and this season agreed to a one-year deal for the veteran minimum.
Evans also serves as a vice president of the NBA players’ union, and his involvement on that front earned him that much more respect among teammates. Evans, 34, Rashard Lewis, 32, and Roger Mason, 31, are the Wizards’ most experienced players, each having been part of playoff teams before coming to Washington.
Evans, who was unavailable for two games this season because of soreness in his right knee, has played in 56 playoff games, starting 18. Evans also had right knee discomfort last season.
“He’s obviously a leader in the locker room as well as in practice,” Lewis said of Evans. “You know he stays professional. He stays positive. He works hard in practice.
“He did get some minutes [on Monday]. I asked him how he felt at halftime, and he said, ‘Tired.’ Practice is totally different from a game. You’ve just got to work yourself back into the rotation and get that rhythm.”