Jeremy Evans has learned how to survive in the NBA
The wide-eyed Jeremy Evans who doesn't quite know his place on the Utah Jazz and in the NBA is a thing of the past.
That Jeremy Evans has been replaced. He's still got a ways to go before he becomes a regular contributor, for sure. But this version is in his third season, recently married and a fixture in the local community for the first time. He knows how things work, what he needs to do to survive in professional basketball.
He now has a three-year contract worth $5 million. Security in a league that's anything but secure.
"I don't want to say that I'm a veteran, but I kind of know what to expect," Evans said.
As a rookie, Evans became a fan favorite with his length and athleticism, which borders on unnatural. In his second season, he became the NBA's slam dunk champion.
That's all well and good. Evans, however, wants more.
It's not enough for him to be the next Kenny Walker the 1989 slam dunk king who never rose much above 12th-man status in the league. Evans wants to be known as a player, someone who made his mark in games that actually count.
The Jazz believe in Evans and his ability. If they hadn't, management never would have committed to him long term. Still, the fight for rotation minutes figures to be an uphill climb for the slender power forward out of Western Kentucky.
Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap, Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter will play the bulk of the time in the frontcourt. There has been talk of converting Evans to small forward, but his game hasn't evolved to that point yet.
He is a 12th man who has more talent than the typical 12th man.
"He's somebody who can come in and make energy plays," Utah coach Tyrone Corbin said. "He makes an impact whenever he plays minutes. We need him to continue that, and we need him to expand on that."
The jaw-dropping athleticism always has been there. Evans became a YouTube sensation this month when he blocked a jumper by the Clippers' Ronny Turiaf, recovered the loose ball, took three dribbles and dunked on Turiaf at the other end.
Evans became a social media star in a little more than three seconds.
But the Jazz want to see more. They want Evans to expand his shooting range. They want him to become more of a threat off the dribble. For three years, Evans has survived off hustle plays, rebound dunks and blocked shots. Now it's time for him to add a little more substance to the style.
"Every day I'm working on the weaknesses of my game," Evans said. "I know what I have to do, and I just have to be ready to take advantage of any opportunity that I receive."