That familiar doubt crept back into his mind.
Utah Jazz forward Jeremy Evans had the ball in his hands midway through the second quarter of Tuesday night’s preseason opener. Sitting in front of his locker before the game, Evans said he hoped to show off his outside range this season. But old habits started to take over after he missed his first attempt of the night.
There was space to raise up and fire, but Evans kept looking for a teammate.
“I wasn’t going to shoot it,” he said afterward.
His teammates, however, yelled at him to do otherwise.
It’s been a common occurrence around the Jazz practice facility this season. As the slender and super-athletic Evans looks to earn more time on the court, he hopes his outside shooting will help transform him from a seldom-used spark plug to a major contributor.
The only problem? He has to shoot first.
“I’ve had times they’re all screaming at me, telling to me to shoot the ball because I pass up shots and I’m wide open,” Evans said. “It’s mental. I know I can knock it down. I think I just need to be a little more selfish.”
Evans was just that Tuesday night, to his coach’s and teammates’ delight. Evans took aim and raised up over Golden State’s David Lee to knock down that second jump shot attempt. Evans went on to finish with 12 points, half coming off jumpers.
“I’ve been waiting for him to show that the past three years,” Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward said. “He’s been doing that in practice ever since he’s been here.”
Evans has made his living around the hoop in his three seasons in the league. Evans, a former slam dunk champion with an astonishing vertical leap, took 56 percent of his 44 attempts at the rim last season. He went 1 for 8 from beyond 5 feet the season before.
Evans said he dedicated much of his offseason to improving his outside game, firing up more jump shots this summer than ever before.
A more offensive-minded Evans certainly would be welcomed on a thin Jazz bench.
“He’s been working,” Jazz coach Tyrone Corbin said. “Where he don’t have the physical size to fight guys, he’s got the quickness and he can shoot the ball. He can come off and shoot in rhythm. He can make shots. … He’s gotten better. Now it’s getting the confidence to shoot in the game.”
Coaches and teammates have kept pressing Evans to shoot in training camp. Only once, with a player draped all over him, he says a coach told him he shouldn’t have taken a shot he took.
“It was the first time since I’ve been in the NBA,” Evans said.
Hayward, who was drafted by the Jazz the same year as Evans, said he’s been telling his friend to be more aggressive with the ball since they arrived in Utah.
“I even told him that the last play [Tuesday night] when he didn’t look at the basket,” Hayward said. “I told him, ‘Next time, you better look at the rim.’ Especially when he’s hot.”
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O Have questions about the Utah Jazz as preseason play continues? Brennan Smith will moderate a live #TribTalk video chat featuring Aaron Falk, The Tribune’s new Jazz beat writer, and Bill Oram, who covered the Jazz last year, Thursday at 12:15 p.m. at sltrib.com. You can ask questions using a #TribTalk hashtag on Twitter or Google+.