This is around the time of year when Jeremy Evans’ name gets mentioned most in basketball circles.
The All-Star break is just a couple of weeks away, and over the last two years, Evans, the high-flying Utah Jazz forward, has won one Slam Dunk title and very nearly claimed another.
This year, however, the fourth-year player out of Western Kentucky has tried to prove he’s more than just a novelty, becoming a rotation player for the first time in his career.
So far, so good.
After being used in spot duty during his first three seasons, Evans has earned and embraced a larger role on the rebuilding Jazz. Just beyond the halfway mark of the season, Evans has already toppled his career high with 607 minutes played. His previous high came as a rookie when he logged 463 minutes.
Accordingly, Evans’ other numbers are up. He is averaging career highs in points (7) and rebounds (5.3).
“I give a lot of credit to the coaches and my teammates just because sometimes I turn down a lot of shots and am just not aggressive,” Evans said of his game’s growth. “So they’re accustomed to telling me ‘shoot the ball, go get rebounds, play.’”
On Monday, Evans scored 14 points and grabbed 10 rebounds — his second double-double of the season — to help the Jazz beat the Sacramento Kings.
“[I’m] just coming in ready, watching the game, watching my other teammates,” he said. “They brought energy, so it just fuels me.”
Moving on up
After Monday’s win, the Utah Jazz are no longer last in the Western Conference. The team’s 16-29 record is even with the Los Angeles Lakers and better than the 15-29 Kings.
“You get tired of seeing yourself down there at the bottom,” Jazz point guard Trey Burke said. “But that goes to show how hard we’ve been working the last couple of months just digging ourselves out of that hole from the beginning of the year.”
In the East, Boston, Philadelphia, Orlando and Milwaukee all have worse records than the Jazz.
Warriors at Jazz
O Friday, 8:30 p.m.
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