Reading Material: The Law of the Jungle (from The Jungle Book), by Rudyard Kipling
Reggie Evans is one of the more peculiar players in recent memory. He’s so good at one aspect of basketball and so bad at basically everything else. In many ways, he’s mastered the difficult task of staying relevant as a specialized role player.
The only — and I mean only — reason he’s on an NBA roster is because he’s one of the best rebounders of all time. That’s not a typo. Any time he’s on the floor, you have a chance to at least break even in the rebounding battle. In most cases, you’ll win it. There were countless times this season in which Evans got multiple offensive rebounds … in the same possession.
Otherwise he has almost no practical use. To call him a limited offensive player would be kind. Besides the fact that he can’t shoot, pass or dribble, Evans has stone hands and can barely complete the basic movement of catching a pass off of Chris Paul’s penetration and finishing at the rim. To make matters worse, he’s a historically awful free throw shooter, which led to the Hack-a-Reggie we continuously saw this year.
Defensively he’s better – as evident by his lockdown defense against a hobbled Zach Randolph in the first round of the playoffs – but not by much. He can bang with bigger bodies, is physical and has quick hands (maybe too quick for his own good). At the same time, he’s undersize, slow and not athletic. He flops too. Not the ideal power forward in this new era of stretch 4s (His value at center – 21.9 PER – is much better than at power forward – 9.1 PER – despite his 6-8 frame).
Regardless, Evans was a fan favorite all season long. Besides Blake Griffin and Chris Paul – and possibly Eric Bledsoe at the end of the season – no Clipper received more love from the Staples Center crowd. Almost once a game Evans would do something spectacularly gutsy, and Staples would erupt with “Reggie! Reggie! Reggie!” chants.
With his aforementioned limitations, the logical question is: Why did he play such a vital role on this year’s Clipper squad? Well, he wasn’t Brian Cook or Trey Thompkins for one. Also, Kenyon Martin wasn’t signed until the midway point of the season and took some time to adjust. And, as a 10-year veteran who had to work his tail off to not make an NBA roster but stay in the league, Evans knows a thing or two about physicality, toughness and work ethic — intangibles that past Clipper rosters tended to lack.
At 32 years old, Evans isn’t going to get better. He is who he is – a physical, hardnosed player who hustles and rebounds. That’s it. But what he can do this offseason, and focus on for next season, is figure out how to fully disseminate those core principles and values into Clippers’ big men DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin.
Both players are blessed with talent, size (Jordan’s length and Griffin’s strength) and athleticism. However, they don’t always give their maximum effort. This maxim applies more so to Jordan than Griffin, but Griffin is known to take plays off, especially on the defensive end.
Whether Evans stays in L.A., or goes elsewhere, he should focus on instilling his same level of tenacity into the younger players around him. He notably had a major influence on Clipper rookies Thompkins and Travis Leslie this season, but I’d like to see reports of that effect stretching up the Clippers’ totem pole to their big dogs.
This is where The Law of the Jungle comes into play. See, The Law of the Jungle is a guide to how a wolf pack (the Clippers) can survive in the big bad jungle (the Western Conference). It preaches unity, professionalism, and obedience through various rules and laws that wolves must abide by to live.
Evans already knows this creed. But by taking these concepts and infusing them into the DNA of the Clippers’ big men, he could help L.A. turn into an elite contender in the coming seasons. The responsibility doesn’t solely fall on his broad shoulders – Chris Paul, Vinny Del Negro and the rest of his coaching staff will have a large influence as well (among other veteran players).
But someone has to teach the goofy duo how to never take plays off, consistently do the grit n’ grind work, and make the right play sometimes instead of the flashy one. If his career is any example, Evans is just the guy to show them.