LOS ANGELES — With the emergence of A Tribe Called Bench, highlighted by the excellent play of newcomers Jamal Crawford and Matt Barnes, it’s easy to forget how different the Clippers’ bench looked last season.
While Mo Williams and Nick Young did most of the bench scoring, and Kenyon Martin was the defensive stalwart, the Clippers leaned heavily on Reggie Evans to provide interior toughness, rebounding and energy. Unlike Martin, who voiced his displeasure and bitterness with the Clippers last week, Evans is fond of his time in L.A.
“It feels good to be back in this atmosphere. It always feels good to be back at Staples Center playing against my other team. It should be fun,” Evans said prior to Saturday night’s tip-off between his current team, the Brooklyn Nets, and the Clippers.
When asked how he thinks the crowd will react to his return, including a potential standing ovation, Evans didn’t have an opinion either way, but hoped it would be positive.
“I don’t know, really. We didn’t leave on bad terms,” Evans said. “That’d be cool if I do (get a standing ovation). It was just such short of a season. I wish we could have had an even longer season. That’s unfortunately how it worked out, so we’ll see how the fans react to it.”
The aspect of playing for the Clippers that Evans misses most, besides the L.A. weather, is his teammates and the bond they had on and off the court. In particular, he said, his relationships with Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and Nick Young.
He couldn’t have more of a contrasting opinion than Martin, the 13-year veteran now with the New York Knicks, who last week said: “I don’t care what they do, to be honest with you. I hope they lose every game.”
Afterward, I asked him why there was bad blood between him and the Clippers, and he snapped, “Next question, man.”
Upon hearing what Martin said, Evans gave a look of disbelief and laughed.
“Oh, wow! Oh, wow! (Laughs) I just hope they lose against us. To be honest with you, I still cheer for them. My mama, we still be talking about them. My mom still be watching them (and saying), “Look at my boys,” and stuff.
“There was no bad blood. It was just an unfortunate situation where they wanted to go a different direction. … I don’t hold any grudges or anything,” Evans said.
Although Lamar Odom, Ronny Turiaf and Ryan Hollins each bring unique skillsets to the Clippers’ bench, there’s no question neither player has the same toughness or rebounding ability that Evans does.
Even though the Clippers ultimately chose not to re-sign Evans over the offseason, he has no hard feelings toward the situation. He still loves Los Angeles and considers his time with the Clippers was among his favorite with any franchise (he listed Philadelphia and Seattle up there as well, then apologized to any other fan bases he may have upset with that statement.)
“This was my first time in some good weather,” Evans said. “I was happy to come off the bench to play behind D.J. and Blake. It was exciting. Then the whole Lob City thing, that was exciting. At anytime, something could go down, and when it would go down you’d be like, “Wow.” Then we’d do the whole catch people sleeping on the plane and take pictures and ESPN picked that up.
“You got so many great moments. Then you have some down time where we didn’t do so well, but we managed to get out of that hole. We had some adversity and stuff, but that’s all part of nature, especially when you don’t have a training camp and are putting this all together. Vinny (Del Negro) did a good job.”
The image of Evans warming up pre-game and sitting in frontof a Staples Center locker is a stark reminder of the roots of “Lob City” and where all this Clipper magic began. His closing statement was one many Clipper fans pondered last season, and may still wonder about for years to come.
“Imagine if Chauncey didn’t get hurt last year, what we could have been like.”