The 2011-12 edition of the Los Angeles Clippers (11-5) contains headline hoarders such as Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan, inspiration for the “Lob City” moniker and a seemingly endless reel of ESPN highlights. But a lesser known name may be the key to a rare postseason run for L.A.’s other team.
Reggie Evans, the notorious rebounding deviant and nine-year veteran from Iowa, may have suffered reduced minutes in last week’s contests, but when the postseason lights shine at the Staples Center — unlike the darkened hue sure to grace the Lakers’ dramatized battles — fans should expect the power forward who twice led the NBA in rebounding efficiency to provide a substantial role.
First, the numbers. Evans plays roughly 15 minutes per game, but, on average, swallows over five boards in the limited time span. And statistics show that when Evans rebounds at a high rate, the Clippers win. In victories, Evans secures nearly three offensive rebounds per contest, but in defeat he grabs merely 1.5. Overall, Evans has 13 more boards in team wins than in losses. A blatant correlation exists between Evans’ rebounding proficiency and a Clip victory celebration.
Evans also embraces his role as well as any player in the NBA. He has attempted 11 shots for the entire season, and only looks for his own scoring when an open layup or obvious foul presents itself. At times, Evans stands out of bounds to create more space for his heralded teammates, and rarely even looks at the basket. His singular focus is rebounding. Of course, on the dual edge of the coin, when Coach Vinny Del Negro needs offense, Evans can be a liability. With hands like bricks and a free throw percentage under 50 percent, most point guards find out the hard way that Evans is not a viable option on the fast break. The Clippers are essentially playing four-on-five with Evans in the lineup.
But he knows that, and his teammates undoubtedly appreciate the fact that he doesn’t steal their shots. Instead, Evans sets bone crushing screens, secures rebounds, protects leads, plays physical defense, and never utters a word that isn’t an encouraging scream. Evans and his lack of ego are a perfectly underrated fit on a team with superstar talent like L.A. Del Negro doesn’t need another scorer — he needs a role player who is unselfish and willing to get out of the way for the team’s top trio to work.
Finally, the 6 ft. 8 Evans provides an essential backup for the high-flying Jordan. Although he is vastly undersized, the 2011 free agent pick-up is the only person preventing lazy sharpshooter Brian Cook from contributing as L.A.’s relief center. Evans compensates for his lack of stature with a gritty determination and unrivaled tenacity that borders on dirty play (see: Chris Kaman’s nuts). He secured seven rebounds on January 25th versus the Lakers over a much taller Andrew Bynum, and consistently outworks more chiseled foes to corral a wayward roundball. Evans has playoff experience with the 76ers and Supersonics, and lacks fear in matching up with the vaunted brutes of the NBA postseason.
Jordan may be one of the most athletic centers in NBA history, but he is a finesse player and needs a physical counterpart. Evans fulfills that role, unlike the aforementioned Cook or five-year “meh” vet Solomon Jones from notorious basketball powerhouse South Florida. NBA fans will hear the “Reggie!” chants fill a playoff arena for the first time since 2007.