The New Orleans Pelicans’ sweeping offseason makeover is visibly falling into place now that guard Tyreke Evans is in New Orleans and addressing the media.
“I’m here to start my life in my new home, and I’m happy to be here. I’m excited to get started with the new players; it’s a good group of guys, all young guys. I’m ready to get this thing on the road,” Evans said Thursday at his inaugural Pelicans news conference.
Evans is one of biggest pieces of the new puzzle expected to catapult the Pelicans into the hunt for the playoffs.
The 2009-10 Rookie of the Year says he was first interested in the Pelicans when he looked at their young, hungry lineup, but Evans became sold on the idea of coming to the Crescent City when he found out an old friend was joining the roster as well.
“When I heard about the trade for Jrue (Holiday), I’m actually really good friends with him,” Evans said. “I played AAU basketball with him and we played in the same McDonald’s (All-America) Game. The group of guys they (New Orleans) have is a group of guys that plays together and wants to win, and I really wanted to be a part of that.”
General manager Dell Demps knew he wanted Evans long before that:
“He was the first guy we went to go see in free agency,” Demps said. “This wasn’t Plan B, Plan C or Plan D. This was the guy that we wanted. We wanted to be the first team to meet with him and give him our pitch about who we are.”
Coach Monty Williams applauded Evans as both player and a person. At least for now though, Williams is simply celebrating the fact that Evans is buying into this evolving team 100 percent:
“That’s paramount as a coach,” Williams said. “He’s not somebody we have to sell on why he should come here. He wanted to come here. That spoke volumes for me. I’m excited about that.”
Although typically stoic in his demeanor, Williams gushed about Evans’ abilities on the court.
“I like to have guys on our team that scare me when I would have played against them,” Williams said. “Certainly, I would never have been able to figure out how to stop him from getting to the basket, knocking down big shots, or stealing the ball on the weak side.”
The 6-foot-6 Evans can play several positions and says he’d feel comfortable coming in as a point guard, shooting guard or small forward.
Williams says he’ll decide how to use Evans closer to the beginning of the season after evaluating him with his new teammates, but don’t be surprised to see Evans — who played in the backcourt in four seasons with the Kings — at small forward at least part of the time.
“I’m not hesitant to play him at small forward,” Williams said. “At the same time, he will play some point guard as well because he’s done that most of his life. Shooting guards will have to deal with him in the post in that Clyde Drexler spot. His size on defense, which is most important to me, allows us to switch, and that’s a big key for us. Guarding a (small forward) and having to switch to a (power forward) concerns me more than the offensive side. I think offensively, guys just figure it out. Defensively, that’s where I’m more concerned. When we play Oklahoma City, that switch is from (Kevin) Durant to (Serge) Ibaka, and that’s tough on the weakside when you have to rebound the ball.”