It late in the third quarter against the Dallas Mavericks and Washington made a quick 7-0 run sparked by a John Wall layup, a Kevin Seraphin offensive rebound put-back and a Mo Evans three from the corner. The Wizards cut Dallas’ once comfortable lead to just four points at 76-72 and then got Jason Terry to miss a three with 30 seconds left in the period. But on Washington’s next possession, Wall turned the ball over and the Mavericks went breaking in the other direction with a seemingly easy opportunity. The old Wizards might have just let Shawn Marion get the bucket, spawned by their often seen habit of displaying a willingness to lay down for a superior opponent. Not newcomer Evans though.
Mo Evans has made a name for himself as a tough role player for playoff teams in Sacramento, Detroit, Los Angeles (for the Lakers, obviously), Orlando and Atlanta over the previous two seasons. He played for Wizards coach Flip Saunders on the 2005-06 Pistons team and as an undrafted rookie with the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2004-05.
As Marion glided down the court, the third quarter clock ticking with less than five seconds left, Evans tracked him down and wrapped him up. In the NBA of the past, such a foul was meant to not let the other team get something easy. They were a message sent to not take a team lightly, and in the Wizards’ case, that they weren’t just to be looked at as a bad, young, inexperienced squad.
Unfortunately for Evans, Marion went tumbling to the floor, his Dallas teammates Brendan Haywood and Jason Kidd reacted to the physical action, and despite no intent to truly harm in an absolutely reckless manner, Evans was hit with a flagrant foul. You could tell it was one of those “new” flagrant fouls because the Dallas players immediately reacted toward the ref, instead of Evans, and Mo himself immediately went to make sure Marion was okay, while trying to let the ref know that he meant no harm. Too bad, this is a different, more conscious about physical contact NBA, take it or leave it. Marion hit both of his free-throws, Dallas missed a final extra opportunity, and the Mavericks took a six point lead into the fourth quarter, ultimately winning 105-99.
Still, the act, the tone, the example set by Evans … it was all worth it. Sometimes it’s the little things which can help change the direction of consistent futility surrounding a young team into developing moxie, that’s aided by the behind-the-scenes presence of key veterans. The Wizards hung tough almost all the way to the end against Dallas, and if they keep fighting, the wins will eventually come.
After his home debut with Washington, I spoke with Evans and his role and new team:
Is being the “tough guy” a role you’re trying to create/bring to this Washington team?
“That’s the tone that we had in Atlanta. That’s the tone that I’ve had in Orlando and all the other … Lakers, Pistons … all the places I’ve played, that’s the type of mentality you have to have. So I guess that might be one of my things I can bring to this team, is a little bit of extra toughness and extra … spunk, I guess.”
What about young teams like the Wizards and how they try to establish themselves in the toughness department?
“All these guys are just trying to find out how best to channel all that energy. I remember coming in as a young 20-year old, 21-year old and having a ton of energy, but no knowing quite how to play, and I remember guys would always say that to me. And I think now these guys are going to see, just a little bit of how to play, how older players … it’s unfortunate that a lot of times the older players in the league, they figure it out, but then it’s time for them to go. And you know, it’s just that turnover.”
John Wall is the guy with the ball in his hands … you’ve only played with him two games, seen him a couple games … what are you learning about his game and what it takes to mesh with him on the court?
“I would love the opportunity to have even more minutes with a guy like that because he pushes it for you, you got to run with him, A), and you have to make yourself available because he’s looking to penetrate and kick. If you give him outlets, man, he’s going to find you all day. He has great court vision.”
Mo Evan’s flagrant foul versus Shawn Marion and the aftermath.