It isn’t easy to put Tyreke Evans on the bench.
Yes, Evans has missed 19 games this season because of injuries in his right knee, including the first 17 due to preseason arthroscopic surgery, but he’s almost always willing to play through pain.
Despite Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry limiting Evans’ rotations to six-minute stints last week, the Pelicans’ second-leading scorer was unable to take the floor in a 101-99 loss to Memphis on Monday after re-aggravating the knee in pregame warm-ups.
On Tuesday, he returned to his typical spot in the starting lineup against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
“Anybody that knows Tyreke knows that he’s an extremely tough guy and he’s going to try to be out there every opportunity that he can,” Gentry said. “I think as a coach, sometimes I’ve got to monitor that for him and make him understand that when you’re injured, sometimes you can’t play.
“I appreciate who he is and appreciate the toughness that he tries to fight through, but I also want him to understand that by resting it a game or two, you take yourself out of the situation where you might be doing something that could help you from being out long term.”
Even without Evans, the Pelicans opted to use a three-guard lineup in the closing minutes against Memphis, playing Norris Cole alongside Jrue Holiday and Eric Gordon. But the Pelicans were unable to generate the same kind of explosive offense without him, as Cole’s critical 3-pointer rimmed out, and no one else could find an open look from the perimeter.
Getting Evans back adds multiple dimensions to those smaller lineups in New Orleans’ attack.
“He’s obviously a guy that can make plays,” Gentry said. “He gives us size at the position. He has post-up ability, as he did (in a win over Charlotte) when they had a smaller guard on him. I think he tries to push the pace of the game. I think we do push it a little more when he’s out, but I still think having him in there is a good thing.”
Feed him more
Anthony Davis attempted just five shots in the second half of Monday’s loss, a usage rate that Genty wants to correct going forward.
But he also claimed his guards are rarely given much of a choice when Davis’ shot attempts dwindle, because it’s the product of opposing defenses bracketing the power forward in the post.
“If you go back and look at the tape of (Monday), Memphis did a really good job of playing a guy in front and a guy behind and made it really difficult for us to throw him the ball and get him in a position to have the ball. Rather than try to force the issue, we have to move the basketball and get guys that are open.”
The Pelicans are 0-20 when failing to reach 100 points.
But when New Orleans cracks triple digits, it has won eight of its past nine games.
Yet Gentry didn’t point to that as a defensive issue as much as a pace-driven problem. As concerning as the non-existent winning percentage is, he was equally bothered by the amount of games his team hasn’t reached the century-mark because it lacked offensive possessions.
“We have to be able to win when we don’t get there because some teams are going to slow us down a little bit,” Gentry said. “What I told the guys is that shouldn’t happen very often. Even if we have a team that’s going to hold the ball on their end, when we get it, we still have to keep the pace of the game where we want it. So I can understand where we may struggle to get to 110, but we still have to have enough possessions and push the pace that we can get to 100.”
Most recent No. 1 overall draft pick Karl-Anthony Towns made his first appearance in New Orleans and introduced himself by draining 3-pointer and rejecting Gordon’s drive in the first two minutes. … The Timberwolves opened a 38-25 first-quarter lead thanks to making 11 of 13 free-throw attempts among a series of wide-open looks in the paint.