Identical twins. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBA/Getty Images)
Reggie Evans had another monster night on Tuesday, scoring 17 points on 6 for 10 shooting, grabbing 24 rebounds — his league-best ninth 20-plus-rebound game of the season — and adding three steals in just under 30 minutes as his Brooklyn Nets cruised to a 104-83 shellacking of the desperate-for-the-offseason Philadelphia 76ers at Barclays Center. As was the case on Jan. 8, when Evans had 23 rebounds in 26 1/2 minutes against Philly, the Sixers just couldn't keep the frenetic Iowa product off the boards, as the Nets came one carom shy of doubling up Philadelphia in the rebounding department (67 to 34) en route to a 25-8 advantage in second-chance points and a 58-30 edge in points in the paint.
As he's been so often recently, Evans was the catalyst for the Brooklyn beatdown, looking energetic and engaged from the opening tip ... which might be due, at least in part, to a little bit of chicanery that he and his former bench buddy have been cooking up of late, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:
Reggie Evans was again nowhere to be found when the starting lineups were announced, instead choosing to lie somewhere in the locker room and work out his joints on a rubber roller.
It didn’t matter that Evans was the starting power forward against the 76ers. He has a ritual, a time-tested mental and physical exercise that has coincided with the best stretch of his career [...]
When the announcer hollered Evans’ name, Andray Blatche ran out. Evans greeted his fellow starters when the arena lights came on.
“A lot of people thinks it’s me, but it’s Andray,” Evans said.
The reason for the Conquistadors-style switcheroo — the 32-year-old Evans wants to avoid tightening up during the period between pregame warmups and the tip that kicks off live action. Staying loose is especially important now that Evans is not only part of Brooklyn's starting five, which he's been since two games after P.J. Carlesimo took the Nets' reins from the ousted Avery Johnson, but also logging heavier minutes.
Through his first 56 appearances of the season, Evans averaged just under 23 minutes per game; over his last 20 games, that's ratcheted up to a tick under 29, and 32 minutes a night over his last 10 outings as the Nets have looked to secure the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. So rather than stand still on the sideline during the nightly rendition of the national anthem and the pre-tip pageantry, Evans hangs back, continues to stretch and waits for Nets assistant trainer Nixon Dorvilien to let him know when it's time to head out to the court under cover of darkness.
“It’s not like I’m getting younger. I just want to make sure I’m ready,” Evans told Bondy.
OK: Now we know why Evans has perpetrated this cunning deception. But why pick Blatche — who's at least three inches taller and about 15 to 20 pounds heavier than Evans, and doesn't really look all that much like him — as his stand-in? Because, he says, "that’s my man." Also, we suspect it might be a little easier to root out the ruse if, say, Kris Humphries or Mirza Teletovic tried to stand in Evans' stead. Just a hunch.
It's not clear when Evans started employing Blatche as his intro impostor, but he sure seems to think it makes a difference (“It’s good for me from a mental standpoint. It keeps me sharp”) ... and whether this or something else deserves the credit, Reggie's recent results have been sensational.
After Tuesday's stellar outing, Evans is averaging 9.5 points and 18.1 rebounds per game over his last 10 games, shooting 53.1 percent from the floor (a major improvement over his early-season and career marks) and hitting 54 percent of his free throws (ditto, I'm afraid). He's looked more comfortable offensively of late, which doesn't really come naturally for him, and has been even more aggressive on the glass (which, as you know, does come naturally for him) over the last 10 — he's grabbing more than 20 percent of available offensive rebounds, more than 44 percent of available defensive boards over that stretch and nearly one-third of all misses while he's on the floor, all of which are way above his already league-leading rebounding rates.
And the impact isn't evident just in his own stats — the Nets have outscored opponents by more than 11 points per 100 possessions in Evans' 320 minutes on the court over the last 10 games and been outscored by nearly nine points-per-100 in his 160 minutes on the bench. Sure, other factors go into that number — the strong recent performances of the other members of the Nets' starting five, led by Deron Williams and Brook Lopez, and the comparatively shakier recent work of reserves like Humphries and Blatche — but it's indicative of the impact, especially on the offensive end, that Evans' extra-possession-creating work has had as Brooklyn heads toward the postseason.
As a result, you'd expect Evans, Blatche and the rest of the Brooklyn bunch to just keep doing what they've been doing ... provided, of course, the league office doesn't look unfavorably on Reggie's trickeration and decide to put the kibosh on it now that he's dispelled the illusion. After all, NBA rules require "players, coaches and trainers [...] to stand and line up in a dignified posture along the sidelines or on the foul line during the playing of the National Anthem," and while Evans' pregame stretching is very clearly not of a piece with Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf sitting down or Toni Smith turning her back, you wonder if the revelation would lead the league to ask Evans to resume joining his teammates.
Personally, I hope not. I think it'd be pretty awesome now if the YES Network or, in the case of Wednesday's game against the Boston Celtics, ESPN broadcast clearly showed Blatche high-fiving his teammates with a "REGGIE EVANS" chyron, then show a tracking shot of Evans coming out from the tunnel after introductions, and pretend like this is in no way weird. That sounds like way more fun to me, and leaves room for the bit to continue evolving, with Blatche donning a fake beard and, depending on his level of commitment, maybe knocking out one of his own teeth the next time Reggie loses a Chiclet. It's all about raising the stakes in the world of NBA comedy, after all.
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