Amidst return, Evans' Raptors future uncertain

FRANK ZICARELLI, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:51 PM ET

When he made his return last season following a lengthy injury absence, Reggie Evans played five minutes, a stretch so frenetic that virtually every missed shot landed in the veteran’s hands.

Whether it’s tonight against visiting Utah, Friday versus Indiana or even as late as Sunday’s matinee against Charlotte, fans in Toronto will get a long-awaited glimpse of Evans.

Under no circumstance will it resemble last year’s five minutes of fury, but this year’s occasion will nonetheless carry some significance.

For Evans, it’ll represent a chance to once again get up and down the court, battle in the block and retrieve rebounds, an art he perfected early this season until a late November tip in Boston, a night when the proud veteran broke a foot that has taken this long to completely heal.

For fans of the Raptors, Evans’ return marks the beginning of the end, a swan song if you will, given that Evans is a free agent this summer, a time that’s clouded with so much uncertainty in the absence of a new collective bargaining agreement that Evans could wind up anywhere.

Wherever he does land, it’s doubtful he’ll be back in Toronto.

With the Raptors making a huge financial commitment to Amir Johnson, with the team rewarding rookie Ed Davis with more minutes, with the Raptors in need of a bona fide centre, there’s no room in Toronto’s frontcourt for a player such as Evans, whose unique ability to rebound the basketball, a skill that’s more about energy and will, is likely to demand a mid-level deal when the NBA’s new landscape gets forged.

It’s too bad Evans’ time in Toronto, when it is officially over, will be remembered as a missed opportunity.

When he broke his foot last pre-season, Evans appeared to be the perfect piece on a team loaded with offensive players, guys not exactly known for doing all the little things Evans is noted for like setting hard screens, boxing out, diving for loose balls and getting engaged in the paint.

Say what you want about Evans’ non-existent offence and deficiencies at the charity stripe, but here’s a guy who doesn’t even have to attempt a shot or even score a single point to have an impact on a game.

When he gathered with the media on Tuesday, a day when Evans emerged as the last player to leave the team’s practice court, the uncertainty of not knowing what the immediate future has in store weighed on Evans’ mind.

“I don’t know what they’re going to do for me,” Evans said. “I don’t know what’s in store. I’ve missed so many games after participating in so many games at the beginning.

“I know I’ll be in uniform.”

When he was healthy and among the league leaders in rebounding, Evans started in a frontcourt that featured Andrea Bargnani and Linas Kleiza.

Kleiza had microfracture surgery to his knee and was spotted on Tuesday, walking with the aid of crutches.

“I feel good,” Kleiza said.

Evans also feels good, but it’s a good bet he won’t be averaging anywhere close to the double-digit rebounds and close to 40 minutes.

“I wish I could be practising a little bit more,” Evans added. “I feel good on my feet. I’m getting up and down the court and I’m picking up my defence.

“I don’t want any excuses as to why I’m not playing.”

Evans will be coming off the bench, but what kind of presence he’ll have is undetermined.

In a practice setting, his presence is felt.

“There’s a lot of energy on the floor,” Johnson said of his teammate and close friend. “It’s definitely a tougher practice with Reggie out there.

“It’s like someone unleashed the Tasmanian devil. Reggie has so much knowledge.”

For guys like Johnson and Davis, every ounce of knowledge must be seized.

Afterall, the beginning of the end for Evans as a Raptor will soon unfold.


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