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 veteranís hands.

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

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

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

Wherever he does land, itís doubtful heíll 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, thereís no room in Torontoís frontcourt for a player such as Evans, whose unique ability to rebound the basketball, a skill thatís more about energy and will, is likely to demand a mid-level deal when the NBAís new landscape gets forged.

Itís too bad Evansí 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 Evansí non-existent offence and deficiencies at the charity stripe, but hereís a guy who doesnít 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 teamís practice court, the uncertainty of not knowing what the immediate future has in store weighed on Evansí mind.

ďI donít know what theyíre going to do for me,Ē Evans said. ďI donít know whatís in store. Iíve missed so many games after participating in so many games at the beginning.

ďI know Iíll be in uniform.Ē

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.

ďI feel good,Ē Kleiza said.

Evans also feels good, but itís a good bet he wonít be averaging anywhere close to the double-digit rebounds and close to 40 minutes.

ďI wish I could be practising a little bit more,Ē Evans added. ďI feel good on my feet. Iím getting up and down the court and Iím picking up my defence.

ďI donít want any excuses as to why Iím not playing.Ē

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

In a practice setting, his presence is felt.

ďThereís a lot of energy on the floor,Ē Johnson said of his teammate and close friend. ďItís definitely a tougher practice with Reggie out there.

ďItís like someone unleashed the Tasmanian devil. Reggie has so much knowledge.Ē

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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