Unheralded new addition Jeremy Evans takes on heavy responsibility during Mavs’ training camp

DALLAS — Although he was one of the Dallas Mavericks’ unheralded signings this offseason, versatile big man Jeremy Evans has been handed the most responsibility early during the team’s training camp.

The 6-foot-9, 200-pound Evans spent his first five seasons in Utah, coming to Dallas after averaging 3.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 10.8 minutes in 219 games. He also showcased plenty of raw athletic ability, winning the Slam Dunk contest at All-Star weekend in 2012.

Evans, 27, played collegiately for four seasons at Western Kentucky University, averaging 10.0 points and 6.9 rebounds in 34 games during his senior year. He also left as the school’s all-time leader in blocked shots with 224, making him attractive to Utah in the second round of the 2010 NBA Draft before being selected with the 55th overall pick.

The Mavericks then inked Evans to a reported two-year deal worth the league minimum this summer, looking to use his rare athleticism to fill the void left by two of the team’s top contributors from last season. And while working the athletic big man at three different positions during training camp, Mavs coach Rick Carlisle is already attempting to tap into Evans’ full potential.

“Well, he’s the only guy on the team that we’re having learn three positions, which is hard,” Carlisle said while praising Evans’ versatility following Thursday’s team practice. “It’s a daunting task, ’cause the five, the four and the three are all so different. The five and four are certainly more similar, but three is different than the bigger positions. So, you know, that’s going to be a lot of work and it’s going to be a lot of reps. You know, (Al-Farouq) Aminu ended up doing that last year. It took a while for him to really get comfortable with it, and I suspect it’s going to take a while for Jeremy to get completely comfortable with it. But it speaks to the kinds of diverse abilities we feel he has.”

Evans primarily saw time as a backup power forward in Utah, averaging 2.4 points and 1.9 rebounds in 38 games for the Jazz last season. He also connected on 55.2 percent from the field, showing a rare ability to finish above the rim with regularity.

The Mavericks now hope Evans can fill the void of former big man Brandan Wright, who was moved in the five-player trade with Boston last season for the acquisition of four-time All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo. But as Carlisle points out, Evans is being asked do much more than just fill Wright’s shoes.

“You know, you’re always going to miss a guy like Wright. You know, particularly from a roll-and-finish standpoint. He’s a very special player, but this is a different year. We wanted to get a couple of younger, athletic guys like that. You know, Jeremy Evans and Maurice Ndour are guys we’re looking at to kind of feel that niche for us,” Carlisle explained.

He added: “I spent a lot of time with [Evans] this summer, so I feel like I got a good head start with kind of what I feel he can do. And look, we’re expanding what’s being asked of him. In Utah, he was playing mostly backup four, and he’d play occasionally five when they went small. But it was not very often. You know, we’re stretching out his shooting range to the three-point line. And he’s made a few threes in his career, but he hasn’t shot that many. And we’re having him learn three positions, so it’s a great opportunity for him. But it is a lot of work.”

Evans, a career 20-percent shooter from three-point range, says he’s up to the challenge, looking to expand on the role that Wright thrived in during his team in Dallas.

Prior to the mid-season trade, Wright averaged 8.8 points and 4.1 rebounds in 18.7 minutes an outing while coming off the bench in 27 games for the Mavericks. More impressively, Wright connected on a staggering 74.8 percent from the field, developing a chemistry with Mavs sixth man Devin Harris in the team’s pick-and-roll sets.

Evans will now look to excel in a more expanded role, hoping to add a three-point shot to the above-the-rim finishes that Mavericks fans came accustom to seeing during Wright’s 3 1/2 seasons in Dallas.

“The past eight years I’ve been at the four and five. You know, back in high school, of course, I used to play (on the perimeter). But that’s a big change, especially for the NBA,” Evans explained while addressing his added responsibilities. “You build habits of running into the paint, rebounding and just guarding guys inside, and it’s tough taking a step outside against bigger and faster guys and guys at this level.

“It’s pretty tough, just because you want to come in and do what [Carlisle] asks and catch on quick, but basically I’ve just been trying to do what they ask of me. It’s tough learning (to play small forward). But as far as getting it down, I’ve just got to go over the plays and spend extra time with the coaches. You know, this summer and right now in practice, I feel tremendous as far as knowing that I’m going to knock (outside shots) down. If I shoot it, I feel like now I’m going to make it. So, I feel like now it’s a big change. The coaches, they’ve told me where I’m going to play, and I’ve been in positions where I’m going to shoot the ball. I’ve been comfortable, and I’ve just been taking the shots and knocking them down. I feel like that’s big, because they’re putting me exactly where they want me to be. I’ve just got to stay focused and stay under control, come out and keep working every day. That’s why we’re here to practice.”

Evans admits to being caught in a whirlwind early in training camp while attempting to grasp everything Carlisle threw his way. However, the lanky big man has been able to turn to a former teammate in Harris, who also played in Utah for 1 1/2 seasons after being moved from the then-New Jersey Nets during the ’10-11 campaign.

Harris says Evans is more than capable of thriving in Carlisle’s system, using Wright as an example of how effective the new addition could be this season. With that said, the veteran guard knows Evans has plenty on his plate while playing more on the perimeter, looking to make life easier on the newcomer when the two have been on the court together during practice.

And after forming a chemistry with Wright during their time together, Harris hopes his time with Evans in practice will translate to the games when the regular season gets underway.

“Well, I’ve played with Jeremy in Utah, so I know what he’s capable of. For him, it’s about getting the right timing, because he’s playing multiple positions,” Harris said. “You know, he’s playing some three and some four, so he’ll get it. It’s just more about us being on the floor at the same time and kind of reading one another. You know, he’s got to read my faces a little bit better and kind of figure out what I want when I see different situations, but I think he’s definitely getting better. He’s also asked to do something he’s never been asked to do. He’s on the perimeter a lot more, so I think that’s where his focus is right now.

“[Wright] was my go-to. He was like my bail-out guy and a guy I could always find on the court. We struggled a little bit with (not having Wright), but I think we have something similar with Jeremy.”

Addition of Rajon Rondo solidifies Mavs’ starting five

Practice Report: Rick Carlisle

Mavs head coach Rick Carlisle reacts to the Rajon Rondo trade and looks ahead to Saturday's matchup against the Spurs.

DALLAS — With the addition of four-time All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo to bolster their backcourt, the Dallas Mavericks figure to feature one the most potent starting lineups in the NBA.

Thursday, the Mavericks (19-8) announced the acquisition of Rondo and center Dwight Powell from the Boston Celtics in exchange for backup big man Brandan Wright, reserve swingman Jae Crowder, starting point guard Jameer Nelson, a 2015 first-round pick and a 2016 second-round pick. And while Powell, the 45th overall pick by Charlotte in June’s draft, will attempt to add support to the Mavs’ front line behind starting center Tyson Chandler, it’s the addition of Rondo that is expected to instantly increase Dallas’ championship odds.

Rondo, an eight-year veteran that previously spent his entire career with the Celtics, garnered All-Defensive Team honors four times during that stint. The 6-foot-1 lead guard was also an All-NBA Third Team selection in 2012, bringing to Dallas championship experience after he helped lead the Celtics to the ’08 title.

Already rolling out the No.1 scoring offense in the league, which averages 110.1 points per game, the Mavericks will now try to integrate one of the top pass-first floor generals into the equation. And while joining a starting lineup that’s already featuring leading scorer Monta Ellis, 12-time All-Star Dirk Nowitzki, new addition Chandler Parsons and Chandler, Rondo couldn’t contain his excitement as he took to Twitter to react to the trade.

“My time in Boston has meant so much,” Rondo posted. “I’ve grown up with this city both as a basketball player and person. The love I have for the most loyal and supportive fans in the league is unmatched. My teammates have shown nothing but heart the last couple of seasons. They are some of the hardest working guys I have played with and I wish them the best. I’ve experienced my most successful and challenging years with the Celtics, fans and city. The opportunity to play with guys like Dirk, Monta, Tyson and the young talent of Chandler is exciting. I look forward to building something special in Dallas.”

While the Mavs’ bench production could take a dip with the move of Wright and Crowder, the first unit is expected to be strengthened with Rondo in place of Nelson.

This season, Nelson is averaging a career-low 7.3 points and 4.1 assists while starting all 23 of his appearances for the Mavs. Nelson is also shooting just 37.4 percent from the field, the lowest percentage of his career. Vice versa, Rondo averaged 8.3 points and a league-best 10.8 assists in his 22 games for the Celtics, connecting on 40.5 percent from the field as he continues to battle back from reconstructive knee surgery that caused him to miss the second half of the ’12-13 season and the first half of last season.

For his career, Rondo holds averages of 11.0 points, 8.5 assists, 4.7 rebounds and 1.9 steals, making 474 starts in his 527 appearances. He also led the league in assists during both the ’11-12 and ’12-13 seasons, dishing out 11.7 and 11.1 an outing, respectively.

Rondo leaves the Celtics holding franchise records in assists for a season with 794 during the ’09-10 campaign, assists per game with 11.7 in ’11-12 and assists in a playoff game with 20 in 2011. All of which figures to only add to a Dallas offense that ranked seventh in the league while dishing out 23.6 assists a game as a team this season before the addition of the former All-Star.

And with Rondo expected to slide right into the vacant first-string point guard role vacated by the trade of Nelson, the Mavericks’ offense should continue to flourish en route to another championship chase.

Note: Returning to action at American Airlines Center on Saturday, the Mavericks will next play host to the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs. San Antonio leads the season series 1-0 after handing the Mavs a 101-100 road loss on Oct. 28. The game will air locally on Fox Sports Southwest at 7:30 p.m. CT. Tickets are still available and can be purchased by calling (214) 747-MAVS (6287) or by visiting Mavs.com.


Injury updates presented by Baylor Emergency Medical Centers:
Raymond Felton, right ankle, questionable

Mavs acquire four-time All-Star Rajon Rondo

DALLAS — The Dallas Mavericks announced today that they have acquired four-time All-Star Rajon Rondo and center Dwight Powell from the Boston Celtics in exchange for center Brandan Wright, forward Jae Crowder, guard Jameer Nelson, a 2015 first-round pick and a 2016 second-round pick.

Rondo (6-1, 186) is an eight-year guard who has spent his entire professional career with the Celtics. In addition to being a four-time NBA All-Star (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013), Rondo has been named All-NBA Defensive Team four times (2009, 2010, 2011, 2012), All-NBA Third Team (2012) and was the starting point guard on Boston’s 2008 NBA Championship team. He has played in 527 career games (474 starts) and holds averages of 11.0 points, 8.5 assists, 4.7 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 32.9 minutes per game.

The veteran point guard also has extensive postseason experience having competed in two NBA Finals and starting each of his 92 career Playoff games. Rondo holds postseason career averages of 14.5 points, 9.2 assists, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 38.5 minutes per game.

Rondo currently leads the NBA in assists with 10.8 assists per game. He led the league in that category in both 2011-12 (11.7 apg) and 2012-13 (11.1 apg). He also holds several Celtics’ franchise assists records including single-season total with 794 assists (2009-10), assists per game with 11.7 apg (2011-12) and assists in an NBA Playoff game with 20 (2011).

The Louisville, Ky., native was originally the 21st pick of the 2006 NBA Draft after declaring as an early-entry candidate out the University of Kentucky. In just his freshman season as a Wildcat, Rondo set Kentucky’s all-time single-season steals mark with 87 steals in 34 games.

Powell (6-11, 240) is a rookie center who hails from Toronto, Canada and has seen action in five games this season with averages of 1.8 points, 0.2 rebounds and 1.8 minutes per game.

A former Stanford University standout, Powell was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets with the 45th overall pick in the 2014 NBA Draft. He was originally traded from Charlotte to Cleveland before being acquired by the Celtics in a late-September trade that landed him in Boston, along with John Lucas III, Malcolm Thomas and Erik Murphy, while Keith Bogans was sent to the Cavaliers.

As a senior at Stanford, Powell was named All-Pac-12 First Team while averaging 14.0 points and 6.9 rebounds per game. He was also named Pac-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year.

Player of the Week: Brandan Wright

Wright Lob Slam

Brandan Wright gets the lob slam from Devin Harris.

Brandan Wright continued his ridiculously hot start to the season this week. The backup big man has reached double-figures in seven consecutive games and eight of the last night. Factoring in last night’s loss in Houston, the Mavs are now 9-1 on the season when Wright scores 10 or more in a game. The statistical savant also recorded his first double-double of the season last night, pouring in 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting and grabbing 11 boards.

Wright has simply been phenomenal this season. He’s scoring 0.8 points per halfcourt touch right now, meaning every two times he touches the ball, he’s scoring 1.6 points. That’s an outrageous clip and only one player in the NBA who plays more than two minutes per game (Denver’s JaVale McGee) averages more points per touch. However, even he plays six fewer minutes per game than Wright and receives eight fewer touches per game. There really is no one like Wright.

Wright’s Week in Numbers
12.5 PPG 80.8 FG% (led team) 5.8 RPG 1.3 BPG 1.3 SPG 123.4 Offensive Rating 23.6 Net Rating

His 78.5 field goal percentage leads the league and would be the highest of all-time by a wide margin. Anthony Davis is the only player with a PER higher than Wright’s 31.1 (30 is considered extraordinary), per Basketball-Reference. His 161.1 offensive rating is 22.5 points higher than second-place Courtney Lee’s 138.5 and he’s worth more win shares per 48 minutes this season than anyone in the NBA.

Drive And Find

Jose Barea drives and finds Brandan Wright for the alley-oop slam.

You could go on and on about a player like him because he truly is one-of-a-kind. For a player who plays relatively few minutes — only 18.9 per game, though it’s a career-high — to be worth that many win shares and have a PER that high is mind-boggling. Stats like PER favor heavy-minute players because the stat factors in overall production into the equation. This means Wright makes the most of his minutes when he’s on the floor — even more surprising when you consider his usage rate is only eighth-highest on the team. He finds ways to make an impact off the ball.

If Wright can maintain even 95 percent of his efficiency and productivity for the rest of the season, he’s going to have one of the most outstanding statistical season in league history.

STAT OF THE WEEK6

Last night’s defeat in Houston ended a six-game winning streak, the Mavs’ longest of the season and best overall since the 2011-12 season. You have to go back to the 2010-11 season to find the last time Dallas won six or more in a row at least twice in a season — at one point that season, the Mavs won 18 of 19 games.

The next six are going to be tough, but the six on the other side are going to be even more difficult. Dallas will play Indiana and New York at home next week before going on a four-game trip that will take the team through Toronto, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Milwaukee. Three of those teams are .500 or better and Toronto has the best record in basketball. Following that run, Dallas will play Phoenix, Milwaukee again, Memphis, New Orleans, Golden State, and New York again. The Mavs have plenty of games against playoff-worthy foes approaching, which means there are bound to be some really close, entertaining contests to come in the near future — similar to the games we saw against Washington and Houston this past week.

The Mavs will have to play some outstanding ball to win six straight during the next 12, but anything is possible. The Mavs have lost four games this season but have been in the lead toward the end in two of those games. You’ll go crazy playing this game, but their record is that close to 12-2. Learning to win in the clutch is something that takes time for teams with tons of new players, but unfortunately in the West you don’t have a lot of time to figure stuff out. The Mavs are going to be tested during the next month, and the onus is on them to turn close games into wins. That’s how winning streaks are born, and that’s how contenders are made.

Game 12: Mavs at Wizards

Highlights: Mavs vs. Wizards – 11/19/14

The Mavs increased their win streak to five games after pulling out a hard-fought 105-102 win over Washington.

Game 11: Mavs at Hornets

Highlights: Mavs vs. Hornets – 11/17/14

Monta Ellis scores 18 points, Chandler Parsons adds 17 points and nine rebounds as the Mavericks defeat the Hornets.

Preseason Game 5: Mavs at Pacers

Mavericks vs. Pacers

Chris Copeland scores 22 points, David west adds 16 points as the Pacers top the Mavericks 98-93.