Maurice Evans Interview, Part Two

Maurice Evans Interview, Part Two
May 19, 2005, 04:41 am
Part one of our interview with Maurice Evans can be found here

Jonathan Givony: So Maurice, what happened in the months of July and August after you went undrafted?

Maurice Evans: We got calls from different teams who were interested, who were supposed to be in my draft range or whatever. We looked at rosters and we decided that in Minnesota we have a great chance at making a team. They didn't have any draft picks for a while, and they were in dire need of athleticism at the shooting guard position, so we went there, but the opportunity just never presented itself. I went to summer league for them, and after two days they offered me a contract. They said that they wanted to initially draft me at #46, and they were shocked that I was still there, but Loren Woods fell to them too and they couldn't pass on drafting a guy with that much size and potential. And I have to agree with them, that was a great pick.

Jonathan Givony: For sure. He's still in the league. You can't ask for much more than that four years later in the 2nd round.

Maurice Evans: Definitely. So they got two steals in that draft, two guys who were supposed to be first rounders with only one 2nd rounder. But neither one of us really got an opportunity to play very much, so we didn't have a chance to get better. Let me tell you, you don't get better sitting on the end of anyone's bench in the NBA. Not unless you play.

Jonathan Givony: That's something that's interesting to me, because a lot of really young prospects these days say Maybe in two years I can be a lottery pick, but now I can be a late first rounder. So I know I have a lot to work on, but I'll just go to the NBA and learn on the job. So how much are these kids hurting their development as a player by rotting on the end of someone's bench for 2-3 years? How much skill work IS there in an actual NBA practice?

Maurice Evans: It's very difficult for a guy who doesn't play to get better in an NBA setting. First of all your practices are minimized drastically once you start the season. When you are playing an 82 game season, over the course of only 6 months, you don't have a lot of time to get in there and practice. You are preparing for one game and then recapping the last one. Not to mention all the traveling involved. So its not likely that there are going to take those IR guys and 10th, 11th, 12th guys and practice against them full speed against the starters. You're not going to do that in abundance. There are going to be some individuals and some workouts, but if you're not playing, it's really hard to get better. If you're someone who can play on a consistent basis, those guys are always getting better. That's why I think I made the right decision to go to Europe. I played every other night, dealing with real game time situations, and I got better. I didn't get that in Minnesota. I played in 10 games, averaged 2 points in garbage time or whatever, I didn't get better doing that. Even as much as I was in the gym working on my skills and putting up shots, I didn't have that in-game experience.

Jonathan Givony: So after that rookie season in Minnesota, you were a free agent after that? You went to summer league?

Maurice Evans: Actually, I had a two year deal with Minnesota, so I wasn't a free agent, they just had an option on me. So I went to summer league again, and training camp, and for whatever reason they decided to go in another direction. They released me. So I went to Greece to go play for Olimpiakos. I was released on October 25th by Minnesota. On October 27th I was already in Athens. Two days later I played in my first game in Europe. They had already started their season, they were like in 7th place, so they had a great need. I came in right away, started scoring lots of points, playing defense, just playing and getting better.

Jonathan Givony: So just so our readers know, you played for Olimpiakos in both the Euroleague and in the Greek A1 league.

Maurice Evans: Yeah, we did a really good job in the Euroleague. We made it to the 2nd round, of 16 teams, and finished as the 5th or 6th team in the whole competition. We had the opportunity to beat Barcelona, the team that eventually won the Euroleague, and had we won that game we would have been in the final four.

Jonathan Givony: Correct me if I'm wrong, but its not really accepted for a player your age, a European rookie at age 23 or so, to sign a deal with a Euroleague team. Usually they sign much older players no?

Maurice Evans: No you don't find American players that young playing in the Euroleague. You usually get guys who are at the end of their NBA career, like Dominique Wilkens did. My team Olimpiakos was pretty happy with the way I played, they were excited. Tried to lock me up to a long term deal, but I wasn't interested. I just wanted one year deals in Europe, because I always wanted to leave myself the possibility of returning to the NBA.

Jonathan Givony: Right. So after a really good season in Greece and the Euroleague, you went back again to the States for summer league. Who did you work out for this time?

Maurice Evans: I played summer league with Toronto, only a couple of games, two games with them before I went to play with the Washington Wizards. They eventually decided to keep Mitchell Butler over me.

Jonathan Givony: So did you have any training camp invites?

Maurice Evans: I had training camp invites, but I wasn't interested in a non-guaranteed training camp invite. I had to make a decision regarding the contracts I had on the table from Europe. So I went and signed with Benneton Treviso, and had a great year with them. A fabulous year. It's just a well coached team, Ettore Messina is probably one of the best coaches I've ever had, really knowledgeable about the game. It's not hard to see why they are always a top team in Europe. We competed in the Euroleague, and we competed in the Italian league, which is considered the best league in Europe along with Spain.

Jonathan Givony: So this year, for the first time in a while there are actually quite a few draftable players coming out of Italy. Did you ever go up against any of them?

Maurice Evans: Well Andrea Bargnani was on my team. He played in a few games, not that much, but he still did play a little bit. He has a ton of potential. Uros Slokar and Manuchar Markoishvili, both on my team. All these guys are really talented, and can absolutely flat out play. These are the guys I am practicing with every single day, and they go hard, they play hard, made our practices really intense. We had a great coach, a great GM, Maurizio Gherardini, him and Ettore Messina put together a really great team over there. Just a great system. Those prospects, whether they come over as stars or whatever, they are going to come to the NBA as polished players. Guys who are actually pretty good and have a great work ethic and hunger to get better.

Jonathan Givony: So as someone that practiced with Bargnani everyday, how would you describe him as an NBA prospect?

Maurice Evans: He's extremely athletic, he can shoot the heck out of the ball, he reminds me of a young Dirk. He has that type of potential. If he gains weight and continues to progress, that's the level he'll be on one day. He's a 7 foot guard.

Jonathan Givony: So how would you describe your overall experience in Europe? What did you learn and how much better of a player did you become?

Maurice Evans: I was always confident, but I just finally had a chance to be featured. I always had the work ethic, but now I had people who believed in me and were willing to invest in me and I got better. All I needed to do was play. Once that happened, everything else fell into place. We won a lot, we were well coached, and we made each other better. I really enjoyed it.

Jonathan Givony: What do you think are the main differences between practices in the NBA and practices in Europe?

Maurice Evans: Practices over there are just way more intense. We have two of them a day. They have a workman like attitude towards everything they do. The players here are way more talented, but there is some talent in Europe too. They just don't get as much respect as the NBA. Guys can play in Europe, that's why we went over there, our national team, and we got beat the way we did. We underestimated their talent level.

Jonathan Givony: Talking about the USA teamI'm hearing that for the qualifying tournament in Santo Domingo for the 2006 World Championships, they aren't going to invite NBA stars this time, since they only need to finish in the top 4 of 8 teams in order to qualify. So they are going to go with guys who play or played in Europe, go with guys who know the international game. They want to build up a pool of role players that they can draw from for future tournaments. So I'm thinking you might be a guy that they'll look at, since you played at the highest level of competition there, and you were considered a very good player, you're proven over there. Would you consider playing in a tournament like that, for team USA?

Maurice Evans: I would LOVE to play in something like that. That would be awesome. It's not just so much having players who understand the International game, but it's also a matter of playing hard. Appreciating everything and feeling like they WANT to be there, in order to help their team and get better. If you just take stars, guys who are really talented but maybe don't really want to be there, then they shouldn't be there. There are guys who play for the national team in Italy for example, they've played together on that national team for years on end and they are excited to go out and represent their country, regardless of how long their season was. They have a point to prove when they go up against the US. So if you go up against them with the wrong attitude, of course you are going to get beat.

Jonathan Givony: As a player that has played in both Europe and in the NBA, going up against some 2nd unit players from NBA teams that come in at the end of the 1st quarter, beginning of the 2nd quarter or whateverwhat do you think is the difference between star players in Europe and 6th or 7th men in the NBA? How big is the drop off in talent there? Talking about a guy like Arvydas Macijuaskas or Anthony Parker, who is widely considered to be the #1 player in Europe right now.

Maurice Evans: Anthony Parker can play in the NBA. He's very talented. There's not a whole lot of difference. I think that it's a bit interchangeable, you can take guys who come off the bench in the NBA and put them in Europe or vice versa, and they will be stars too. The NBA is stocked with talent. There is a maximum of 450 players who can play in the NBA, between 30 teams and 15 roster spots for each team. Anthony Parker, if he decided to come back to the NBA, given all his talent and all the success he had, could definitely be a great 6th, 7th or 8th man. Unless he was put in an extraordinary situation where he'd be given more of a chance to shine. I think he could come in and do a great jobscore points, and do all the things that someone like Bobby Simmons is doing for the Clippers. Bobby Simmons finally got the opportunity to play, but he had that same talent long before he was given the opportunity to prove himself.

Jonathan Givony: So after the fantastic season you had with Benneton, being named the Italian league player of the year by Eurobasket, you came back to the States and once again had to go to summer league to try and earn a roster spot. This was what, your third summer league campaign in a row?

Maurice Evans: My fourth year in a row.

Jonathan Givony: So you went to play with Washington's summer league, I watched you there in Orlando. What do you think happened there?

Maurice Evans: I played with Washington's summer league team again, and it was kind of a disappointing experience for me, for the simple fact that it was already proven that I could play. I wasn't going to summer league to show them that I could play. I was trying to figure out where I could fit in that system, but they didn't really utilize me in that system. I started for them, and tried to do all the little things for them, but at the end of the day they had three of their former draft picks [Jarvis Hayes, Steve Blake, Jared Jeffries] there and I was the fifth option on the team. Every time I was out there, everyone else was already Washington affiliated, so it wasn't quite clear to me what they wanted me to show. They knew I could shoot it, they knew I could slash, rebound and play defense, I just didn't know what they wanted me to show them to prove that I could play for the Washington Wizards. So after that, they asked me to join their other summer league team in Vegas, and after four years of doing that I pretty much knew what that meant. If they weren't able to make a decisionit's like we just talked about regarding declaring for the draft, you are either serious about it or you're not. And if you're not, then we are all wasting our time. So I said you know, if you want to sign me, great, if not, we'll pursue another avenue. I had contract offers on the table for over a million dollars in Europe, and they wanted me to go to another summer league to earn maybe 600,000 dollars. So that didn't make sense. After that, I got a very lucrative offer from Russia, and I went to go play in Moscow.

Jonathan Givony: That's what we heard. So you went to Moscow, settled in, and this isn't really well publicized, but for some reason you got up and left soon after and went to join the Kings in training camp?

Maurice Evans: Yeah, it was an unfortunate situation in Moscow. This was right when the kids got taken hostage in the schools in Russia [1,200 people were taken hostage in Beslan, over 330 people died], the election was going on and there was a big mess with the Chechen rebels, all kinds of things going on. There were terrorist attacks in Moscow, and I didn't feel comfortable playing there, making a lot of money if I wasn't going to be able to use it. I didn't feel comfortable playing in a league knowing I wasn't going to get better. The level there isn't as high as the level in Italy or Spain. So I had an opportunity due to my contract, there was a breach of contract, so I took advantage of that and I left.

Jonathan Givony: So you had a clause that said that you can get out of your contract and leave?

Maurice Evans: That's right. The agreement was, if they don't pay me for two weeks time, then the contract is void. People don't realize that contracts in Europe are not guaranteed. To me it wasn't always about the money, it was also about playing and getting better, but at the same time if you sign a contract you should honor it. For example in Olimpiakos in Greece, they didn't honor the full contract; they didn't pay me for the last three months. I didn't want to get into another situation like that.

They try to show good faith by giving you a lot up front, a percentage, and then you don't have to worry if things don't go right. If things don't go well you can just scrap it and that's it. So they gave me a lot of money up front, but then when it was time to make the first payment, they didn't pay me for like a month. That was already a lot of time for me. That was a sign like (sigh) here we goSo we researched again and saw an opportunity available in Sacramento and we explored it. I had to give back all the money to the Russian team, but I did that. Over half a million dollars, including agent fees and everything. My agent was willing to do that because that's the type of relationship that me and him have. So we gave back all the money to go to camp on a non-guaranteed contract.

Jonathan Givony: Wow. So how happy were they about that? I mean, yeah you left I guess, but if you bring a guy over to be one of the highest paid players in the Russian league, how do you not pay him already in the first month of the contract?

Maurice Evans: That I will never know, but I think that shows the character that Roger [Montgomery, his agent] and I have. We were never out there to take advantage of that Russian team. We had an agreement. They didn't hold up their end. We decided to leave and it worked out really well for us. We were blessed.

Jonathan Givony: So you went to Sacramento on a non-guaranteed minimum contract offer. Isn't that a little risky? To give up a million dollars and maybe end up with almost nothing if you would have been cut. After that, all the rosters are filled in Europe, you'd have probably ended up playing for pennies on the dollar compared with what you were scheduled to make at the beginning of the year. You still had to go fight with guys like Ricky Minard, David Bluthenthal, Matt Barnes and other dudes who at least had partially guaranteed deals.

Maurice Evans: It's extremely risky because you are giving up all your security opportunity wise. And second, you could be cutand that would have been a sticky situation, not to mention that regardless I would have been taking a big paycut compared with what I would have been making over there, after taxes and all. The money in Russia is tax-free. But still, I felt like those one million dollars weren't going to make or break me in my career. I felt like if I made it in this league and showed everyone the type of player that I am, the potential that I have, then money would have never been an issue. I knew that I always work hard, and I always put myself in the right situation and that people will recognize the talent that I have.

Jonathan Givony: When was the last time you've played for a team for more than one year?

Maurice Evans: Wichita State. So it's been about five years. I've been with six teams in that time.

Jonathan Givony: That's crazy man. I can't stand moving from one part of town to the other, I can only imagine what it's like when you are moving around the world like that.

Maurice Evans: I've had my furniture in storage for the last three years, I haven't seen it. Sometimes you have to make sacrifices in life. I'm just glad to have the right people around me. A great agency, a great agent, supportive parents, friends.

Being in a new situation every single year, you're learning a new system, having to continue with guys who are already established, guys that have been together for years. All kinds of hurdles that you need to overcome. So if you can be successful in that environmentimagine what you can do in a situation where you are comfortable.

Jonathan Givony: Completely off the trackAny thoughts on maybe participating in the NBA slam dunk contest? You had some ridiculous dunks this season. Some of them were on Sportscenter and some of them weren't, but you have to be considered one of the top dunkers in the league. How old are you? 25?

Maurice Evans: I just turned 26 recently. I would have loved to participate in the slam dunk contest this past year. I understand that there are some politics involved, but now with a season under my belt, and they know who I am, maybe next year I'll have the opportunity to do that, one year before its too late.

Jonathan Givony: Wait, so last year you wanted to be in it, but there were too many guys already? They only have 4 guys or something, I don't know why. They should have 8 or 10 like in college.

Maurice Evans: Yeah, I wanted to, but they were waiting on Lebron I guess. Nike already had my shoe made up for me and everything, but it just didn't happen. I never got the confirmation to allow me to be in it. Hopefully next year, the opportunity will present itself. What's funny is that my agent represents Desmond Mason, who is a former slam dunk champion.

Jonathan Givony: From a scouting perspective, you never were considered a great shooter. Looking at your stats this year, you hit something like 25 threes on about 35%, which is decent, but I live in South Florida and we have Dwyane Wade here who is mostly a shooting guard this year who barely ever takes threes. Do you think that an NBA shooting guard has to hit threes to be effective?

Maurice Evans: I think that you can be effectivethere are many ways to be effective rather than just being one dimensional, only shooting threes or only driving. Having a mid-range game for example, that helps. It doesn't make sense to say you have to do one necessary thing well to be a good player. I think that my three point shooting is underrated. People will say that I can't shoot threes or that I'm not a good shooter, but if you look at the games where I took a considerable number of threes, I always did pretty well. It's also a matter of the system you play in. We don't play like San Antonio or Seattle where they swing the ball around and you get those shots. I didn't get many chances to shoot threes because that wasn't my role. We were a slashing, cutting, running type of team this year, and I was never the first, second, third or fourth option in that system. But looking at some of the offensive games I had, and my scoring average for the minutes I played, that should show you that I can put the ball in the hoop when my team needs me to. I took pride in my defense, my rebounding and being a good teammate, but when I was asked to, I think I showed that I could most definitely score too.

Jonathan Givony: What are some other parts of your game that you think people will get to see more of next year in a bigger role?

Maurice Evans: Honestly I think that people underestimate my basketball IQ. I understand the game and I can pick up on things quicker than people give me credit for. Whenever I get in a ball-handling role, a situation where I can handle the ball a little bit more, I think people will be able to see more of my passing game. Just the way my entire game is starting to come around. I handled the ball a lot last year in pick and roll situations, and I was able to do a good job breaking down defenses, reading when they go underneath screens, knocking down three point shots, getting to the bucket. I am really impressed with guys like Dwyane Wade, listening to his interview the other day after he scored 42 points, setting a franchise record and all that. People were constantly wondering how does he get to the rim, how does he score points when he's not really a jump shooter at this point. You would think that people would be able to take away what he wants to do, everyone knows that he wants to drive. But he says he always stays confident, he knows he can knock down his one dribble pull-up. So that's what he did to set up his move, he went to his pull-up, and then when the defense is off-balance—they don't know if he is going to shoot or drive—so he just explodes on them and goes right to the basket. But that's what you have to be able to do, you have to be able to make adjustments in your game. When people were going to back off and disrespect my shooting ability, those were the games that I went 3-3 or 4-4 from behind the arc. I'm just really looking forward to being able to go out there and play, log a little more minutes next year and getting the opportunity to help my team.

Jonathan Givony: Maurice, I really appreciate all your time man. It's been a fascinating interview. Thanks a lot and best of luck this summer.

Maurice Evans: No problem Jonathan. See ya.

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