OAKLAND – Imagine sitting on your couch watching the NBA Finals as a 20-year-old college basketball player. You see Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green silence the Cleveland Cavaliers in four games. The state of Ohio, where you played your college basketball, sees the likely last glimpse of its’ greatest player ever witnessed put to absolute shame by a team that seems to be unbeatable.
Fast forward two weeks. You have your 21st birthday and three days later, you’re waiting to see when your name is called in the NBA Draft. The end of the first round approaches and finally, you receive a call from your agent and then Steve Kerr and Bob Myers, confirming and congratulating that you’ve been picked by the Golden State Warriors.
Then, you hear those magic words from NBA commissioner Adam Silver on TV: “With the 28th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Golden State Warriors select Jacob Evans, from the University of Cincinnati.”
It’s real. At least it is for Evans, who, three months later, just played his first full game with the team that ran LeBron James out of the state of Ohio – the same state where Evans attended school.
What is it like to be thrown into the fray with those basketball icons, months after watching them on TV? Evans admitted there were a few nerves.
“I was really excited, a little nervous, but once the game got started, it was a lot of fun watching the vets get out there do their thing, then us having a chance to come in and do our thing, so it was a lot of fun today,” Evans said.
The rookie didn’t appear to be intimidated on the court, although his stats weren’t spectacular. He finished with four points, two rebounds and three steals, but also went 0-for-3 from three-point range and committed three personal fouls in nearly 16 minutes. But in his first game, Evans, with a beaming smile stretching from cheek-to-cheek, said he was happy.
“It’s my first NBA game, so of course I want to get my points, just being able to say I scored in an NBA game,” Evans said. “So I’m pretty happy, but I know I see what I have to work on. I see a few things I could get better at, a few mistakes on defense I made, but all-in-all, I feel pretty good.”
Evans didn’t shy away from the fact that he needs to keep working.
“On defense, I messed up a couple rotations, or I rotated when I wasn’t supposed to, gave up an open shot,” Evans said. “A couple soft fouls underneath the goal. Gave up some easy and-ones. You can’t give up easy points like that, especially layups. You want to foul them, you make sure they can’t get it up, earn it at the free throw line.”
As a guard/forward player, Evans fills a role that the Warriors need. When Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson are off the floor, Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston often occupy the 2-3 roles. But Iguodala went down last season, leaving a hole for Patrick McCaw to fill. McCaw has yet to sign the Warriors’ $1.74 million qualifying offer or report to training camp.
McCaw’s offer expires October 1st, at which point he’d become a restricted free agent. If McCaw leaves the Warriors, it could leave Evans with a crucial wing role off the bench. When asked about the Warriors’ young centers, who will likely play by committee this season, Evans displayed an understanding of how the Warriors have meshed so effectively.
“I think they’re handling it pretty good,” Evans said of Damian Jones, Kevon Looney and Jordan Bell. “They’re just trying to play within themselves, play within the system. Honestly, that what works. As a fan, watching this team, you never see anyone try to just do it by themselves. They all trust each other and I feel like they’ve been doing that.”
Evans said he got most of the jitters out of the way in training camp. That’s when the reality of his Warriors career hit him.
“We went in lines to do layups and I’m like, ‘Man,’ you look to your left you see KD, you look to your right you see Steph and it’s like, ‘Oh, we here,'” Evans said. “It was a lot of fun, we prepared all week for this, me and the other guys just tried to come in here and show what we can do.”