Even with John Wall‘s impressive, yet unspectacular rookie campaign, the Wizards are sitting at an ugly 20-56, ahead of only Cleveland in the East. Some of their young talent has taken advantage of the playing-time opportunities on a roster that has just three players over 30 years old. Some other players haven’t. What about a guy like Mo Evans, actually the oldest player on the team? Not only was he traded during the core of the season, but also went from being a glue guy on a playoff team in Atlanta to an old vet on one of the worst teams in the league. Still, he’s making the most of it. On the court, his numbers in D.C. have increased to 28 minutes and 10 points per game. And off the court, he told me he’s been checking out everything the nation’s capital has to offer.
Recently, I got a chance to catch up with Evans, actually as he was on his way out with the family to check out some museums. Here are some cool excerpts from that where he speaks on the Wizards, remembers his terrible Draft night and also what he thinks about NBA salaries.
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Dime: The Wizards seem like they have a lot of young guys who like to joke around a lot and have fun. Anything you’ve seen from them so far that has made you laugh? Any guys that you’ve found that are just really big pranksters?
Mo Evans: They are all light-hearted guys. I just like the fact that they are all so optimistic and positive given that the team hasn’t had a lot of success on the court. A lot of times, a team would have a negative atmosphere, but this team has a positive atmosphere. Again, John Wall comes in every day with a smile on his face. He gets in early and he’s not afraid to work. He comes in and jokes. You know what I mean? Nick Young and Andray Blatche, they all seem to have a chemistry here where they just really enjoy one another’s company.
Dime: What are the team goals for you guys the rest of the year?
ME: The team goals are just to finish out strong and get better every day and to work on being a better team for the future, for next year, whether I’m a part of that or not. I’m just trying to help them get better and try to teach them all of the things that I have learned during my 10 years as a pro. That’s the same thing that Josh Howard and all of the veteran guys are trying to do.
Dime: Can you remember your reactions on Draft night when you weren’t drafted? How do you overcome something like that?
ME: For me, it was devastating. I had a draft party; it was small. It was just my girlfriend at the time, my mom and my dad, my sister, the kids, my agent and his wife. We had a draft party at his house. I remember specifics and all of that and I remember where I was projected in the Draft and I never saw my name. I had only worked out for teams in a specific draft range because I did so well in the combine. I had set a few records there. So everything was lined up for where I was supposed to be but for some reason, no one called my name…not in the first round or the second. I just remember going out to the curb and just crying. I was really, really hurt. My feelings were hurt. The next day I went back home. I took that night and I told myself the rest of that night, I was going to get it out then and be ready to work the next day. I went back into the gym with my dad and agent and we had a great, great workout. Two weeks later, I was signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves on a free-agent contract for two years, so that just shows that I know God had a plan for me and I know that it’s kinda the same way in the NBA. A lot of times, you have disappointments because you play so many games and you have to know how to push that aside, persevere and take those 24 hours to the next day or two that you have to get ready and refocus for the next game or you won’t be able to make it in this league. You have to have that resiliency and that resolve.
Dime: Your first couple of years in the league when you are still trying to make a name for yourself, how do you balance being a team player while at the same time looking out for yourself?
ME: It’s tough like that. I think that’s one of the problems in our league. We promote a team game, but we don’t pay players based upon being team players and playing their role. A guy can go out and play the heck out of his role and his role might mandate that he scores seven points a game. He might play 22, 23 minutes a game and be a great defender, a team player or do whatever is necessary for the team to be successful, while another player might be on a losing team where they don’t win any games but he has a different role, a role where he scores 15-16 points a game and then you misevaluate his talent. You pay the player who averages more, but the other player is actually a better player. You know what I mean? It’s really hard to find that balance and play within the framework of the team, and that’s where you just have to trust your organization and your team and hope that they value you the right way.
Dime: For you at this point in your career, what type of stuff are you working on? Are you trying to enhance the parts of the game you are already good at or are you trying to improve your weaknesses?
ME: For me at this point in my career, I think I’ve evolved into a more versatile player. When I first came in, I was really athletic. I could score the ball. My athleticism was more featured. Now, I’m not as nearly as athletic as I was. I’m still athletic enough to defend athletic players and attack the rim, finish at the rim, but now I’ve learned how to adapt my game to where I can play on any given team. I can play for teams where I don’t get plays run for me and still be successful and creating things on offense, whether it’s going to the offensive boards and creating steals, getting in passing lanes and running the court. I know I can play for teams like the Washington Wizards where I might be a little bit more featured and get more opportunities. Now, I can knock down three-point shots or take open shots and knock them down. I can create my own offense. I’ve learned how to play. So at this point, I’ve learned how to play and now I’m in a position where I can finish up and play another five years or so and still play at a high level and still be able to contribute to a team and not be a hinder.
What do you think? Is Evans right about NBA salaries?
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