Reggie Evans had a night to remember on Sunday
Ex-Hawkeye got "game ball" for L.A. Clippers' rally from 27 points down to a playoff win
It seems like a hundred years ago when Reggie Evans played basketball for Iowa, but it's "only" been 10.
There's been so much change and turbulence in Hawkeye hoops since Evans carried Iowa to the Big Ten tournament title in 2001. Evans had 51 rebounds in four days in 2001 as the sixth-seeded Hawkeyes won that tourney in Steve Alford's second season as Iowa's coach.
Iowa won three games at the 2002 Big Ten tourney before losing to Ohio State in the final, but needed that fourth win to go to back to the NCAA tourney a second-straight year. Evans had 44 rebounds in those four games.
Even though it again won the Big Ten tourney in 2006, Iowa basketball never felt as good under Alford as it did that 2001 weekend in Chicago when Evans did the dirty work, and guards Dean Oliver and Brody Boyd had terrific tourneys in carrying the Hawkeyes to four victories in Chicago.
After the Saturday semifinal win, Evans said the United Center crowd was chanting his two favorite words. Namely, "Reg-gie! Reg-gie!"
If he meant that to be a joke, it was a pretty good line. If he was being serious ... it was still a pretty good line.
Evans was the Big Ten's leading rebounder in both of his two seasons at Iowa after he arrived from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College. In 2001 he led the nation in free throws attempted and made, and he wasn't a great foul-shooter. Still isn't.
He wasn't taken in the 2002 NBA draft, but hooked on as a free agent with the Seattle Supersonics. He is still in the league, to the chagrin of the Memphis Grizzlies.
Sunday night, he had perhaps his finest NBA moment. His Los Angeles Clippers trailed by as many as 27 points, and were down 95-71 to the Grizzlies on the road with just eight minutes left. But in what would have been considered garbage time 99 times out of 100, Evans did what he does. He played hard. He seemed to infuse his teammates with a fire they sorely lacked for three quarters-plus. While the Grizzlies hibernated, the Clippers kept pushing.
Evans was on the floor the rest of the way. He had plenty of help, from hot-shooting guard Nick Young, and from the incredible Chris Paul. But Evans' 13 rebounds, 7 points, and physical clamp-down on Memphis forward Zach Randolph led Paul to say this after the game:
"Reggie Evans gets the game ball. He was unreal."
See, the Clippers came all the way back for a 99-98 victory in Game 1 of their Western Conference playoff series.
TNT's Charles Barkley said this: "Reggie Evans was fantastic."
TNT's Shaquille O'Neal said this: "The Clippers won the game because of Reggie Evans."
The Clippers are Evans' fifth team. In 2006 as a Toronto Raptor, he had one game with zero points and 20 rebounds. That was different.
Evans was injury-plagued the last two years in Toronto. Still, he was signed with the Clippers as a free agent shortly before this season started, to offer a physical presence off the bench. He averaged 13.8 minutes in 59 games, and scored but 1.9 points per game. But he did the things off the bench the Clippers wanted as they earned a playoff spot for the first time since 2006. Sure, MVP-candidate Paul had a little bit to do with that.
Just last week, Sports Illustrated posted results of a poll of over a hundred NBA players. Evans was voted the dirtiest player in the league. He was given the same distinction in 2010.
Evans made a distinct impression on the Clippers in 2010 when he played for Toronto.
That incident cost Evans a $10,000 fine from the NBA.
During Game 3 of the Philadelphia 76ers' first-round playoff series against the Detroit Pistons in 2008, Evans had 9 points and 5 rebounds, and gave the Sixers plenty of energy in their victory. There were chants of "Reg-gie! Reg-gie!" from the Philadelphia fans.
They weren't chanting anything in Memphis after Sunday night's game. They were probably wishing they had a Reg-gie of their own, though.
Reggie Evans? You mean the Clippers' rugged rebounding specialist who couldn't score in an open gym?
Somehow, Evans made the bookend buckets during that 26-1 run -- a layup that started it, then another after he caught a pass on the move from Paul on a pick-and-roll. If Evans has ever finished a play so artfully before -- much less one at such a crucial juncture -- please send over the tape.