CHICAGO — More than any of their NBA peers, the nine members of the National Basketball Players Association’s executive committee gave the most – in time and effort – toward salvaging this post-lockout season. Everyone dealt with the uncertainty and inactivity of the elongated offseason prior to, finally, this hectic 2011-12 schedule. It’s just that the NBPA exec committee dealt with it in coats and ties, in hotel ballrooms, from morning to night (and sometimes on to morning again), enduring all the rhetoric that took most of five months before it distilled into true negotiating .
Too bad they’re not enjoying it more.
Washington’s Maurice Evans, one of the union VPs, had a rare upbeat night against the Bulls Monday at United Center. He scored 14 points in 26:28 off the bench to help the Wizards bag a road victory, 87-84, over the team with the NBA’s best record. It was just his 19th appearance of the season (his third over the past four weeks) and only the second time he has scored in double figures.
But it has been that way for Evans, a journeyman on a team committed to a) young players and b) lottery position. He has averaged 3.4 points and 11.4 minutes when he has participated, down from 9.7 and 27.4 in 2010-11.
He has company among the union brass. NBPA president Derek Fisher, of course, was traded from his beloved Lakers, then cut loose by Houston before landing nicely with Oklahoma City. Fisher’s stats are off a bit too: 5.5 ppg, 24.4 mpg now, 6.8 and 28.0 then.
Roger Mason Jr., another VP, had bumped up his numbers with Washington compared to his limited role with New York last season (5.5 ppg in 13.4 mpg vs. 2.9 in 12.3). But Mason underwent surgery Monday on his left index finger and was cut so the Wizards could sign Morris Almond.
Fellow VPs Keyon Dooling, James Jones and Matt Bonner have labored through seasons that, in one way or another, have been more challenging. Then there’s Theo Ratliff and Etan Thomas, out of the NBA entirely this season. Only Clippers playmaker Chris Paul, among the committee members, has had a better season both individually (19.5 ppg, 9.0 apg, 36.3 mpg vs. 15.9, 9.8 and 36.0 in New Orleans).
A couple of factors might be at work. Fisher and most of the VPs are veterans and role players, so opportunity and job security often are harder to come by. Spending so much of their summer in meetings couldn’t have helped, though, when other players were in the gym or even relaxing.
Evans’ performance Monday wasn’t taken for granted, then, either by him or by his team.
“Mo Evans, for not playing [much], taught all those young guys in there,” Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. “ I’ve said to ‘em all along, because you play so many young guys, you don’t have a set lineup, ‘This league’s all about opportunity. [When] your opportunity comes, be ready.’ That’s what Mo was. He hasn’t got a lot of time this year because of where we’re at and the young guys we have. But with Mase going down and Morris [Almond] not knowing anything, just coming in here today, that’s what a professional is.”
Evans gave some credit to his union bud Mason, who was in the same spot as him. “Actually, I’ve never been through this before, where I’ve sat out this many games with seemingly no opportunity to play,” he said. “I’ve got to think Roger Mason being here … we’d go to chapel a lot. Not to sound all Tebow-ish but not really playing a lot, just maturing a lot and [having] a bright outlook to stay professional and continue to help these guys … then when the moment came, just take advantage of it.”