Tyreke Evans had PRP injections to help a sore knee, and he responded with one of his best games of the season in Atlanta.
J. Michael, IndyStar
INDIANAPOLIS — The obstacles for Tyreke Evans to clear to fully blend with the Indiana Pacers are many, from adjusting his playing style to adhering to team rules to a right knee that routinely gives him trouble.
Last week, when the Pacers played at the Brooklyn Nets, Evans visited his surgeon to get treatment after having his knee drained didn’t do the trick. He missed three games with a bruise that limited his effectiveness since all 250 pounds of Joel Embiid fell on him in a game Dec. 14.
A PRP injection, platelet-rich plasma, may have fixed him at least for the short-term. Evans’ own plasma is used in the procedure to alleviate his discomfort.
“I felt a lot better. I was moving better, running faster, pain free,” Evans said Thursday, after he had his best game of the season by making 7 of 9 shots for 19 points in a win at the Atlanta Hawks. “I felt great.”
Evans had three right knee procedures, not including fluid drainage and a blood clot in his calf, in a nine-month span from 2015-16. He had loose particles removed, a chip removed after a clash of knees with a teammate in practice and an auto-graft which essentially is a cartilage transfer.
It wasn’t just Evans’ knee that looked better. His decision-making was improved, too. He only had one turnover. In the nine games he played before sitting because of knee pain, Evans had 30 turnovers.
That’s a lot for any player but especially a reserve guard. Evans’ offensive capabilities still make him a significant upgrade behind Victor Oladipo and it’s that upside that the Pacers are counting on.
He might’ve had a better start with the Pacers had he received a PRP shot before the season like he’d had in 2017.
“I didn’t think I needed it until I started playing,” Evans said. “I felt sluggish.”
Evans needs the ball to find a rhythm, a demand easily accommodated on bad teams. That conflicts with the Pacers, however, who desire to move it more. They had eight players score in double-figures in Atlanta.
Both sides have had to adjust. Evans gave it up quickly and got it back to finish Wednesday. Or he’d give it up, get it back, draw the defense and give it up again to get a teammate a better shot. He had five assists in 19 minutes.
He has to figure out when to get his and when to set-up others. A good ballhandler, Evans isn’t a natural point guard. He remains a scorer first.
“Makes a huge difference for us. When Victor is off the floor he is a guy who can create offense for us. The defense has to pay attention to him,” said Pacers coach Nate McMillan, who suspended Evans for one game early in the season for habitual tardiness. “It opens up things for your offense. That’s the guy we thought we were getting. He’s had a roller-coaster ride so far this season but last night he’s showed what he’s capable of.”
Evans’ play with Domantas Sabonis was a bright spot in the preseason but it didn’t last. Defenses adjusted to him. They go under the screens to help on the roller and gap their coverage on Evans to give him the mid-range shot because that isn’t his strength.
It’s about Evans getting to the rim, the foul line or making 3s. If he does all three, the 6-6 combo guard is problem matchup. The key for him is not taking so many shots in traffic which leads to the turnovers and accuracy issues (career-low 37.5 percent overall shooting).
“Hopefully it continues on and we take this thing to the next level with him,” forward Thaddeus Young said of Evans. “That’s one of the pieces that we’ve been missing. He’s given it to us some games and he hasn’t given it to us some games.”
McMillan understands what he has in Evans is unique and is willing to work through it. The payoff can be significant but it just may take longer than expected.
“They’re going to have the ball in their hands a little bit more,” McMillan said while alluding to ball-dominant guards such as James Harden and Brandon Roy, the latter of whom played for him in Portland. “Sometimes there’s a little less ball movement but I’ll take that guy.”