Evans is all about hustle and heart, setting hard screens, rolling hard to the basket and boxing out.
Despite his extended absence in the wake of a left mid-foot injury, fans never forgot about Evans.
In five minutes, Evans never lost sight of what makes him tick and what qualities he brings to Toronto's table.
As expected, he lost his wind about two minutes into his debut.
Not surprisingly, he tried things he would normally not attempt, understandable given how excited he appeared.
All in all, it was quite the debut, a coming-out party that has no parallel in Raptors history.
"It felt good,'' Evans said following Toronto's 104-93 win. "I felt happy to get in there. After taking that charge, I thought of laying down for a minute."
Wednesday night was going to be the first time all season that Jay Triano had his full 15-man roster at his disposal. But prior to the morning shootaround, the team learned Hedo Turkoglu was dealing with an illness in his family and would not be available. So, Triano opted to go with Sonny Weems at small forward in his place. Antoine Wright and Weems have each made two starts for Turkoglu, but by going with Weems, Triano's rotation is less affected with Wright coming off the bench.
For DeRozan and Weems, the break is going to be in Dallas where the former will be taking part in the first Dunk-In event on Friday to gain entry to the actual slam dunk contest the following night.
DeRozan says his confidence right now is sky high and the fact that he and his best friend, Weems, made their first start together Wednesday night only added to it.
“It’s fun when we’re out there together,” DeRozan said. “We just get out there and run and help everyone out by bringing energy.
“It’s hard to guard me and Sonny when we’re on the wings and we’re coming backdoor like that. You just don’t know which way it’s coming from.”
Three times in the course of about four minutes in the second quarter, Weems and DeRozan took turns throwing down dunks off almost picture-perfect lob passes from Jose Calderon.
As well as the Raptors have played heading into this weekend’s all-star break, they could always use an upgrade with the intent hope of winning a playoff series, an achievement that hasn’t been seen since the days of Vince Carter.
Whatever Colangelo has up his sleeve, any move that gets consummated must ensure that the Raptors remain below the league’s tax threshold.
Peddie admitted the board will allow the Raptors to be a tax team next season when basketball revenues are expected to decline, causing both the salary cap and tax threshold to decrease.
But that’s for another day, which also applies to the potential of offering Colangelo an extension to his current deal.
As Peddie pointed out, there’s no urgency to discuss an extension.
“There’s plenty of time," Peddie said. “The focus is on this year.”
Early in the second quarter, Willie Green misses a long jumper which yields a long rebound that Belinelli corrals. Without a second of hesitation, he’s off on the break with Amir Johnson running beside him.
Now, I’m immediately thinking Marco’s going all the way to the rim and something wild might happen but he ends up making a perfect pass to Johnson for a dunk.
Two things about what’s little more than a routine play:
In past years, the Raptors didn’t really have a backup wing – or a starter for that matter – who’d get that ball and go, which is exactly what Jay wants. Jamario? You shuddered at his ball-handling skills. Joey? A charge waiting to happen. Jason Kapono? Yeah, right.
That’s why this team gets so much in transition when it gets stops, because it has guys who can get it and go and it seldom did before.
Colangelo's contract in Toronto runs through the end of the 2010-11 season, and although the club has always carried an option to terminate the deal after this season, Peddie said Colangelo will be staying on. A decision to retain Colangelo was recently made by the board of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, the company that owns the Raptors.
"Bryan knows he's coming back, and he's going to be our general manager through the remainder of this year and next season. That's official," said Peddie.
Said Colangelo: "I'm very pleased that that's the decision that's been made. And I'm thankful to the board for their vote of confidence.
"I've expressed my commitment to this city and this franchise and the fans, and hope it's an even longer-term scenario in the future. For now, to take this step … I'm very pleased."
"I'm just glad I got a couple of stops on him (Williams). They put me in to play defence. That was my role and I did it," said Weems.
"Every time we scored, they'd take the ball out as fast as they could, throw it to him (Williams) and he'd just go up and down the court.
"We just had to lock down because he was on fire, we had to slow him down; we threw a couple of bigger bodies, me and Antoine (Wright) at him, to slow him down and we did."
The luxury afforded Triano in that circumstance is having more than one swingman capable of locking down an opponent. While Weems was handing Williams on the game's most crucial possessions, Wright was shutting down Andre Iguodala, helping hold the leading Sixers scorer to eight points on 3-for-12 shooting and harassing him into a game-high five turnovers.
"I thought he was good. He worked hard. He did what we thought he'd do. He got completely gassed," Raptors coach Jay Triano said. "We needed to get him on the floor, I felt, going into the break to get him fired up about coming back."
"It made me want to work even harder, to be ready to give them that all-out 48 minutes," Evans said of the chants. "You've got to look at it: times are hard right now. People are working hard to try to make ends meet. They're working hard to come to these games, so you want to give them good work, make it worth their money."
And indeed, Evans and his team go into the all-star break on a high. Evans is finally back on the floor, and the Raptors, despite giving away a 23-point lead to Philadelphia, have won eight of nine games and are now a season-high six games over .500.
Raptors extend their home win streak to eight games
How are the fans different here? "It's totally different with us being an international team. I remember coming to one game, and there were 200 people from Turkey just really behind (Hedo Turkoglu) and proud to see him. Seeing these people coming to support their players is unbelievable. We have a big Spanish following, a big Italian following."
Do you speak Canadian yet? "Noooo. I don't say 'ooout' and 'abooout.' I don't say 'eh,' either. I don't think that's ever going to rub off on me. I laughed at it when I first got here. I knew about the backgrounds and how French is really big in this country. My father speaks French. He's from Louisiana so he's got that whole Creole thing going."
Obviously, Eddie Jordan went back in the locker room at the half, looked at whatever he looks at, tarot cards maybe, and decides "Hey, I should go small to start the second half." He comes out with a lineup featuring Iguodala at the four, Willie Green at the three and Royal Ivey at the two. A moronic idea that paid off with an immediate 9-0 spurt by the Raptors. Jordan's next move was to send Thad in for Willie and Speights in for Dalembert. A minute and a half later, Jrue's night was done.
Andrea Bargnani added another three with 41 seconds remaining to solidify Toronto’s victory; his bucket coming in between two Williams turnovers.
“It was a minute twenty to go, something like that, we still had time it was a four-point game. But I thought the Bargnani three hurt us more at the time,” Eddie Jordan said.
The Raptors shot a sizzling 60 percent in the first quarter; the Sixers’ defense was not on par with what it had been the past 10 games when they were holding opponents to 44 percent from the floor and out-rebounding opponents on average by six. Fortunately for the Sixers, they too were making shots – 57 percent of them – which kept them within striking distance at 30-24 after one.
Williams, still trying to get acclimated to his new role as a sub, scored 10 straight points in the third quarter to start a comeback, then scored 10 straight again in the fourth to help the Sixers erase the deficit. Young's fastbreak layup with 2:06 remaining tied the game at 93-93.
But on the next possession, guard Jose Calderon made a three-pointer from the left corner as Green was called for a slapping foul. Calderon made the subsequent free throw for a 97-93 lead and Bargnani hit a trey from the top of the key with 41 seconds left to seal the Raptors' eighth win in their last nine games.
TMZ spoke with Toronto Raptors star DeMar DeRozan who told us he will definitely be using elements from "Thriller" when he throws down in Dallas on Saturday night.
Of the third quarter, Jordan said, "We couldn't make a shot, but it was a nine-point game. I went with a smaller lineup, so it backfired. It happens."
Brand said he "guessed" the strategy was to run on the Raptors, whose lineup boosts the 6-foot-10 Bosh and the 7-foot Andrea Bargnani.
"I don't call the shots," Brand said. "I just go out there and play the best I can. I didn't think it was my fault, but I'm easy to get pulled, it seems. . . . Maybe they're getting prepared for something else, I don't know. Maybe I won't be here."
After a rough start of the season when the Raptors couldn’t defend against a high school team, Toronto has played much better defense, the offense has always been there, and that’s the reason why their record improved and the expectations around this team have finally been reached.
Numbers prove that the key for Toronto’s success is defense. They remain undefeated when holding opponents under 100 points. The return of Evans is expected to bring toughness & rebounding to a team that has been lacking just that. As the Raptors start to play better D, they start to beat weaker opponents more easily and start to stand up against the powerhouses.
Jarrett Jack speaks with the media follwing the Raptors' win over the Sixers.
Chris Bosh speaks with the media following the Raptors' win over the Sixers.
Sonny Weems talks to the media following the Raptors win over the 76ers.
Jose Calderon talks to the media following the Raps win against Philadelphia Wednesday night
# The Raptors were 9 games back of Boston after the first quarter of the season. They're now 4 games back
# Schedules matter… yes, the Raptors are beating good and bad teams of late, but playing bad teams helps build your confidence, as opposed to continually playing good teams (which hurts it)… for further evidence of this point, see the record of the Suns, who had a creampuff schedule early on, and have crashed back to earth
Before we get to the predictions, I have to say a few words about the win against Philadelphia. It’s funny how, when they were up by 20+, I really didn’t see how they would let the Sixers back in the game the way they were playing, but of course they did. It’s what makes them fun to watch, I guess. And however frustrating it is, and dangerous, it is also reassuring that they can do that but still come through when it counts. The Raptors went on a 9-0 run to finish the game after the Sixers tied the game at 93. Ya, they shouldn’t have let them back in the game, but to finish a game like that is impressive.
* Bargnani played decent defense throughout the game and shut down Elton "No Name" Brand all by himself on several occasions. He shot the ball well but was cold again from the arc. He did hit the dagger 3 pointer when it counted though his team seemed to forget about him on the offensive end with all the excitement create by Reggie and the dunkfest that was going on by the twins.
* Bosh? He was Bosh, solid as usual and I can't really remember the last time he's had a bad game. Mr. Dependable is who he is and that's exactly what makes him special.
Talk about Reversal of Fortunes. The Raptors played very well in the first 3 quarters and almost gave away the game in the fourth quarter, but manage to hang on to win by 11 points. Usually, it’s the other way around, the Raptors would play 3 uninspiring quarters on defense and then go on a run in the 4th to win the game.
How good is Jay Triano getting at managing his bench? There was a time this season when everyone and their grandmother was questioning the way Triano utilized his bench, but now? He is utilizing Antoine Wright and Sonny Weems as defensive substitutions that have been most effective at the end of ballgames. He interchanges Jack and Calderon depending on what style he wants to play. Case in point: Calderon played key minutes in the fourth when Jay wanted to run a more controlled offense to combat the Sixers run. Triano then took Calderon out of the game and used Weems, Jack and Wright in the key defensive possessions at the end of the game.