Evans is back in action for Wizards

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Sports,Craig Stouffer

Veteran forward brings stability to young team

It was easy for the Wizards not to play Maurice Evans at the start of the season.

Coming off his heavy involvement in negotiating an end to the NBA lockout, Evans hadn't quite spent the same amount of time in the gym as some of the other players. The Wizards also had a logjam at small forward after taking Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton in the NBA Draft.

Evans didn't help matters when his right knee had to be drained at the beginning of the season. But as interim coach Randy Wittman searches for a balance between playing his young players and being competitive, Evans is one of the few guys who can help the Wizards do both.

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Knicks at Wizards
When » Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Where » Verizon Center
TV » CSN
Rashard Lewis didn't practice Tuesday due to left knee soreness that kept him out of Monday's game against Toronto. He's listed as day-to-day. "I don't want to waste it out there [in practice]," Wizards coach Randy Wittman said. "If he's going to have inability to play." The Wizards also waived second-year center Hamady Ndiaye, who made three appearances this season.

"My knee has been healthy for a while now," Evans said following a season-high 15 minutes on the floor in the Wizards' 111-108 overtime win over the Raptors. "I've just been trying to be a professional and stay engaged even though I wasn't playing, helping the guys and practicing hard and doing all the things I can control."

Evans was tired after Monday's game, not unexpected since it was just his fourth appearance of the year. He was also clearly frustrated at times, missing all three of his 3-point attempts and committing a pair of turnovers.

But mistakes are better than a lack of discipline and effort, which Wittman has been tasked with trying to eliminate from the Wizards (5-20) since taking over for Flip Saunders.

"Stability," Wittman said to describe Evans. "A guy that's just in the right place at the right time, understands situations. I thought he gave us a presence out there playing with those guys, and that was good. It's something that I was hoping to see and didn't really know considering he hasn't played much."

Evans, 33, missed out on the playoffs for the first time in seven years after getting traded to the Wizards in the middle of last season. He thought he'd done enough last spring in Washington to merit a chance at reprising his role and helping the Wizards start a new postseason streak.

"It's been difficult," Evans said. "The expectations that I had for us coming, hopefully trying to get that seventh, eighth seed in the playoffs, and it still isn't unattainable. A lot of things have to come together for us, and we really have to pick it up."

The door has been opened for Washington, with the Knicks (10-15) announcing that Carmelo Anthony (strained groin) would be out one to two weeks while Amare Stoudemire won't play after his brother was killed in a car crash in Florida early Monday morning. The two combined for 60 points in New York's 99-96 win over Washington on Jan. 6.

"We're not to that stage of a team to be able to [worry about the opponent]," Wittman said.

But Evans believes the Wizards should have the same approach as Jeremy Lin, who came out of nowhere to put up 53 points and 15 assists for the Knicks in their last two games.

"He's taking advantage of his opportunity," Evans said. "We have to play with that same kind of energy and enthusiasm and take advantage of our opportunities."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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