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Wizards making room for Evans

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Sports,NBA,Wizards,Craig Stouffer

Veteran forward getting playing time after Mason is waived

The player who helped Maurice Evans get through being ignored by the Wizards for most of the season was the same player whose departure seemingly opened the door for him to finally get on the court.

Hours after Roger Mason Jr. was waived by Washington on Monday following finger surgery that ruled him out of the final six games of the season, Evans came off the bench to play his second-most minutes (26) and have his second-highest scoring game of the year (14 points). The 33-year-old forward helped the Wizards (15-46) topple the NBA-leading Chicago Bulls on the road 87-84 and clinch avoiding the worst winning percentage in franchise history.

The appearance was just the 19th of the year for Evans and just the fourth in which he played more than 20 minutes. Prior to a five-minute stint the game before against Cleveland, Evans hadn't played the previous 11 games -- for a short-handed team which effectively shut down Nene, Trevor Booker and Andray Blatche at the end of March.

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Bucks at Wizards
When » Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Where » Verizon Center
TV » CSN

"I've never been through this before when I've sat out so many games with seemingly no opportunity to play," Evans said. "I've got to thank Roger Mason Jr. We go to chapel a lot, and not to sound Tebow-ish, but I've been really praying a lot, maturing a lot. I'm glad I was able to stay professional and continue to help these guys. And when the moment came, just take advantage of it."

After sitting side by side during the lockout as vice presidents of the National Basketball Players Association, Evans and Mason spent most of the season doing the same thing on the Washington bench.

Asked why Evans didn't play at all two weeks ago after a loss at home to Indiana, Wizards coach Randy Wittman offered that the 6-foot-5 veteran wouldn't have been effective against 7-2 Pacers center Roy Hibbert.

Meanwhile, rookie small forward Chris Singleton (4.5 points, 3.5 rebounds per game) has started the last 36 games in a row, a stretch in which he scored in double figures just five times, shot 34 percent from 3-point range and spent many nights learning tough lessons guarding the league's best scorers. A chance to show those same attributes were part of what enticed Evans to sign a one-year deal in Washington this season after giving the Wizards help at small forward following his arrival last year from Atlanta in the trade that sent Kirk Hinrich to the Hawks.

Even if he appears in the Wizards' final five games, Evans will end up playing fewer games for Washington this year than he did after arriving midseason last year.

Evans' opportunity against the Bulls came when Wittman looked down his bench and realized that newly signed NBA Development League call-up Morris Almond, Mason's replacement on the roster, wasn't quite ready.

"He hasn't got a lot of time this year because of where we're at and the young guys that we have," Wittman said. "But with Mase going down and Morris not knowing anything [yet], that's what being a professional is, and I hope our young guys can take something from that."

cstouffer@washingtonexaminer.com

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