Jazz • Utah brass say NBA slam dunk champion is gifted but "capable of doing more."
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Orlando, Fla. • Jeremy Evans has an NBA slam dunk crown. He recently received every late second-round draft pick's dream: A multiyear contract extension that will pay the No. 55 overall selection in 2010 $5.5 million through June 2015.
Evans has risen from Crossett, Ark., to a looped highlight reel on ESPN's "SportsCenter," and the high-jumper from Western Kentucky has been draped in nicknames such as The Human Pogo Stick and The Elevator.
His teammates love him. Jazz fans love him more. But buried beneath the public awe and dropped jaws are two facts Evans is perfectly aware of: He's nowhere close to a complete NBA player, and he's yet to touch his ceiling.
The Jazz's 87-81 victory against the Indiana Pacers on Thursday during a Summer League contest inside Amway Center was another reminder.
Evans recorded seven points and seven rebounds (three offensive) in 22 minutes and 49 seconds. He displayed improved defense and showed off a midrange jumper that's been two seasons in the making. But the 24-year-old also dropped several passes, committed two turnovers, watched a couple of Pacers blow by him, and shot 3 of 8 from the field, with two of the makes coming within a foot of the basket.
A smooth 11-foot turnaround jump hook in the fourth quarter captured Evans' potential; a sharp cut through the paint that ended with a hard slam via an Alec Burks assist sealed Utah's win.
Evans knows seven and seven in Summer League isn't good enough, though. He wants more. He believes he can become more. But his outside jumper is still a work in progress, he has lulls where he disappears from offensive sets, and Utah's frontcourt has only become more stacked since the 2011-12 season ended.
The contract extension that became official Wednesday was a classic moneyball move . Now, the dunk champ must prove he deserves a lasting spot in Utah's rotation.
"I'm not ready to settle," Evans said. "I'm still kind of disappointed. Missing passes, missing shots. The ball's right there. I've just got to make the extra step and have the energy to finish the play."
Utah wouldn't have extended Evans if the organization didn't believe he can make a long-term living in the NBA.
To Jazz assistant coach Sidney Lowe, Evans' evolution comes down to an understanding that being selfish isn't necessarily a bad trait on the court. The 6-foot-9, 194-pound forward is known for his backdoor alley-oop slams and long-armed rejections. By looking for his shot more often and confidently knocking down open looks, Evans can open up a new dimension to his game.
"He wants to do all the little things," Lowe said. "And we're saying to him, 'You're capable of doing more.' So as he gets more comfortable with that, you're going to see him continue to blossom."
Jazz General Manager Kevin O'Connor drove home the word "improvement." Evans was another of the GM's second-round steals. If the forward can lift his game higher, three more years in the league could turn into a decade.
"He's got a couple gifts you really can't teach he's off the ground really quick and he plays hard," O'Connor said. "He's got to get a little stronger, which we talked about. Some guys mature late, and he's matured late. He's continuing to mature and he's continuing to improve, and that's the thing that we want from him."
Notes • Burks walked off the court Thursday ranked second in average scoring (19.5 points) in the Summer League. He scored a game-high 22 points on 6-of-13 shooting against the Pacers, hitting 10 of 11 free throws while grabbing seven rebounds (three offensive) and dishing out five assists. Burks scored 10 points during the fourth quarter, as Utah improved to 3-1. … Jazz center Enes Kanter leads the Summer League in average rebounds (9). … Utah forward DeMarre Carroll (sprained left ankle) was limited to 6:18 and left the game during the first quarter . Carroll will likely sit out Friday's finale .
Storylines Jazz 87, Pacers 81
R The Jazz improve to 3-1 in Summer League, holding off the Indiana Pacers 87-81.
• Utah guard Alec Burks hits 10 of 11 free throws, including 6 of 6 in the fourth quarter.
• The Jazz close the game on an 8-3 run after Indiana pulls within 79-78.
P Jazz at Thunder, Friday, 6 a.m. MDT
TV • NBA TV