- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 15, 2012

After missing the first 10 games with soreness and swelling in his right knee, Wizards guard Maurice Evans returned to the lineup Friday against the 76ers in Philadelphia. It was in the City of Brotherly Love that Evans helped organize a team dinner, hoping to foster team chemistry.

Washington promptly lost two straight against the 76ers, but at least was competitive Saturday, falling 103-90 at Verizon Center after a 120-89 drubbing the night before.

A little more than week earlier, it was Evans who organized a players-only meeting, hoping for the same results - to get the Wizards to play cohesively.

“I was a presence in the locker room last year, coming in here as a veteran player,” Evans said.

Evans came to Washington from the Atlanta Hawks last February, with Jordan Crawford and Mike Bibby, who agreed to a contract buyout after two games.

“Obviously, my role has changed significantly,” he said. “I think it’s been more of a shock than anything. But I’m mature and I’m professional, so I can handle those type of things. I’m just trying to help whatever way I can and accepting that role.”

Evans, 33, is entering his ninth season, playing with six teams before joining the Wizards. As his knee continues to heal and he works his way into game shape, he’s also hoping to work his way back into the rotation.

“It’s hard to be a leader when you’re not playing,” Evans said.

The league’s lockout-shortened 66-game schedule is expected to be a grind, much like the 50-game season in 1998-99, but Evans thinks playing 66 games might have a few advantages, especially for a young team.

“We had a lot of guys who just wanted to play,” Evans said. “I would have loved nothing more when I was 23, 24, back when I was really trying to get it going. I would have loved to go out there and play every night.

“That would have been an ideal situation. At 32, 33, it may not be as ideal as it once was. These guys haven’t complained all year [about the schedule].”

But for now, Evans will continue to work with his teammates as his situation dictates, calling them out when necessary, and getting them together when necessary. With the Wizards mired in a franchise-worst 1-11 start, he’s trying a little positive reinforcement.

“Even with our situation here, as terrible as a start we’ve had, you win three or four games in a row, you’re right back in the thick of things,” Evans said. “The thing that’s most critical for a young team, in my opinion, is getting results immediately. When you lose games that you’re supposed to win, when you don’t have that success, the air just lets back out. You have to continue to rebuild their psyche.”

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