ATLANTA — Maurice Evans could have taken the road to higher pay with a European team, but he decided to keep his roots grounded in America and with the Atlanta Hawks.
“I had to scratch and claw my way into this league,” he said on Thursday. “People from all over the world come to play in the (NBA). This is a chance to really impact this situation.”
The 6-foot-5 Evans signed with the Hawks in hope of replacing reliable sixth-man Josh Childress, who surprisingly bolted for Greece. Evans reportedly accepted a three-year deal for about $7.5 million earlier in the week.
Some would consider Evans to be a downgrade from the younger Childress, a first-round draft pick who averaged in double figures each of his first four seasons. He also scored 11.8 points a game to help the Hawks reach the playoffs for the first time in nine years.
Similar to Childress, Evans can play from either the guard or forward position. But they have different offensive skills. Childress is more of an inside scorer, while Evans favors the perimeter.
Hawks general manager Rick Sund believes Evans can help the team’s need for a physical defender and a shooter from 3-point range. In Orlando, Evans shot nearly 49 percent from the field and just under 40 percent from beyond the arc.
He started 47 times for the Magic and averaged a career-high 9.3 points last season.
“We didn’t have a physical defender at first,” Sund said. “He might not be like Bruce Bowens, but he can go in and play tough D like he did for his past teams.”
Sund added: “The only person who really shot 3s was Mike Bibby. This team last year hardly took any 3s. With Maurice, that should change a little.”
The Hawks targeted Evans after Childress stunned the team by signing with powerhouse Olympiakos. Childress, a restricted free agent, received a three-year contract worth at least $20 million after taxes.
Evans, who has played in 34 playoffs, should add more experience to a team with only two players — Joe Johnson and Bibby — who have reached the second round of the postseason.
“I just want to fit in,” Evans said. “With the Eastern Conference getting stronger, I know I can make an impact here.”
Evans did score a career-best 27 points in an April 15 victory at Atlanta. But he was still impressed with how the Hawks took the eventual champion Celtics to seven playoff games last season.
“They didn’t back down and took Boston to the wire,” he said. “It looked like they ran out of gas in the last game. They just were missing an ingredient. Me as a player watching, I was like ‘Man, I wish I was there.”’
Regardless of his role, Evans just wants to bring the tools that helped him fit in with past five teams.
“I’m an Iron Man,” he said. “If you want someone to defend, I can do that. If they need outside shooting, I can do that. Whenever they need me, I’m just going to get to work.”