The Brooklyn Nets clinched a postseason appearance with a Sixers loss to the Nuggets last week, likely to end up somewhere between the four and six seed in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. This is a meaningful thing for the franchise for several reasons — it’s a success to brag about in their first season since moving to Brooklyn, it’s the franchise’s first postseason cameo of any duration since 2007, and it gets Mikhail Prokhorov one step closer to not having to get married in two years. But for us watching at home, generally uninterested in Brook Lopez set shots and Deron Williams mini-dramas, this is really only good for one reason: Another postseason with Reggie Evans.
Reggie is undoubtedly one of the NBA’s greatest supporting characters. He’s got a ridiculous beard, a weirdly shaped skulll, and a giggly smile that makes it look he’s never more than a minute removed from having farted in front of his coaches and having gotten away with it. And contrary to most players, scoring probably doesn’t make the list of his five favorite things to do on a basketball court — at absolute best, it’s a very distant fifth behind rebounding, setting screens, trash-talking opponents and flopping. He always seems to play his way into big minutes wherever he goes, but he never stays anywhere long. Since being traded to Denver halfway through his fourth season with the Sonics, he’s played for five different teams, and none of them for more than two seasons.
Yet for a guy who probably wouldn’t get his own chapter (and might not even show up in the index) when the history books are written about early 21st century basketball, Reggie Evans has managed to have a surprisingly large impact on a variety of playoff series over the years. This year will mark his sixth time playing in the playoffs, and for his fifth different franchise, and he always seems to leave his mark. He was an unexpected catalyst in the scare the Sixers put into the Pistons in the first round of the ’08 playoffs, posting double-doubles in the first two games and getting the “REG-GIE! REG-GIE!” chant from the Philly faithful, even giving the crowd the ol’ Allen Iverson hand-to-ear “Let me hear it!!” gesture. And he was a huge factor in the Clippers’ seven-game series win over the Grizzlies last year, averaging about nine boards a game off the bench and even finishing a close Game 7 on the floor as future-of-the-franchise forward Blake Griffin rode the pine.
But of course, the most memorable postseason moment from Reggie was not one that can be measured on the stat sheet. It came in Game 4 of the Denver Nuggets’ 2006 first round series against the Los Angeles Clippers, where, when tussling with Clippers big man Chris Kaman for a rebound — and rebound-tussling is the area of the game where something like 85 percent of Reggie’s impact is felt — Evans found time to surreptitiously grab a handful of Kaman’s testicles, enraging the young center in to pushing Evans to the ground, and giving the “Inside the NBA” guys something to chortle about after the game. (Ernie: “He got caught with his hand in the cookie jar, and…” Charles: “Ernie, I don’t know where you get your cookies at…”)
The move was an unforgettable one for any number of reasons, none the least of which being the actual motion of the move itself. Evans goes for the grab from behind and through Kaman’s legs, which is somehow just so much more insidious than if he had opted for a typical frontwards nut-clutch. Depending on the angle of the replay, there also appears to be kind of a scrunching follow-through to Evans’ grab, which adds an absolutely cringeworthy next level to the move, and makes you wonder how somehow nobody really seemed to notice the action at the time besides Kaman himself.
And indeed, the fact that it was Kaman on the receiving end of the basket-bunch is essential to the moment’s greatness. If SI had polled opposing players and GMs preseason about whose junk Reggie Evans would be most likely to grab in the postseason for no discernible reason, Chris Kaman would certainly have finished in the top three. The Clippers’ mountain man — then rocking the long blond curls, stunning to behold in the year 2013 — would be comical on the receiving end of any general NBA tomfoolery, and he seemed the perfect type to escalate the incident without turning it into an all-out brawl. His rather matter-of-fact postgame discussion of the incident also produced some memorable quotes: “He grabbed my nuts. You can just say it,” “[He] tried to rip ‘em off, basically … I just got violated, right?”)
Perhaps most hilariously, despite Evans’ unprecedented low-blow — even Sam friggin’ Cassell’s mind was blown by it, saying, “When I saw it on TV, it was like, ‘Wow’ … [I asked referee] Jess Kersey, who has been in the league for  years, said he’s never seen anything like it,” and that guy was no stranger to NBA/testicle crossover fare — it was Kaman who got hit for a flagrant foul during the game, for shoving in response, while Evans merely got a tech. (Kaman’s foul was later downgraded to a tech by the league, while Evans’ was upped to a flagrant two.) And naturally, Evans helped sell the flagrant on Kaman by flopping aggressively on his shove, sending his own body hurtling into the first-row cameramen. (“I am so sick of watching that guy flop I can’t stand it,” then-Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy would rant to the Houston Chronicle the next season. “It is an absolute disgrace what he does.”)
You could argue that there’s no place in the NBA for Reggie’s sideshow cheap-shotting, and certainly not during the postseason, where every game is so important. But let me ask you this: Can you remember a single other thing that happened in that Nuggets-Clippers 2006 first round series? Hell, do you think you’d even be able to tell me who won the series, if it wasn’t the only series that the Clippers won in the ’00s? Reggie’s antics may be distracting, unethical, and certainly uncalled for, but they’ve spiced up a lot of otherwise exceedingly dry first-rounders over the last decade. (If Twitter was around back in ’06, both players probably would’ve still been trending topics up to and throughout the Heat/Mavs Finals.)
I’m excited to see where this year’s adventures with Reggie take us. And while I certainly won’t be rooting for the Nets against whoever their first round opponent is, the silver lining of them potentially winning a 4/5 series would be the chance for Evans to meet LeBron James in round two, after having bizarrely (and ill-advisedly) trash-talked the King before a Nets-Heat game in January. I didn’t include Reggie in my list of the 10 things most likely to stop LeBron in the playoffs, but perhaps I should have. After all, if anyone’s gonna do something totally weird and unexpected and disorienting to totally take LBJ out of the playoffs altogether, it’s probably gonna be him, right? Maybe wear a cup just in case, LeBron.