Reggie Evans is rough. Reggie Evans is the annoying pain that no amount of aspirin seems to relieve. He's the guy you want on your team because the alternative hurts.

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Danny Fortson wasn’t sure he was ready for the start of another season. He had been traded again. The Sonics were his fifth team in eight NBA seasons, and he walked into the Furtado Center in early October needing a nudge. Needing something to snap him out of his fog.



“And then I got a little taste of Reggie Evans,” Fortson said before last night’s 114-107 loss to Philadelphia. “It was really good for me. It got me motivated to play. You get a taste of Reggie Evans, and you know it’s time to go to work.”



When you get a taste of Reggie Evans, you don’t forget it. It’s not like your first lobster, or your first filet. It’s more like you’re first concussion, or your first fender-bender.



Reggie Evans tastes like blood and feels like bruises. Reggie Evans is rough. Reggie Evans is the annoying pain that no amount of aspirin seems to relieve. He’s the guy you want on your team because the alternative hurts.



In training camp, coach Nate McMillan guaranteed only two starting positions — Ray Allen’s and Rashard Lewis’. October was an open audition, and Evans killed.



He was the hardest worker in camp. On the floor he was the engineer of discord, fighting for every rebound as if his future rested on him getting the ball.



“He’s one of those guys that no matter how hard you hammer him, he’s always coming back,” said Fortson, who has become Evans’ formidable tag-team partner at power forward.



“Every day in training camp, I’d wake up and say to myself, ‘Damn, I’ve got Reggie Evans in the morning.’ That’s how tough a kid he is. He’s not going to give up. I’ve never seen a guy who’s so much like me. Who wants to go out there and have contact every morning.”



For Evans, contact is better than bacon and eggs.



And if all of us worked at our jobs as hard as Reggie Evans does, the planet would be a better place. He plays with the work ethic he learned from his mother, Jannie, and his high-school coach, Bennie Washington, while growing up in the projects in Pensacola, Fla.



“My mom was an independent woman who worked hard from day one,” Evans said. “I think it’s just in my genes to work hard. And we worked hard to the extreme in high school. In junior college, at Iowa and even here, I always looked back on what we did in high school. Because the stuff we do in practice now, when we do a lot of running, it really doesn’t faze me.”



Evans, in his third NBA season, is everything that’s good about the league. To call him an overachiever would be an insult to his hard work. Just call him an achiever.



Even though his vertical is about 3-1/2 inches, Evans is leading the team in rebounding, averaging 8.5 entering last night’s game. Think of him as Dennis Rodman without the dress, or a 21st century Paul Silas.



He’s active, instinctive and relentless, and in this free-agent season, he is making a lot of money for himself.



“It’s real simple,” Evans said. “It’s just matter of motivation. You have to motivate yourself. Just work hard, and it pays off in the long run.”



When Evans came to camp in 2002, associate head coach Dwane Casey gave him a piece of advice he’s never forgotten: “Don’t show the league what you can’t do. Show the league what you do right.”



For Evans, that’s rebounding, playing defense and causing havoc in the paint.



“There are a lot of guys in this league who have had long careers just being that dirty-work guy,” Casey said. “You don’t have to be a shooter to be in this league. There are a lot of guys in this league who, once they get that contract, they want to become scorers. But you just have to do what you can do and stay with it.”



Like a play in the first quarter last night. Allen missed a rebound and Evans snatched the ball out of the hands of the Sixers’ Samuel Dalembert. He pump-faked Dalembert onto his back, scored and was fouled. He finished with 14 points and four rebounds.



“Reggie is Reggie,” guard Antonio Daniels said. “He’s going to go out and bust his tail every play of every day of every practice, of every shootaround.



“The thing I like about Reggie is, he doesn’t try to step out of himself. He doesn’t try to be something that he’s not. He knows what his job is, and he brings it every night.”



Prickly as a cactus. Pretty as a floor burn. A taste of Reggie.



Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or skelley@seattletimes.com