Ricky Davis Embraces Sixth Man Role
photo: NBAE/Getty Images
Red Auerbach has widely been credited with developing the sixth man role in basketball. His thinking was that if you take one of your top scorers and bring him off the bench, he'll be matched up with one of the opponents' weaker players when he enters the game.
Auerbach brought sixth men to the Celtics such as John Havlicek, Kevin McHale, Bill Walton and the first sixth man Frank Ramsey, which only makes it fitting that the 2004-05 Celtics have returned to their sixth man roots with one of the league's best, Ricky Davis.
Davis, who was penciled in as a starter coming out of training camp, was moved to the bench after just seven games. Skeptics wondered if Davis would accept the role, or even sulk and cause problems. But Davis has more than accepted the move- he's embraced his role as the Celtics energizer and big time scorer off the bench.
But Davis' role has been more than just the normal sixth man coming off the bench and scoring. Another reason for the move was that the second unit was filled with so many young and promising, but still inexperienced, players. The second unit needed a stabilizing force, something Davis has provided.
"Of course I would love to start," said Davis. "But if I can help this team win more games as the sixth man, then I'm all for it. Our second unit needed a lift and a go to guy, so I love being their leader."
After the Celtics 119-110 win at Charlotte March 14, Ricky Davis leads all bench players in the NBA in scoring, averaging 15.7 points per game. He's scored 20+ points off the bench 14 times this season, the most a Celtic has recorded off the bench since Kevin McHale had 23 20-point games off the bench in 1990-91. Although he hasn't received the publicity of players like Stackhouse or even Ben Gordon of the Chicago Bulls, his numbers are just as good, if not better.
But Ricky's impact hasn't just been just on the offensive end, like many other sixth men. Along with being a leader, Ricky has also been one of the Celtics best defensive players. In the Celtics recent 104-101 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, Davis held Kobe Bryant scoreless in the 4th quarter, while scoring 29 points of his own in the game. Davis is often asked by Coach Rivers to defend the other teams' top scorer.
"Ricky has been great," commented Doc Rivers. "I just sat him down earlier in the year and told him he was going to be our Vinnie Johnson, if you remember the Pistons of the late 80's. He's our "Microwave", and he has been great in that role for us on both ends of the court."
"All I've ever wanted is a chance to play and to win," said Davis. "When I came to the Celtics, I was aware of the tradition and just glad to go to a place that cares about winning first. I had never even played in a playoff game before I came here, so being with the Celtics has been great for my career and I just want to make the fans happy and win."
For a player that just wants to win, Davis has had a huge role in the Celtics improvement this season. After the Celtics win over Charlotte Monday, the Celtics had 35 wins and Ricky's numbers in 34 of the wins (excluding the game February 2 when Davis left early in the game due to an illness) were 17.2 points on 48.4 percent shooting from the floor. Coach Rivers has often used Davis as a go-to-guy down the stretch of big games, as he knocked down a huge game-winning jumper when the Celtics defeated Memphis February 16 and scored on a three-point play with just 21.1 seconds left to secure the Celtics win over Washington March 13.
Since Davis' move to the bench, the Celtics second unit has outscored their opponents in 33 of 44 games and rank 5th in the NBA, scoring 34.6 points per game.
With Davis' impact on the second unit and the Celtics rise in the standings, he's sure to garner some strong Sixth Man of the Year consideration. When asked about the possibility of the winning the award Davis said, "I don't really think about the awards. That's not to say I wouldn't love to win the Sixth Man. I just think those things will come as we win. So the more we win the better my chances will be."
But even though Davis talks about winning as the key, and brushes aside thoughts of individual accomplishments, you can't help but recognize the smile that comes across his face with the mention of the Sixth Man Award, and what the recognition of the award would mean to a player who has often been misunderstood.