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Humbled, Worldly and Focused, Former NBA Star Ricky Davis Sets Sights on Comeback
A born (and some say one-dimensional) scorer, Davis used his time abroad to transform his game into a far more well-rounded one.
Known for his scoring ability and his in-your-face persona on the court, Davis was a polarizing force during his years Boston.
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Over the past 15 months, the man who once scored 20 points a game in the NBA has called three continents and four countries home.Ricky Davis' travels started after he was waived the Clippers in the 2009-10 season -- following an 12-year NBA career -- when he picked up with Turkish club TŁrk Telekom B.K in March of 2010. He left Turkey for China that October, signing with the Jiangsu Dragons, then headed to France in the spring, joining up with Chorale Roanne. Fully recovered from a knee injury that hobbled him during his years in L.A., he felt, as he put it, that he was "back."
So he came home. Urged on by a compact season that's already opened the door for 11 players out of the NBA D-League, Davis signed with the Maine Red Claws -- affiliate of his former team, the Boston Celtics -- and starts his NBA comeback tour on Thursday against the Canton Charge -- affiliate of another one of his former teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers. NBADLeague.com caught up with him after Red Claws shootaround on Thursday.
Kevin Scheitrum, NBADLeague.com: Youíve had a busy year. How are the frequent flyer miles doing?
Davis averaged more than 20 points per game for the Cavaliers in 2002-03, although his Cavs career remains marked by his attempt to record a triple-double by missing a shot on the wrong hoop.
David Liam Kyle/NBAE/Getty Images
Davis: Iíve got Ďem built up. Iíve been to China. Been to France. All over.
NBADLeague.com: You were playing some great ball overseas. What prompted you to come Stateside, to the NBA D-League?
Davis: I think itís better for me to stay in the States and work my way up to get called-up. Overseas is fun -- with FIBA, itís great. But I think Iím more toward the end of my career.
NBADLeague.com: So obviously the goal here is to get back to the NBA as soon as possible, but do you have a mental timeline? What are your goals?
Davis: To come in and have fun. To come in and have fun, to help the team Iím on and get some victories, then let everything take care of itself. Pretty much trying to take it one day at a time, one play at a time and go from there.
NBADLeague.com: When you played, you were the quickest guy on the court. How has your game changed since you left the NBA?
Davis: Not at all. Itís pretty much the same game. Iím probably about two inches lower in my vertical. Iíve still got the quickness, and Iím just getting smarter as a veteran
NBADLeague.com: Sometimes it takes stepping away to learn something about yourself. What did you learn about yourself, about your game, after you left the NBA?
Davis: I learned a lot, of course. I just grew. It was more or less staying focused and looking back on some of the stuff that wasnít good for me early in my career.
It was all a learning experience. I had fun with it, and now itís about becoming a better player overall. A better teammate.
NBADLeague.com: Is there anything in particular you look back on and say, ĎI wish I didnít do this or thatí?
Davis: Not really. I did some bad things, but the only thing I regret is my triple-double. But everything else comes with experience. People forget I got drafted when I was 17, so I had a lot of young Ďmyself-myselfí attitude, and now itís more about being part of a team, and more of what I can do to help the team.
NBADLeague.com: You were always known as a scorer, maybe at the cost of the other parts of your game. But back then, you were scoring 20 points a game in the NBA. How much have you focused on defense and rebounding over the past few years?
People forget I got drafted when I was 17, so I had a lot of young Ďmyself-myselfí attitude, and now itís more about being part of a team, and more of what I can do to help the team.
Davis: Defense has always been there, but when youíre the leading scorer on the team you kind of shy away from the defensive end. But over the years, as you get more experience on defense, you learn that defense definitely helps in offense. And itís been great working on rebounding and working on my whole-all-around game.
I want to get other people involved. I can score the ball. Itís like riding a bike. You never forget it.
NBADLeague.com: If you got called-up, you wouldnít be the marquee scorer Ė at this point in your career, whatís your value to an NBA team?
Davis: Being an all-around player, and still being that scorer. Definitely being a scorer is one of my skills, and it helps that I can definitely dish the ball and cheer my other teammates on. Instead of me being focused on playing 48 minutes, Iíll be focused on playing 25 minutes and helping get everybody the ball.
NBADLeague.com: How much did playing around the world make you appreciate what itís like to play in the NBA?
Davis: A whole lot. One-hundred percent. It really humbles you. It brings you back to reality, and how you got there. [The NBA] was a good experience for me. I played 12 years, I couldíve kept going, but I think it was good for me to get humbled and start Path Two.
NBADLeague.com: What made you stick with the game, instead of hanging it up?
Davis: Those last few years with the Clippers, my knee was kinda hurting, I wasnít explosive, but I didnít want to let people know what was going on. I lost my explosiveness, and I couldnít score the ball like I could in those two years.
Then, after the Clippers, I got my knee right, went overseas and realized Iím back.
NBADLeague.com: Just in the past year, you were in Turkey, China and France. Did you set up Get Bucket Brigades all over the world?
Davis: I sure didnít. I actually wanted to, but it was hard with the language barrier. I got a couple church kids coming out [Thursday night], though Ė 10-12 of them.
NBADLeague.com: Howíd the language-learning go? Did you pick up anything?
The NBA was a good experience for me. I played 12 years, I couldíve kept going, but I think it was good for me to get humbled and start Path Two.
Davis: I can talk a little in Turkish, and I know a little French. Chinese is a little tough, though.
NBADLeague.com: The NBA D-League is known as a place where you make your mark in rebounding, defense and ball control. Are you looking to really play up the rebounding angle of your game? Maybe go after more balls than you normally would, and put less of a focus on scoring?
Davis: Iím coming in to grab boards and do what I do best, and thatís scoring. I added in the getting-people-involved part, but you gotta do what you do best, and for me thatís scoring.
NBADLeague.com: How much did having a shortened, compact schedule Ė with a lot of expected player movement Ė have to do with your coming to the NBA D-League?
IDavis: That had a lot to do with it Ė it was a big plus. With a short season and not knowing your whole roster, and a short training camp, I think itíll be good for me as a veteran player, to sneak in there and make a roster.
NBADLeague.com: A lot of the veterans in the NBA D-League talk about how much they enjoy being able to teach the younger guys, in addition to their own quest for the NBA. What are you gonna try to get across to the young guys?
Davis: You tell them to stay focused. You can lose focus from game to game to game, and the thing is to go game to game, donít get too cocky, stay humble and make others better. I think thatís when you become more successful and powerful, when youíre making others better.
NBADLeague.com: A lot of the Maine fans know you from your Celtics days. How excited are you to play in front of them?
Davis: Absolutely. I think that was a great place for me, in Maine, and Boston, where we got the Bucket Brigade still over there. Itíll be great for me to go back to where I had a great time playing. And Iím starting in a game where weíre playing Cleveland, I mean Canton, so those are two of my old places. Iím looking forward to contributing