On the first day of the Trail Blazers' new era last summer, the franchise announced a five-year contract extension for All-Star point guard Damian Lillard shortly before unveiling free agent signings Al-Farouq Aminu and Ed Davis, both of whom inked long-term deals in Portland last July.
While Lillard and fellow cornerstone CJ McCollum's scoring outbursts grabbed the headlines in Wednesday's 112-94 season-opening win over the New Orleans Pelicans, it was Aminu and Davis doing the dirty work on the defensive end of the court to stymie a Pelicans squad that many pundits project to return to the playoffs in 2015-16. Though not heralded for their scoring, Aminu chipped in nine points and eight rebounds to go with Davis' 12 points and 11 rebounds on the offensive end in the Portland victory.
In his sixth season as a pro, Davis is more than comfortable with his role as a rim-protector that can bring energy to both ends the court.
"Just going hard, doing whatever to help the team win — whatever it might be," Davis described his game after the win. "Some nights, I might score 20. Some nights, I might not score but I might have 15 rebounds. Every night I’m just going to play hard and bring energy."
Davis' attitude, not unlike that of Aminu, is what head coach Terry Stotts expects of his players night-in and night-out. Both players' do-whatever-it-takes willingness is part of what made them prime targets for replacing the four starters that departed Portland's roster in the offseason.
"What I expect is (players) to play hard and play together, from everybody," Stotts said. "I thought Ed was terrific. He battled (Anthony) Davis defensively, was active in the paint, challenged shots. With Mason (Plumlee) getting in foul trouble, we needed him and he came through in a big way."
Of Aminu, Stotts was just as complimentary: "He was solid defensively, big rebounds. He plays kind of an understated game that’s very effective for us."
As for the aforementioned superstar Lillard, the impact players like Aminu and Davis can have on a game does not overlooked. Though not always demanding attention in the box score, the point guard knows the importance of guys doing "the little things" can have on a team's success.
"You look at the things that they do on the floor, and you have to be watching the game to see the impact that they can have because of the sacrifice, the little things that they’re willing to do," Lillard praised his teammated. "Some of it doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, but what they bring to the table for our team is huge.
"It means a lot that they’re all low-maintenance guys and all that matters to them is ‘How can we help the team?’.”