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Rooke Tales ... with Ed Davis

Cavs Veteran Looks Back on Early Days with the Raptors
by Joe Gabriele Beat Writer

Rookie Tales ...
with Ed Davis

Cavs Veteran Looks Back on Early Days with the Raptors

As most fans know, the Cavaliers are one of the youngest teams in the NBA – sixth-youngest, in fact, tied with the Rockets with a group that averages just 25.0 years of age.

And while that youthful exuberance is part of the reason the Wine & Gold are one of the surprising teams of the early part of the season, there’s also a handful of seasoned veterans keeping them on course. Which brings us to big man, Ed Davis.

Davis – now in his 12th season out of North Carolina – was signed near the end of Training Camp to provide both insurance for the frontline, but also a savvy veteran voice for a squad that’s still figuring it out. He is the definition of a “pro’s pro.”

The D.C. native, who spent last year with Minnesota, has now been with eight teams over the course of his career – playing in 691 regular season and 33 postseason contests – averaging 6.2 points and 6.6 boards over that stretch. Aside from his current stint with Cleveland, the 32-year-old has played for Memphis, L.A. Lakers, Portland, Brooklyn, Utah, Minnesota, and the team that drafted him with the 13th overall pick in 2010 – the Cavs’ Friday night opponent, the Toronto Raptors.

Of the 12 players drafted before Davis that year, only five – John Wall, Derrick Favors, Al-Farouq Aminu, Paul George and Gordon Hayward – are still active in the NBA (and DeMarcus Cousins remains an unsigned free agent). sat down with the Wine & Gold’s world-wise big man before they got back on the road as he looked back on that freshman campaign in Canada over a decade ago in today’s installment of Rookie Tales

Including his current run with the Wine & Gold, Ed Davis has played with eight NBA squads over the course of his career.
Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The Raptors were a struggling squad when they drafted you in 2010. Is it better for a rookie to be selected by a good team or a bad one?

Ed Davis: That’s a tricky question.

Because as a rookie, if you’re not a top five pick, you sort of want to go to a team that’s not already set, because then you’ll get the opportunity. If you’re on a bad team and you’re a first round pick, you’re going to get that opportunity to establish yourself.

But if you’re rookie and you go to a Playoff team, there’s a good chance their roster is already locked, and there’s a chance that the guy who plays your position is one of the highest paid players on the team or an All-Star. You can get lost in the sauce, and you look up and you’ve gone your first three years without playing.

So, if I’m an agent and I have a player who’s drafted in the middle of the first round, I’d want him to go to a team where he’ll have an opportunity, maybe more so than a team that’s trying to win right now.

In that respect, did being selected by Toronto at No. 13 work out perfectly?

Davis: Well, for one, it gave me games under my belt. It gave me experience. I got to start. I got to come off the bench. I got to finish games. I was able to establish an identity in the league by just playing. I got the opportunity to play, and I was playing the best ball of my career in my third year before I got traded.

But going back to my rookie year, I got hurt right before Training Camp. But I wound up playing like 67 games that year.

It was a blessing I got drafted where I did.

What’s the toughest thing to get used to for rookies?

Davis: The toughest thing that everything is new. You have so much free time.

In college, you might be living with three or four people. You have guys saying, ‘OK let’s go to practice’ or whatever. In the NBA, once practice is over, everybody goes their own way.

So, you have to grow up fast. There’s not a lot of babying involved. If you’re not mature, the league will get you out of here quickly. It’s a tough business.

Is being a rookie in Canada that much tougher?

Davis: The struggle for me was, back in 2010, not everybody in my family back home had passports. Hell, I didn’t have a passport when I got drafted!

And when you’re in Canada – even though it’s North America – you feel that you’re in another country after a week goes by. So, you get a little homesickness.

And then there’s the fact if anyone has any flags on their record, you’re going to have a hard time crossing that border. My mom got into a jam because she had, like, an unpaid ticket or something. And it happened right when I was recovering from surgery, so it was really bad timing.

How do you look back on your 2010 Draft class?

Davis: It was a solid draft class. We had some All-Stars. John Wall, Gordon Hayward, DeMarcus Cousins. I’m real close with Evan Turner and Al-Farouq Aminu.

"I’m literally trying to help everyone. Because I can pretty much relate to damn near everything a guy’s been through. Like, I’ve never been an All-Star or been the focal point of the team, but anything else in-between, I’ve either seen it or been through it."

For me, I don’t take any of this for granted. There’s only, like, six of us left. And for me, that’s like a huge accomplishment. I think out of my class, I’m in the top 3 in games played.

Looking back on it, now that I’m towards the end of my career, it’s truly a blessing. This is the best job that you can possibly have.

I didn’t join Cleveland until the final week of Training Camp. I was at home. And the last 11 years, I was at Training Camp and part of a team. I just know that when I’m done, I’m gonna miss the NBA and the game – a LOT.

I’m a humble guy, and I’m always realistic. So, it feels good that I’m one of the last ones standing. Especially how the game changed on me and my skillset. I mean, I haven’t made a three-point shot in my career. And that’s in a time when shooting is at a premium, spacing is a premium and there’s so much analytics on shooting. I’m proud of myself honestly.

Was there a veteran who took you under his win that first year in Toronto?

Davis: Yeah, I’d say Reggie Evans.

At the time, he was tough on me – on the court, off the court. And his message, and how he presented it, wasn’t the best way. But looking back on it, he had my best interests in mind. But he didn’t present it very well, and I was young and we butted heads a little bit.

But I really appreciate the advice he gave me. And he was another guy who wasn’t skilled at all, but he had like a 13- or 14-year career – just by being tough and working hard.

Is there a youngster on the Cavaliers you’ve worked with?

Davis: For this team, there’s not, like, one guy that I’m trying to help. I’m literally trying to help everyone. Because I can pretty much relate to damn near everything a guy’s been through. Like, I’ve never been an All-Star or been the focal point of the team, but anything else in-between, I’ve either seen it or been through it.

So, I try to give people advice that people didn’t give me.

You see a guy who, maybe has been dropped out of the rotation. And he comes to the gym, and you can see it on his face. So, It might be just a little thing, telling that person: ‘Hey, these coaches don’t care about your feelings, man. This is a job, bro. You have to come here and put your work in and be ready.’ Little things like that.

I’m just trying to help guys just be as professional as possible. Because any coach or any player I’ve played with, they’ll say that when it comes to being a pro, I rank near the top. And that’s what I pride myself on.

I want all these guys here to make as much money as they can and have the longest career that they can possibly have. I care about these guys getting paid and enjoying doing this. But getting paid comes with winning. So, explaining little things like that.

And one thing I know is, if you win and you’re on that floor, you get taken care of at the end of the year.

Agents and family and friends, they’re not always going to give it to guys straight like that.

How has the NBA world changed since you came into the league as a rookie?

Davis: The science behind things. And the analytics.

I feel like early in my career they were trying to introduce those things. And coaches were fighting it. They were fighting ‘load management’ and all that. But the coaches that fought it, they’re now on the outside looking in. And the guys that bought into it are being successful and they’re prolonging their career.

So, I think the biggest change is obviously the three-point shot.

But also there’s the science behind things. Like wearing these monitors in practice. We didn’t do that stuff in my rookie year! If you told Byron Scott that we were tracking his practice, he’d have gone crazy. ‘What?! I gotta keep guys under a certain workload?!’

How was your relationship with (former Cavs coach) Byron Scott?

Davis: That’s one of my favorite coaches, man!

One thing about B. Scott: he was a straight shooter. ‘If you have something to say, come step to me and it is what it is. If we have a problem, we can handle this like professionals, or we can go outside.’

I have so much respect for B. Scott.

Did you have to do any kind of rookie hazing or initiation? And do vets still put the rookies through that today?

Davis: Me, I have a laid-back personality, so I’m not really a guy where vets will be like: ‘Hey, you gotta carry this pink bookbag.’ Because it’s kind of against what I stand for.

So I don’t ask rookies to get me anything or do this, do that. I’m all about respect.

For me, I try to help guys and teach guys and give guys as much knowledge as I can. I’m not with all that goofy stuff. I’m not about putting anybody down. My dad raised me all about respect. And that teeters the line of disrespect, and I can’t get with that.

We’re all grown men here.

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