Last week, the Los Angeles Lakers finalized what may go down as one of the best signings of the 2014 offseason. The Lakers inked Ed Davis to a two-year contract worth $2 million, with a player option in year two, which is already being regarded as one of the summer’s biggest free agency steals.
Davis is just 25 years old and has been productive when given minutes throughout the course of his four-year NBA career. He has had stints with the Toronto Raptors and Memphis Grizzlies, with career averages of 6.9 points and 4.1 rebounds, and he still has a lot of room for growth. When he started 24 games in the 2012-13 season, he averaged 12.4 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks, and had a number of impressive performances.
While the Lakers’ frontcourt is somewhat crowded with Carlos Boozer, Julius Randle, Jordan Hill and Ryan Kelly alongside Davis, the Lakers’ front office assured the big man that he would have an opportunity to earn minutes in L.A. Davis is thrilled to join the Lakers, and he believes this will be an excellent opportunity for him to showcase his game and help a team that’s trying to turn things around after a franchise-worst 27-55 record last season.
“I think it will be a great opportunity for me playing wise and I like the pieces that they have in place there,” Davis told Basketball Insiders. “Obviously, there’s the connection with my agent [Rob Pelinka] and Kobe [Bryant] and some of the guys who are there, so that had something to do with it. But I just thought that this would be a good opportunity for me to come in here, help this team win, compete and have sort of a new start to get rejuvenated.
“I’m very excited. There’s just so much history here and the city has so much respect for the organization. I’ve been working out at the practice facility the last couple of days and just walking through every day and looking at the pictures on the walls, I’m like, ‘Man, this is history right here.’ It’s crazy that I’m about to be a part of it. I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
Davis said he also received serious interest from the Los Angeles Clippers, but he ultimately decided to don the purple and gold and sign with the other team that inhabits Staples Center.
“I just wanted to find the perfect situation for this upcoming season and for the future,” Davis said. “I didn’t want to take a deal just because it was more money and it might look better – I really wanted to go somewhere that had a need for me and wanted me rather than just joining a team to fill out the roster. For me, it was really just waiting it out and seeing which team had the most interest and seeing where I could go to really help the team and get a chance to play.
“They just told me that the opportunity is going to be there. They weren’t going to promise me anything or any type of minutes, but all you can ask for as a player is a fair opportunity to be able to go out there and compete for a job and minutes, either as a starter or off the bench. I felt that of all the teams that had interest in me, this would be the best fit for me.”
It’s tough to say what Davis’ role is going to be in Los Angeles, especially considering that the Lakers have yet to hire a head coach. The team has met with Byron Scott a number of times, but it doesn’t seem like they’re in any rush to fill the vacant position. Davis said he’s not concerned about that, and points out that he has played for a new coach in every season of his NBA career from Jay Triano and Dwane Casey in Toronto to Lionel Hollins and Dave Joerger in Memphis.
“It’s sort of [strange], but not really because this is my fifth year in the league and this will be my fifth head coach,” Davis said with a laugh. “It was going to be a new head coach no matter what for me, so I just focus on the things that I can control. That’s all I can really do.”
Davis was an unrestricted free agent prior to joining the Lakers because the Memphis Grizzlies decided not to extend a qualifying offer that would have made him restricted. Davis had a good time in Memphis, but he knew he wasn’t part of the team’s long-term plan once they re-signed Zach Randolph on a two-year, $20 million extension.
“I enjoyed my time in Memphis,” Davis said. “We went to the playoffs in both years, going to the Conference Finals two years ago and then losing in the first round last year. Obviously, I wanted to play more and be a bigger factor, but it didn’t go as planned. With the qualifying offer, [Robert] Pera called me and told me that they were going to go in a different direction and what not. I understood it 100 percent and we knew that it would be tough on their books, especially once they re-signed Z-Bo, so I knew I likely wasn’t going to be back there. It worked out for both parties and I’m happy about it.”
Davis believes he still has a lot of potential and he’s doing everything he can to maximize it. He’s working very hard this summer and is approaching this upcoming season as his chance to show the league what he’s capable of when put in a position to succeed.
“I’m in the gym every day working on my game, just trying to tune everything up,” Davis said. “I’m really working on my shot; I shot badly from the free throw line last year, so I’m trying to get my average above 70 percent. I’m just working on everything – my conditioning, trying to put on some more weight, all of the little things.
“I’ve grown a lot, especially these last two years going from Toronto to Memphis and learning from Z-Bo and Marc [Gasol] every day, going through the battle of not playing and things like that. I matured a lot and obviously I got bigger physically, which always helps. I definitely learned a lot from my rookie year to now by watching other pros and playing.”
Just like he learned a lot from Gasol and Randolph, Davis is excited to pick Bryant’s brain throughout the 2014-15 campaign. As he mentioned, the two players share the same agent and he believes every player can learn from an all-time great player like No. 24.
“Most definitely, he’s a legend and I can’t wait to learn from him,” Davis said of Bryant. “There are some things that coaches can’t teach you – the mental side of it and the stuff he knows from the things he’s been through. I’m really looking forward to learning from him. Hopefully he can help me out and teach me a lot of things.”
Last season was huge disappointment for the Lakers, as they finished with the second-worst record in the Western Conference. Davis believes that the team should be better this season after getting Bryant back from injury and making a number of changes this offseason.
“I think we definitely have the pieces there [to compete], starting with Kobe,” Davis said. “We definitely have everything that we need. We obviously need to get a head coach in and then go from there, but we have all of the pieces and now we just have to buy in and get it done on the defensive end. Just because we don’t have those high scorers that the Lakers are used to having, we’re going to have to go through Kobe a lot and really get after it on the defensive end.”
It certainly seems like Davis will be a significant contributor for the Lakers, and he’s ready to make the most of this opportunity in L.A.