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.
Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal
The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.
It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.
Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.
There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.
Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.
Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.
That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.
Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.
At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.
It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.
One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.
NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind
Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.
When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.
“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.
Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.
That didn’t last long.
“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”
With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.
As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.
After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.
In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.
“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”
Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.
“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”
Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.
“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”
After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.
Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.
“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”
All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.
“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”
Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team
Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.
“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”
Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN