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NBA AM: Davis Hopes to Retire With Portland

After bouncing around the NBA, Ed Davis found a home in Portland and wants to finish his career there.

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Basketball Insiders caught up with Portland Trail Blazers big man Meyers Leonard at the Las Vegas Summer League to discuss the team’s offseason, expectations for next year and much more.

Davis Wants to Finish Career in Portland

After playing for three different teams in five seasons, Ed Davis is tired of bouncing around the NBA and getting acclimated to new cities.

That’s why the No. 13 pick in the 2010 NBA Draft entered this offseason looking to find a stable situation that he could call home. He wanted a multi-year deal, job security and a franchise that viewed him as part of their long-term plan.

After considering a number of different offers, the 26-year-old believes he found exactly what he was looking for in the Portland Trail Blazers. Once the organization lost most of the veterans on their roster, general manager Neil Olshey became determined to put a young supporting cast around two-time All-Star Damian Lillard. Davis jumped at the opportunity to be part of the team’s up-and-coming core. Sensing an opportunity to stick with the Blazers for years to come, Davis inked a three-year deal worth $20 million with the franchise.

Not only is Davis hoping to remain with Portland for the duration of his three-year contract, he admits that he would love to finish his career with the Blazers. He has never stayed with a franchise for longer than two and a half seasons, but he’s hoping that changes in Portland.

“That’s definitely my goal,” Davis said of sticking with the Blazers long-term. “Portland is one of those organizations where they like to keep a team together – they like to build that way. I definitely feel like this is an organization I can grow with and hopefully this is my last stop in my career. I’d love to win some championships in Portland and then I go out here.”

Davis’ first impression of the Blazers organization has been extremely positive. He can tell they really care about their players and want to get the most out of everyone on the roster.

“I have definitely been impressed,” Davis said. “It’s an organization where they communicate well; they are always checking in on you and things like that. One of the trainers came out to meet me in Richmond, VA, where I’ve been working out this summer so they are definitely keeping in contact and looking forward to the season as much as I am.”

One of the reasons Portland was so attractive to Davis is that the rotation isn’t set in stone and minutes were seemingly up for grabs. If he plays well, he believes he can earn a significant role and possibly even a starting job.

For me, I’m at the point in my career where I wanted to take [my game] to the next level, I wanted that opportunity to be there,” Davis said. “I wanted to go into a situation where there were no caps on my minutes, where whatever I do on the court is going to pay off. I definitely wanted that opportunity to play, that had a lot to do with it. I had a feeling that after the trades and moves, where they lost a lot of guys, I thought the opportunity was going to be there for me to play and it is.

“I think everything is wide open, for the most part, so guys are going to come in fighting. It’s a young team so a lot of guys are hungry and they are trying to prove a lot of people wrong. Just with the roster make up in general, you’ve got a lot of guys who are on contract years and young guys who are trying to establish themselves.”

The chance to play with an elite point guard like Lillard also factored into Davis’ decision.

“It’s a young team with a great All-Star point guard in Damian Lillard, and that weighed into my decision to go there,” Davis said. “I’m super excited [to play with Damian]. I think I’m going to get so many easy baskets just by setting a good screen and rolling because so many teams will have to double him. Especially with our roster now, they are really going to go after him with the double-teams and different defensive schemes. Like I said, if I set a hard screen, I’m going to get open so many times and get so many easy baskets just off all the attention he gets.”

Olshey has said that he wants to bring in players who complement Lillard’s game, and Davis believes he fits that description.

“I feel like with my game and my skill set, every point guard wants to play with a guy like me,” Davis said. “I’m someone who’s going to set a hard screen, roll, defend the pick-and-roll, play hard every night and finish in the paint. Every team needs that and every point guard wants to play with guys like that. It’s just going to be an easy transition for me. Now, I just want to figure out Damian’s game more and what exactly he wants and where his hot spots are, where he wants the screen and things like that.”

In addition to Davis, the Blazers also brought in other developing talents like Mason Plumlee, Al-Farouq Aminu, Noah Vonleh, Gerald Henderson and Maurice Harkless.

Strangely, at 26 years old, Davis is actually one of the older players on Portland’s roster. Assuming Mike Miller is waived, Davis is the third-oldest player on the team behind only Chris Kaman and (just barely) Henderson. This is new for him, as he was often one of the younger players on his first three teams, but he wants to embrace his role as a veteran leader.

“I’m going into my sixth year so I’ve been around a little bit, bounced around with different teams and been in a lot of different situations,” Davis said. “So if I could just give any of the guys advice on certain things that I’ve already been through, I’m definitely going to do that.

“I’m also going to lead by example. I’m one of those guys who’s in the weight room every day, who goes hard on the court and who is always putting that work in. Also, I’m early and professional and things like that. Doing things like that can definitely help the younger guys, who don’t understand the work ethic [necessary to be successful].”

Because the team is so young, pundits are expecting Portland to take a step back after winning 51 games and finishing as the fourth seed in the Western Conference last season. Davis loves hearing those doubts and he believes they can only help the hungry, young team.

“I think it’s a good thing when they write you off because entering games with teams, they’re going to think they can take the night off,” Davis said. “They’re not going to take you seriously early on; you can get up 20 points on them and so on. We could use that to our benefit and we can get out to a good start on the season. We could start out with a nice win streak and things like that. Then, soon you’re going into the All-Star break and you just keep fighting. You just never know where you’ll end up in the playoff rankings.”

Making the playoffs in the brutal Western Conference will be difficult, but Portland can expect to develop their young core and build an identity since they’re essentially starting from scratch without key pieces like LaMarcus Aldridge, Wesley Matthews, Nic Batum and Robin Lopez among others.

Davis is no stranger to rebuilding efforts. Last year, he joined the Los Angeles Lakers fresh off of their 27-55 campaign in 2013-14. When Kobe Bryant went down after just 35 games last season, the team turned to a strange mix of young players (Davis, Jordan Clarkson, Ryan Kelly, Tarik Black, Robert Sacre and Jabari Brown) and experienced veterans (Carlos Boozer, Nick Young, Jeremy Lin, Jordan Hill, Wesley Johnson, Wayne Ellington and Ronnie Price.

The Lakers ultimately finished the season with a 21-61 record, which was one of the worst marks in the franchise’s history. Still, despite the lack of success, Davis loved his time in Los Angeles. He was a fan favorite and played at a high level, averaging 8.3 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks in just 23.3 minutes, while shooting a remarkable 60.1 percent from the field. His per-36 minutes were those of a starting-caliber big man: 12.8 points, 11.7 rebounds, 1.9 blocks and 1.0 steals.

Davis actually wanted to re-sign with the Lakers when he hit free agency this summer, but the two sides couldn’t come to terms on a new contract.

“I wasn’t really surprised [to leave the Lakers],” Davis said. “Nothing in the NBA is going to surprise me at this point. But obviously they were my first choice going into free agency. We couldn’t get a deal worked out so I just moved on, but I enjoyed my time there. The fans there really supported me and they really wanted me back. They had my back the whole year and most of them still do now, so I enjoyed my time there. But I’m with Portland now and all that’s behind me right now.”

Now, he’s preparing for his first year in Portland and he’s hoping to deliver the best season of his career. He has been working out in Virginia, trying to strengthen some of his weaknesses.

“Foul shooting is [the main thing], just being more consistent with my shot,” said Davis, who shot 48.7 percent from the line last year and is a career 56.6 free throw shooter.

“Also, I’m just continuing to get stronger and work on my body because it’s a long season. My goal every year is always to play 82 games so I’m just trying work on that – staying healthy. I’m just doing all the little things you can’t really do in the season when it comes to taking care of your body, so I’m doing them in the summertime.”

The Blazers are set to enter a new era, with players like Davis playing a large role. It may take time for Portland to return to contention and garner league-wide respect, but the youngsters are eager to show what they can do with this golden opportunity.

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Alex Kennedy is the Managing Editor of Basketball Insiders and this is his 10th season covering the NBA. He is a member of the Professional Basketball Writers Association.

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