CLEVELAND, Ohio (92.3 The Fan) – Ed Davis has been around the block a few times.
The 11-year NBA veteran’s career has made stops in Toronto, Memphis, Los Angeles, Portland, Brooklyn, Utah, Minnesota and now, Cleveland.
That’s a lot of miles, but the road can teach the well-traveled many lessons.
That wisdom is the primary reason Cavaliers’ head coach J.B. Bickerstaff and general manager Koby Altman brought Davis on board. The hope is that it permeates to this core of young, budding talent, namely Evan Mobley, Jarrett Allen, Isaac Okoro and, to a lesser extent, Collin Sexton and Darius Garland.
“I pride myself in being professional and coming in every day and punching the clock,” Davis said Thursday following his first practice with the team at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “Hopefully some of these guys that don’t really know how to be professional, they can pick up on small things. It’s the little things that help guys stick around in the league and be successful.”
Davis appeared in 23 games for the Timberwolves last year but had yet to land an NBA deal for this upcoming season. Despite being temporarily out of a job, he kept himself in basketball shape. Davis made the daily drive from his home in Raleigh to Chapel Hill for workouts with his strength coach and trainer.
The pair were close companions in his life for sure, but he’s happy to be back in the association now.
“I was tired of seeing them every day,” he said with a laugh.
Bickerstaff and Altman made sure to do their homework on Davis before bringing him in. The pair had been on the hunt for some veteran leadership to help continue to shape a cultural foundation built on accountability.
“(It’s) the day do day routine of longevity. All the things that you need to do, the stretching, the taking care of your body, your post-practice routine, game routine,” Bickerstaff said. “Whatever it may be that allows you to be competitive for a long, long time and be available, which is the most important skill that you can have.”
Davis also brings a level of comfort and familiarity to the team. The 6-9 forward/center also teamed up with fellow big man Jarrett Allen in Brooklyn during his season in the league.
“At the time he probably didn’t believe that he was a $100 million dollar player,” Davis said.
“To see his development and see him get rewarded this summer. I just want to continue to work with him and help him take that next step.”
Davis knew then that Allen had untapped potential and helped coax more production out of him. It ultimately culminated in Allen signing that massive five-year, $100 million contract.
So, what could the future for Evan Mobley hold?
“He has a chance to make like $500 million in this league,” Davis said. Doing that, you’ve got to perform, your team has to win, you’ve got to stay healthy. Teaching him that it’s a process to get there. He needs to get stronger, so (I said) ‘hey man you need to get a chef.’ Little things like that, I can help him with along the way.”
THE CONNSUMATE PROFESSIONAL
There are any number of given roles on an NBA roster, and Davis is fully aware of his. Altman and Bickerstaff were transparent in what they wanted from the get-go and Davis was on board all the way.
There’s a lot of veterans in this league that are selfish, and they don’t really pay it back to try and help guys out. I take a lot of pride in helping guys out,” Davis said.
Now, the 32-year-old is at a point in his career it’s his turn to pay it forward, and Davis didn’t want to be that guy.
“I always said when I was younger, whenever I get to that point in my career I’m going to help as many guys as possible,” Davis said. “Tayshaun (Prince) helped me out a lot. Reggie Evans, my rookie year he was tough on me.
He opened my eyes just to how tough the business is. You’ve got to fight for things and stuff like that.”
Davis sure scrapped his way through these past 11 years, but he feels he’s gotten the most out of his longevity in the NBA. If Mobley, Allen and company can absorb that work ethic and professionalism the Cavaliers as a whole will be better for it.
“I feel like honestly, I’ve tapped into 95-percent of my potential,” Davis said. My whole career I punched the clock, from training camp to the next training camp. I went hard in the summer. I never took this job for granted.”
What he isn’t in a battle for is playing time. Messages from coach-to-player or agent-to-player can be lost in translation, but with a role as clearly defined as the one carved out Davis, one thing is clear: he’s only here to help
“I know my role. I know why I’m here. I don’t expect tom come out and play 20 minutes a night,” he said. “I think when guys realize that they take that message a little different.”
“I’M JUST ME”
While Davis’s role is clearly defined to help this young core grow and come together on the floor, it’s his influence off the court that can also pay dividends.
“He’s not an abrasive personality that people would want to tune out,” Bickerstaff said. “He’s the style of person like big brother who has that rapport and can speak that same language to get the younger guys to listen as the season goes on.”
His messages connect because they’re authentic and he speaks from experience. The former first-round pick has ridden the roller coaster of an NBA career.
“I had just finished my rookie deal. I didn’t have a lot of offers that summer. I think I had the Lakers and the Clippers, both for minimum deals,” Davis said. “I think it was a late signing and it was pretty much ‘you make it shake this year, or you’re going to be out of the league.’”
He stuck and he's better for it now. Davis knows these young kids have a lot to more learn and plenty to give. There will undoubtedly be bumps in the road. It helps when you've had someone who's gone through it to lean on.
“A lot of the stuff their parents or their agents or their friends can’t teach them, because they’ve never really been in the situation,” Davis said. “I can help a lot of guys out with all of the stuff I’ve been through.
From contract stuff, to playing, not playing. Everything that comes with the game.”
An 82-game marathon requires a certain appetite and Bickerstaff believes Davis can help facilitate that.
“I was always hungry. Obviously, I wish my career would’ve been better, but that’s everyone. I’m not going to walk around here like ‘I wish I could’ve done this’ or ‘I wish I could’ve done that.’”
But he's got no regrets.
Well, maybe just one.
“Obviously I wish I could’ve had a three-point shot,” Davis said. “But I didn’t. Life goes on.”