Davis starts NBA comeback with D-League's Red Claws

625798.jpg

Davis starts NBA comeback with D-League's Red Claws

Ricky Davis ran through shootaround like he had done hundreds of times before. Only this morning, he wasnt preparing for just any basketball game.

Davis was getting ready to begin his comeback to the NBA, starting on the road in Canton, Ohio for his debut with the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League.

Its my first morning practice since I left the (Los Angeles) Clippers two, three years ago, Davis told CSNNE.com in a telephone interview on Thursday. It felt great.

The 32-year-old guard joined the Boston Celtics, Charlotte Bobcats, and Philadelphia 76ers D-League affiliate on Wednesday. He had not played in an NBA game since February 9, 2010 when he scored four points for the Clippers during a loss to the Utah Jazz. He was waived one week later.

After being cut by the Clippers, Davis (who also played for the Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat, Cleveland Cavaliers, Boston Celtics, and Minnesota Timberwolves) traveled to Turkey to play overseas. But a nagging pain in his left knee that he had been battling during his time with the Clippers continued to bother him in Europe.

He returned to the United States and contemplated retirement after 12 years in the NBA.

My knee was hurting so bad. I lost my explosiveness and I wasnt really able to do what I wanted to, said Davis, who averaged 13.5 points, 3.3 assists, and 3.5 rebounds over 736 NBA games. It was just kind of like I was a person out there knowing what I could do and knowing what I used to do, and getting out there and not being able to do it, its kind of the part that hits you deep in your soul.

Davis had previously been told the pain was caused by tendonitis. Seeking one last opinion before he decided whether or not to hang it up, he made an appointment with a specialist when he came back from Turkey. Within ten minutes, he says, the doctor saw a patella tear.

The diagnosis was the best news Davis had heard in a while. It gave him hope for a return to basketball.

He underwent surgery and after rehabbing his knee, played in China and France. What he originally thought would be his final games turned out to be the beginning of a new opportunity in basketball.

I only went to play overseas because I thought I was hurting and I thought it was the down of my career, Davis said. I was going to go over there for two or three more years and just end my career. But now that I know what I felt and that I wasnt done and that it could have been fixed, now its like a new life. Going out there this second road again, it feels good knowing that Im just 32 and Ive got a lot of bounce in my step now.

As Davis begins his quest back to the NBA, being faced with the possibility of never being able to play basketball again has made him stronger.

It was tough, he said. It was very humbling. I think it gave me the chance to put my life in perspective. It gave me a chance to bring Jesus in my life and pray about it and finally get the grown man perspective on life. I think maybe I needed that in my life to humble me and get me back on the path I needed to go.

For Davis, the grown man perspective focuses on humbleness, the importance of being a good teammate, and taking things one day at a time. He hopes to share that with the Red Claws and their community this season. For his first game, he arranged for ten children from a local church to attend the match up.

And while Davis looks to help the Red Claws and take his experience with them one game at a time, he feels he still has unfinished business in the NBA. One place he would like to take care of it is with his former team, the Celtics.

Davis played for the Celtics from 2003 through 2006 before being traded to the Timberwolves as part of the Wally Szczerbiak deal. Five years and three NBA teams later, Davis would still like to return to Boston.

Oh yeah definitely. No hesitation at all, he said. Those guys over there, theyre class acts. Doc Rivers is easily probably one of the best coaches Ive ever played for. Hes the one that kind of started the team thing with me, bringing me off the bench and teaching me different kinds of things in the game. That would be a great blessing for me to go back to Boston and get my Bucket Brigade going again (laughs).

Davis recorded six points (3-8 FG), four assists, two rebounds, and two steals in his debut with the Red Claws on Thursday night against the Canton Charge. Even though his game is still similar to what it was the last time he played in the NBA, his injuries have forced him to make slight adjustments that he finds helpful on the court.

My games pretty much the same. Maybe about one or two inches off my vertical now (laughs) but its great, he said. Now that Ive been injured I think its helped me put my game in an all-around situation -- not going to dunk on people, I have to make the open pass; not using my explosiveness and using my brain. Now that Ive got my explosiveness back and my brain, I think it could be really, really good for me.

He looks forward to the day when he can step on to an NBA court and prove it.

Oh yeah, Ive got a lot to show, he said. I was holding back and Im ready. Im ready.

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Sixers' success against C's defense shows Boston still has room to grow

Avery Bradley was a member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first team a year ago. And Al Horford has been among the league’s best interior defenders for a number of years.

MORE ON CELTICS-SIXERS

But as talented defensively as they may be, the Celtics are still learning how to play with each other as well as off of one another.

Injuries have slowed down the chemistry developing as quickly as some might expect. Horford missed nine games due to a concussion, and another game due to wife giving birth to their second child, Alia Horford.

And in Boston’s 107-106 win over Philadelphia on Saturday night, defensive chemistry -- not only among Horford and Bradley, but with all of the players -- remains a work in progress for sure.

Boston had a number of defensive issues in the first half which factored in the Sixer shooting 46.1 percent from the field while shooting 9-for-18 from 3-point range.

But the second half was an entirely different story as Boston’s defense picked up his intensity and focus level which would prove to be just enough to beat a scrappy Sixers team.

The Celtics (12-8) are four games over .500 for the first time this season currently have the third-best record in the Eastern Conference behind Cleveland (13-5) and Toronto (14-6). 

And while the players point to a handful of games that they felt they gave away, Avery Bradley reminds all that the success of this team this season has for the most part come with key players out of the mix or limited in some capacity.

“We haven’t played that many games with the full roster,” Bradley told reporters after the win. “We’re still learning how to play with each other.”

Bradley pointed out a moment in Saturday’s victory where a miscommunication between him and Horford led to a defensive miscue.

Boston has had similar mistakes made on offense this season, too.

“We haven’t really been in pick-and-roll that much,” Bradley said. “Every single game we need to improve.”

And that improvement has to continue evolving on the defensive side of things for this team to achieve its goals this season which include being among the last teams standing in the East.

Doing that will likely mean Boston re-establishing itself as a defensive force, something that should come with time and experience playing with each other.

Horford, who signed a four-year, $113 million deal with Boston in the offseason, says it’s an ongoing process for all involved.

“I have to learn to play with our concepts, the guys have to learn to play with me,” Horford told reporters after Saturday’s win. “We just have to make sure we keep playing the right way, be more consistent with that. I feel like we’re getting better but there’s still some work that we need to do.”

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth-quarter performance

Stars, studs and duds: Thomas churns out another strong fourth-quarter performance

The pressure that comes with a tight game in the fourth quarter can be a weighty proposition for some NBA players.

MORE ON CELTICS-SIXERS

Then there’s Boston’s Isaiah Thomas who continues to save his best work for the fourth quarter.

Saturday’s 107-106 win at Philadelphia had yet another Thomas-like finish for the Celtics as the 5-foot-9 guard was at his most dominant state in the game’s final minutes.

Thomas finished with a season high-tying 37 points which included a stretch in the fourth in which he scored 12 straight.

“I just love the fourth quarter,” Thomas told reporters following the win. “I just want to win. Whether it’s making plays for myself or making plays for my teammates, it’s about making the right play. I get ultra- aggressive in that fourth quarter. That’s what I’ve always done.”

And his teammates appreciate how Thomas elevates his play in the game’s most pivotal moments.

“A lot of the credit is to Isaiah, how he was able to finish the game tonight,” said Avery Bradley. “He was able to make shots when we needed him to.”

And while Thomas knows his shots won’t fall all the time down the stretch, his fourth quarter mentality does provide him with a level of confidence that no matter what the defense does to him or what the score may be, he can swing the game’s momentum in his team’s favor.

“Some guys get a little tight, they get a little timid (in the fourth quarter),” Thomas said. “I embrace it. I want to be great. I want to be somebody my teammates can call on when the game is close.”

Here are the Stars, Studs and Duds from Saturday night’s game.

STARS

Isaiah Thomas: There was no more dominant player on Saturday night than Thomas. He finished with a game-high 37 points along with seven assists.

Dario Saric: It was a breakout game for the 22-year-old rookie who led the Sixers with 21 points as well as 12 rebounds for his third double-double this season. Both his points and rebound totals tied his career highs in those categories.

STUDS

Avery Bradley: Boston’s surge towards victory did not kick in until the third quarter which is when Bradley elevated his play offensively. In the third he scored 10 of his 20 points on the night, to go along with a team-high nine rebounds.

Ersan Illyasova: He finished with 18 points which included a pair of three-pointers in the closing seconds of the game. He also grabbed six rebounds and two assists.

DUDS

Celtics first half defense: There wasn’t much to like about Boston defensively in the first half. The Celtics struggled to take away or limit Philadelphia’s only strength Saturday night which was three-point shooting. The Sixers nailed nine of their 18 three-point attempts in the first half in addition to hurting the Celtics’ transition defense which gave up seven fast-break points to Philly compared to Boston scoring just one point in transition.