OFFSEASON

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

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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.

OFFSEASON

Celtics must address needs with free agency on the horizon

Celtics must address needs with free agency on the horizon

BOSTON -- With more salary cap space than they've ever had along with a slew of clear and well-defined needs, the Celtics are sure to be one of the busier teams when free agency begins on Friday.

And while the Celtics’ needs may be all over the place, there is one thing that head coach Brad Stevens and the rest of the Boston Celtics have made no secret about wanting to come away with this offseason.

“The need for increased versatility,” Stevens said.

Indeed, Stevens envisions the NBA becoming more of a position-less league going forward.

When you look at the Cleveland Cavaliers rallying from a 3-1 deficit to knock off Golden State, of course LeBron James was brilliant as well as Kyrie Irving. 

But one of the more stealth keys to that series that factored into its outcome, was the way Cleveland's 6-foot-9 power forward/center Tristan Thompson was able to hold his own defensively against two-time league MVP guard, 6-3 Stephen Curry.

His play was as clear an example of the value in having players with defensive versatility as you will find.

It also has value on the offensive end of the floor as well. 

That helps explain why LSU’s Ben Simmons was selected with the top overall pick, a player with power forward size (6-10, 240) with point guard-like vision.

And in many ways it speaks to why the Celtics decided to draft Jaylen Brown with the No. 3 pick instead of a playmaker like Providence College’s Kris Dunn or sharpshooters like Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield or Kentucky’s Jamal Murray.

Brown stands 6-7, weighs 223 pounds and has a 7-foot wingspan with elite athleticism and quickness getting to the paint. 

“Very few guys can move like Jaylen, can move at his size and at his length,” Stevens said. “So the defensive versatility is a big piece of that; that should be transferable right away.”

As for free agency, the same mantra – seek out versatile players – will remain in effect for Boston.

Of course Kevin Durant is at the top of the Celtics’ free agent wish list after Durant reportedly included Boston on the list of teams he will meet with in New York shortly after free agency begins.

In addition to the Celtics and his current team Oklahoma City, Durant is also planning to talk with officials from the following teams: Golden State, the Los Angeles Clippers, Miami and San Antonio.

Along with Durant, the Celtics are also expected to express interest in Atlanta’s Al Horford; New Orleans’ Ryan Anderson; and possibly Golden State’s Harrison Barnes who will be a restricted free agent which often serves as a deterrent for potential suitors. However, Barnes could wind up being an unrestricted free agent if the Warriors feel as though they will land Durant.

Regardless of which free agents wind up in Boston, you can count on versatility being one of their strengths.

“I only look at the game in four spots; ball-handlers, wings, guys that can play that three-swing spot (some power forward as well as small forward) and bigs,” Stevens said. “The more versatile, the more position-less, the better. That overall provides more opportunities than it does not. That’s a positive when you talk about guys that can do different things at different positions.”

OFFSEASON

Yabusele, Zizic may not be able to play in Summer League for C's

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Yabusele, Zizic may not be able to play in Summer League for C's

BOSTON –  The Boston Celtics turned quite a few heads when they used two of their three first-round picks on international players.

They were part of a record-setting night for international players, with 15 being selected in the first round – the most ever in NBA history.

But like many international draft picks, it is far from a given that you’ll see either Guershon Yabusele and Ante Zizic, who were selected with the 16th and 23rd picks, respectively, next season.

While it’s not uncommon for teams to draft international players in the first round and do so with the plan being to keep them overseas for another year or two, the potential hold-up for Boston’s two international picks has more to do with coming to terms on a buyout amount with their current teams.

“We’ve had initial discussions with their representatives,” said Danny Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations, when I asked him about it during the team’s press conference to introduce the newest Celtics on Friday. “We have not concluded anything yet. We’re still in that discussion. And I’m not sure about summer (league).”

While it remains an option, a league source told CSNNE.com that it’s unlikely that either player will participate in either of Boston’s summer league squads which will play in Salt Lake City and Las Vegas.

Ainge agrees that there are a number of positives one can take from drafting an overseas player in the first round.

But the decision by Boston to draft Yabusele and Zizic in the first round had a lot to do with one thing – talent.

“The reason that these two guys are here . . . is because they’re good players,” Ainge said. “The fact that they have people that want them on their teams on the international top level competition, tells you how good players they are. They could easily find jobs overseas at the top level. They’ve earned that reputation. They’re both very productive. Guerson very productive and Ante very good rebounding  . . . now we’re trying to figure out the best way they can help us for their development. We’re working with their representatives on that plan.”

Yabusele, a 6-foot-8, 275-pound power forward, averaged 11.5 points, 6.8 rebounds in 28.7 minutes with Rouen Metropole Basket in the LNB Pro A league in France. While appearing in 34 games last season, he grabbed 10 or more rebounds 11 times while tallying eight double-doubles.

Zizic, a 6-11, 250-pound center, distinguished himself as one of the better players in the Adriatic League this past season. He was voted by fans, media and coaches as the Adriatic League’s Top Prospect after averaging 12.7 points, 7.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per game in 24.8 minutes while shooting an impressive 60.7 percent from the field.