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.

Blakely: Game 4 loss shows just how much Celtics miss Isaiah

Blakely: Game 4 loss shows just how much Celtics miss Isaiah

CLEVELAND --  Down the stretch in Game 4, the Celtics were desperate for someone, anyone, who could slow down Kyrie Irving.
 
But short of that, Boston could have used an offensive closer, too. You know, someone like Isaiah Thomas.

GAME 4: CAVS 112, CELTICS 99

 

The Celtics have relied on the two-time All-Star to carry much of the offensive burden this season, but he was almost always at his best in the fourth quarter.
 
A right hip injury knocked him out of this series after 1 1/2 games. Still, Boston managed to win Game 3 without him and, for large chunks of Tuesday night, seemed poised to beat the Cavs again on their home floor.
 
But as much as Game 4 was a reminder of just how special a talent Irving is (42 points, 21 in the third quarter when the game’s momentum swung in Cleveland's favor), it also provided a clue to the clueless who thought the Celtics were actually better without Isaiah Thomas.
 
Defensively?
 
Absolutely.
 
It’s no secret that teams go to great lengths to try and use his 5-foot-9 stature against him. And as we have seen, the deeper we get into the postseason the more trouble he and the Celtics seem to encounter from a defensive standpoint.
 
But just as we praise Irving for being such a special talent, Thomas has shown that he, too, has offensive gifts that, throughout this season, have left many fans, media and defenders befuddled as to how “the little fella” keeps coming up with one big play, one big shot after another.
 
But as we have learned, he has been dealing with a sore right hip injury for several weeks. The pain and discomfort eventually became too much to bear and so the Celtics did the right thing and shut him down.
 
Without him, the C's are still a good team that on any given night can knock off anyone, even the defending champs.
 
But as Game 4 reminded us, they need Thomas in order to be their best.
 
When Irving torched Boston’s entire defense with jumpers, ankle-breaking crossovers, Euro-step lay-ups and free throws, the Celtics had no one to turn to who could maybe, just maybe, go back at Irving at the other end of the floor.
 
That's what Thomas does that makes him such a special, unique talent in this league.
 
He can score in a variety of ways, with the best in the NBA.
 
We saw that this past season, when he led all players in the Eastern Conference in scoring with a 28.9 points-per-game average.
 
Boston’s excellent ball movement and high assist numbers are certainly important to the team’s success. But to make a deep and meaningful playoff run, you need one or two guys who can just go get buckets regardless of what the opponent does defensively.
 
That’s not Avery Bradley.
 
That’s not Al Horford.
 
That’s not Kelly Olynyk.
 
You can search, poke and prod this roster all you want, and you'll come up empty when it comes to finding a player like that . . . other than Isaiah Thomas.
 
The fact the Celtics were able to avoid getting swept is a victory of sorts in itself. Boston’s coaching staff, as well as the front office, has repeatedly said that as talented as their team is, they aren’t on the same level of the defending champion Cavaliers.
 
And yet here we are four games into this series and the Celtics are basically a bad half of basketball away from being tied, 2-2.
 
It says a lot about their mental toughness, their ability to handle and navigate past adversity to give themselves a chance to be competitive against any team -- including the Cavs.
 
But their success this season has always been about the collective group, regardless of how many late-game shots Isaiah Thomas knocks down.
 
And while he has his shortcomings defensively, not having him available is going to hurt them in those late-game moments when they need a closer. It’s not a coincidence the Celtics were just 2-4 when he didn’t play during the regular season.
 
So as cool as it was for them to win Game 3 without Thomas, he’s still the straw that stirs the Celtics emotionally, bringing them to levels few think they're capable of reaching.
 
They were able to get by for one night without him, but remember this: It took Marcus Smart having an Isaiah Thomas-like game of 27 points and seven made 3’s, for them to win.
 
No one did anything remotely close to that Tuesday night.
 
They looked like the Isaiah Thomas-less Celtics, which is a look they don’t need this time of year.
 
Because that look is so not about winning.