While Kyrie Irving, John Wall and Paul George were hitting threes and dunking all over the place in the Rising Stars Challenge in Orlando last night, Ed Davis was chilling in Toronto. Heading into his sophomore season, it wasn’t supposed to be like this. Davis earned lofty expectations with the way he finished his rookie campaign, averaging 13 points, nine rebounds, and 58% shooting in 34 minutes a game in April. This year, under coach Dwane Casey, he’s down to six and six on 49% shooting in under 23 minutes. These numbers mean Davis can’t act surprised that the league’s assistant coaches deemed 21 others more deserving. “I take it as motivation, “ he said. “With the shortened season and the new coach, it’s been somewhat of a tougher transition than some of the other guys or whatever, but I’m learning from it.”
Suiting up against the Pistons this past Wednesday, Davis encountered more than a familiar face — he found himself looking into the eyes of a man he’s looked up to since he was five years old. To say that Ben Wallace is close to Davis’ family isn’t strong enough for Wallace. “We are family,” Wallace firmly proclaimed. “Me and his father was like brothers.” Not only were Wallace and Terry Wizards teammates, they were both undrafted out of Virginia Union and live nearby in Richmond, VA. “He’s like my nephew,” Wallace said of Davis. “I’ve been knowing him almost all his life and been around him for so long, so I consider him family.” Wallace first envisioned Davis as a pro when he was in high school. “I’d seen how close he started to hang out with his daddy,” he said. “They used to work out together, get up in the morning and go run a couple of miles. For a high school kid, that’s huge to be able to have that type of discipline where you’re going to get up in the morning and go run.”
Nowadays the tough love comes from his coach. Casey compares the UNC alum’s on-court demeanor to a fellow lefty Tar Heel, Sam Perkins, whose first coach as a pro once called him a sleepy-eyed sucker. While Casey coached “Sleepy Sam” or “Big Smooth” as a veteran in Seattle, his treatment of Davis is more in line with the way Perkins was disciplined as a youngster. When I remark about how easily the game comes to Davis at times, Casey responds, “It’s too easy!” He sees Davis as a special athlete, but he won’t rave about his season so far. “I think it’s been solid. Not great, but solid,” Casey said. “He’s just got to do it at a high rate every time when he’s on the floor. That’s what we’re shooting for, that’s what we’re looking for from Ed.”
“He wants the best out of you, so he’s going to be tough on you,” Davis said of his coach, who called him in for a one-on-one sit-down after a particularly poor road trip in January. “He don’t want nothing to be handed to you, you gotta earn everything… He’s really going to be tough on the guys that he cares about, you know? It’s like a family, so he’s tough on me. He’ll admit that, I’ll admit that, but it only makes me more hungry and makes me better.”
Speak with Casey and it’s rapidly apparent how much he cares. “I love Ed — beautiful young man, great kid. He’s what the NBA is about,” he said.
“He’s a very intelligent young man,” Casey continued. “He’s very worldly. He’s well-raised, his mom and dad did a heck of a job of raising him. But at the same time, I told his mom and his dad that I’m going to be hard on him because I see all the potential. Believe me, it’s nothing personal and I tell Ed all the time I love him. But I’m going to get on him when he screws up. And I want to push him. He’s a guy that, if he didn’t have it, I wouldn’t waste my time or waste his time. But he has so much potential within him that I’m going to continue to push him and to help him get where he wants to go in this league.”
SourceReaching your potential isn’t just about being at the right place at the right time. It isn’t about milestones, mentors or mottos. It’s work. Davis ran with his NBA dad before high school classes, endured Roy Williams practices in college and had breakfast with Charles Oakley last summer. He has every reason not to be the cliche “he was too talented for his own good” guy. Let’s check in on him a year from now and focus not just on the jumper. Let’s see if he’s doing the little things.