A.D. lays it on the line
To Antonio Davis' credit, he didn't blow smoke up everyone's butt. He didn't say he was totally happy, or the media was making everything up, or he was unaware of the ubiquitous speculation that he wants to leave the Raptors and the club is trying to accommodate him.
Instead, Davis wore his emotions on his face yesterday as he spoke with reporters in Toronto for the first time since last season ended. And through his words and expressions, the message was clear:
- Antonio Davis would prefer to be traded.
- If it's going to happen, he hopes it happens soon.
- If he stays in Toronto, he'll play hard because he's a pro.
Now, there were a couple of times yesterday when Davis offered parental-guidance versions of the truth. But on at least one occasion silence said more than his mouth could.
Reporter: Did you ask the Raptors to trade you?
Davis: "Ummm ... (long pause) ... I took time to look over what transpired this summer, and no, I didn't go in there and tell them, 'Hey, I think you should move me.' But I also understand the nature of this business. I'm coming up on 35, and given my situation and my salary structure and all that, I have to think, 'Where is this team going to make moves?' And they haven't. So I'm here to play basketball."
Former Raptor Charles Oakley may have taught Davis many things while the two were teammates, but apparently not the nuances of the mental meltdown on media day. Back in 1999, Oakley went on a lengthy anti-management diatribe on media day -- and that was just after Oakley had signed a new three-year contract with the Raptors.
The Davis who met the media yesterday was calm, almost numb.
"If they decide to trade me, I don't think they hate me," Davis said. "I used to feel if they're trying to trade you, that means you suck. Now at least I have some value where they're saying, 'We can get something back for him that we need.'
"Being drafted in the second round (in 1990) and then being traded (to the Raptors from the Indiana Pacers) for the fifth pick (in 2001), I think that says a lot. A trade isn't always a bad thing. It's an adjustment, but it's not always a bad thing."
More than any other Raptor, the intricacies of Davis' family life have become the subject of public debate. The media is a convenient scapegoat, but in this case it's not accurate.
Davis' wife Kendra, who became a minor celebrity among Raptors fans with her halftime appearances on TV, never has been shy about voicing her opinions. And although yours truly consistently has opined that Davis did nothing wrong, he opened a can of worms among sensitive Canadians a few years back when he said that as an American, he wanted to make sure his kids were growing up with enough American influences while attending Canadian schools.
When word circulated recently that the Davises had sold their house in Toronto, there were all sorts of rumours as to what that meant. Once a celebrity opens the door to his family home, it's tough to shut it again. But Davis gave it a try yesterday just the same.
"I have to kind of blame myself in a way," Davis said. "My personal decisions are my personal decisions, and I don't feel I owe anybody an explanation on how I run my life. I tried to come in front of you guys and be as honest as I could, but I think I'm going to have to retract a little bit and keep my personal life my personal life. And anybody who doesn't understand that I have to be a father first and a husband first, then I think they have to look within themselves."
When asked directly if his family is going to be living with him this season, Davis said, "I'm not going to answer questions about my family. I'd love to, but I'm not going to."
We don't know much more today about what's going to happen to Antonio Davis than we knew yesterday. But we do know a little more about Antonio Davis the person, and a lot more about his mindset.
"I don't want my last three years to make me bitter about basketball," Davis said.
The only way he can prove that it hasn't happened already is through his play.