Embry won't be pushed around

KEN FIDLIN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:32 AM ET

It's a little premature, but we're nominating Wayne Embry for executive of the year. Here's a general manager who makes a trade and -- now get this -- the guy he trades for actually shows up.

No guff. It's true.

Okay, so Antonio Davis hasn't actually landed in Toronto but Embry is confident enough that it's going to happen. If not today, then tomorrow.

It's not because Davis yearns for a return to Canada. He doesn't. It probably has more to do with the fact that he will be paid something like $7 million US for 10 weeks of work.

At 37, the NBA gravy train is drying up for Davis. He still has skill enough and is in good enough shape to continue in the league for a couple more seasons if he cares to. But he will do so at a small fraction of his current salary.

STILL HAS GAME

The alternative is to refuse to report and get paid exactly nothing, which, to most of us, and probably to Davis, is not an alternative at all. Unfortunately, Embry's predecessor with the Raptors, Rob Babcock, failed to grasp that concept. He made a similar trade a year ago in which Alonzo Mourning became Raptors property in the Vince Carter fiasco.

Crafty strategist that he was, Babcock elected not to make Mourning report. Instead, he forced $10 million down Mourning's throat in a buyout that made Mourning a free agent and allowed him to sign with the Miami Heat. Take that, Alonzo.

Embry and coach Sam Mitchell spent some time Saturday explaining the facts of life to Davis before he went back to collect his things in New York, on his way to his home in Chicago to collect his breath with his family.

"He was a real pro," said Embry of Davis. "He has some anxiety about moving but we had a nice talk with him and he's ready to come. As long as he's a Raptor, he's gonna do what we want him to do."

The key phrase there is "as long as he's a Raptor."

Embry seems content to let Davis play out the string here, opening up huge cap dollars for the Raps next season. With that cap relief comes the opportunity to make more fundamental changes to the structure and quality of the team.

"(Davis) would like to be closer to his family, but we talked that through and he doesn't want to do anything that's going to hurt us and we don't want to do anything that will hurt us," Embry said.

"He wants to come in and fulfil his obligation and we think he'll be a big help to us. I think our guys will respond well to him."

Davis' veteran presence could be a very positive influence on the young Raptors. No matter how he rubbed Toronto fans the wrong way in his final days here the first time around, he has never been the kind of player who mails it in.

During the 2001 playoff run, Davis was arguably Toronto's most consistent performer and a true warrior. His grit and experience are the kinds of things that can make all the difference in games like yesterday's overtime loss to the Clippers at the Air Canada Centre.

A stop here, an offensive board, a clutch basket or a strategic recognition. These are the kinds of things that have made Antonio Davis a considerable force over the course of his 13 years in the league.

In a league dominated by the demands of a salary cap, however, it's not always about what a player can contribute on the court. That's why Davis was sent, against his will, to New York by the Bulls in the Eddy Curry deal earlier this season.

And it's why he was sent here by the Knicks. His salary was a match for Jalen Rose's stipend, nothing more, nothing less. It was simply bookkeeping.

But the catch is, he has got to show up to get paid. Imagine that.


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