Davis still has time to fortify his reputation

MIKE ULMER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 7:40 AM ET

It's amazing how much unhappiness Antonio Davis has managed to squeeze out of $64 million US.

That's what the Raptors agreed to give Davis -- $64 million over five years -- in 2001 and if there is anyone left who thinks money can buy happiness, they should consult the reluctant Raptor.

There is a beautiful, sweet twist in Davis coming back from New York for his final desultory lopes downcourt. He got the big money here but there is one final tour of smalltown left, one last chance for the locals to inspect what their money didn't buy. Catholics call this penance.

Davis, remember, signed his monster deal after free-agent talks with the Chicago Bulls broke down. "Whether it was a fallback or not, I'm here," he said the day he signed the deal. "To me, that's all that matters."

As if. By the next summer, he was campaigning to get out. The $64 million, it seems, bought his presence, not his passion.

Davis is expected to meet the media today after taking extra time to report to the Raptors. He had to pack. He had to speak to his wife Kendra in Chicago. Mostly, he had to spend time getting his head around the notion of making nearly $6 million to play small portions of 34 games, as well as practices in Toronto. Plus per diem.

It seems pretty clear-cut. His family is in Chicago. Nobody will have to learn metric against their will.

This is a 10-and-a-half week, $6-million business trip with no fear of playoffs and five days off at the all-star break. And yet Antonio Davis waited.

Jalen Rose, who went the other way to the Knicks, joined his new teammates on the bench. He hustled off to New York and already has played his first game. Davis was packing in New York while the Raptors, the nice people paying him $6 million, were losing to the Los Angeles Clippers and 7-footer Chris Kaman.

Davis is unhappy with Toronto. He was unhappy in New York and only mildly happy, or perhaps not profoundly unhappy, in Chicago, where he was sent because he was unhappy in Toronto.

There seems to be a dwindling number of cities Antonio Davis will be happy playing in and fewer still where he will be welcome. At 37, a productive if never prodigious player, he is nearing the end.

The league still is buzzing about his decision to go into the stands last month in Chicago, ostensibly to defend his wife, who was arguing with a patron. That earned Davis a five-game suspension.

Those on the receiving end of Kendra's tongue lashings would argue that Davis went into the crowd to save the guy she was fighting with. Just to add a little more spice, she has been charged with misdemeanour battery for allegedly throwing coffee at a motorist in Chicago last fall.

The Davises, heaven knows they come as a set, look like a risky hire for any post-basketball endeavour.

It's at this time in their career that players have things figured out. They lay the groundwork for a move to work with the same media they once despised.

They accept their lack of minutes and continue to work with young players in practice. They cement relationships for a possible move into coaching.

Not Antonio Davis. Even though he is friends with Raptors coach Sam Mitchell, Davis' first signal to the club and to the fan base is a dawdling "maybe I will report, maybe I won't" response to the trade.

What a shame. Davis is a bright, articulate man. The president of the players' association, a guy who has known hard times and risen past them, he could make a substantial contribution schooling the Raps' big men, Pape Sow, Charlie Villanueva and Rafael Araujo.

The wonder of it is, there is still a little time. If he plays well, Davis could garner a look at the end of someone's bench next year where another year in the trenches could fortify his reputation.

Who knows, the strength of his personality means there should be a seat in a broadcast booth for him somewhere. He just needs to hang around a little longer to put more ground between his reputation and his walk into the stands.

Toronto was his ticket to the big money. Maybe now, Antonio Davis can use his second stay to gain something he can actually use.


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