Take a group of young men out of their comfort zone and you learn a few things about them.
For instance, Ed Davis, at the ripe old age of 21, proved this week that he can handle just about anything you throw at him.
This just-completed trip to London was his first time outside of North America and first time dealing with a significant time change.
But Davis didn’t just get by, he prospered.
This really shouldn’t come as a surprise given that this is the same young man who sat out the first month of the season with an injury, survived that and has barely taken a step back since. But just knowing how miserable Davis was this week and how it didn’t let his game suffer was eye-opening.
Tracked down outside a team function within the O2 Arena after having to excuse himself from the traditional post-game locker interview because he was still cramping up, Davis was asked for the toughest part of his London experience.
“Probably the time zone,” Davis said. “It was tough for me. This is the first time I’ve been outside North America.”
As recently early Friday morning, Davis was tweeting about his inability to get to sleep. That was about 4 a.m.
The other tough one for Davis was the British cuisine. Apparently, Ed is rather particular about his food.
“I ate the same thing the whole week,” Davis said. “It was chicken wings. It was the only thing I could eat.”
Davis, though, put aside his sleep and food issues and, just as he has done since early December when his delayed NBA career began, he took another step forward. Matched up against either Brook Lopez or Kris Humphries during the Raptors’ two-loss series against the New Jersey Nets, Davis was at a significant size disadvantage but held his own. On Saturday, he pulled down a career-high 15 boards (seven offensive) while adding 12 points. It was the kid’s sixth double double of the season, which is four more than Andrea Bargnani has this year although the big Italian recorded his second of the year on Saturday, as well.
Raptors head coach Jay Triano likes what he is seeing from his rookie these days.
“The one thing we like about Ed is every game he seems to be getting better,” Triano said. “There is a natural progression by him, week to week. We wanted him to work on his jump shot. He’s starting to make jumpers. He’s getting better from the free-throw line. He missed a few (on Saturday) but, at the same time, he’s starting to shoot the ball a whole lot better. He’s being aggressive and assertive at the defensive end and we think his growth is really starting to accelerate.”
Davis wasn’t happy about going home without a win on this trip, although he was glad just to be going home. He did, however, see the value in the trip.
“It’s hard to take a positive out of two losses but, for me, I mean we’re a young team, but getting a three-overtime game under your belt is a good experience for us,” he said.
And that’s pretty much the way the Raptors viewed the trip. Disappointed in that they didn’t get a win here, but a solid all-around learning experience for a team that still has plenty of learning and maturing to do.
Even some of the older vets on the team probably learned a thing or two. You would hope that Andrea Bargnani realizes that the next time he finds himself in a game-winning situation, the high percentage play is a move towards the basket, not away from it.
It’s a no-lose, everything-to-gain scenario, but twice in overtime on Saturday with the ball in his hands and a chance to win it, Bargnani opted for the jumper from 22 feet, rather than putting both the defence and the referees on alert with a drive to the hoop.
Of course, you could make the point that DeMar DeRozan, the other Raptor who had the ball put in his hands with a chance to win the game in the second overtime, made the right decision and attacked, only to see his path cut off. There was definitely contact, but apparently not enough for the officials to call a foul. That too will come with time when DeRozan, the other 21-year old on this team, starts getting the calls a top-level scorer gets with regularity.
Triano stepped back and saw the experience for what it was: A chance to grow as a team in a season which cannot be judged on wins and losses anymore.
“I think our guys have coped well,” Triano said. “Despite the losses in basketball, the week has been very positive for us because we have had different guys step up and play and we’ve had to go through different situations.”