April 14, 2012
Raptors watch Davis' stock rise
By Mike Ganter, QMI Agency
Ed Davis’ season may have started with a whimper but it’s going out with a bang.
The second-year power forward who has yet to take part in a full-length NBA training camp, is looking more and more like the player the Raptors hoped he would become when they drafted him 13th over-all in 2010.
“Just his aggressiveness,” head coach Dwane Casey says of where he has noticed the biggest improvement in Davis’ offensive game. “He’s making quick, decisive moves offensively.”
But it’s defensively where Davis has really endeared himself to his coach over the past month or so.
“Defensively he’s in the places he needs to be,” Casey said. “That’s a big jump for him. It’s almost like a light switch coming on for him. Everything is just kind of clicking for him right now.”
It should come as no surprise to anyone that with that progress, Davis’ stock with his new coach has taken a dramatic jump.
But that’s not to suggest the work is done for the 6-foot-10 Raptor, who turns 23 early next month.
“It’s growing (his stock) because Ed is a young man and a lot of times those guys need time to grow,” Casey said.
The Raptors coach is well aware that Davis missed all his rookie training camp because of injury. His second year camp lasted two weeks thanks to the lockout. Any progress he would normally make in his second year was further stalled by the lack of practice time.
You could make a strong case that no Raptor has been as adversely affected by that lack of practice time as Davis. With Jonas Valanciunas yet to make his NBA debut after fulfilling his contract obligations in Lithuania this past season, Davis is still the young pup on the roster.
Casey sees an opportunity for him to make bigger strides this summer.
He says he is going to insist Davis not only play on the Raptors summer league team in Las Vegas but expects he will be the focal point of it with Valanciunas likely tied up with his national team duties for Lithuania.
“This summer is doing to be big for him,” Casey said. “He has to get his body where it’s stronger, physically mature because a lot of his (trouble) right now is strength-based and getting knocked off his mark. If he can get a good base and get his strength, he can make a move. The problem he has right now is when he goes up against a strong guy like a (Kevin) Garnett who knows how to push and shove and get him off his leverage point. That’s where he has to learn, and the only way to learn that is to get strong enough so you can take those blows and still make your move.”
Casey has no doubt that the requisite toughness is already there.
“He’s tough and he shows it a different way than a lot of guys but he would be able to show it more if he were stronger,” he said. “He knows what to do and how to do it but physically he’s just not there yet.”
Casey also believes the summer league experience can make up for what Davis has missed out on his first two years.
“He’s only had two weeks of a training camp (in two seasons) and he’s only really had two seasons of not big, but limited minutes of playing time. So in summer league I’d like to get him in there, get him playing a whole game, learn how to play fatigued. That will be big for him.”
Davis is already putting in extra time. With the team on it’s way to Atlanta and a bus waiting to take them to the airport, it was Davis and assistant coach Johnny Davis working on some inside shooting drills and rebound hunting drills with most of his teammates already headed for the bus.
Davis said all the extra practice not only makes him feel more confident in games, but gives him license to take a few more liberties on offence.
“Coach Casey sees me working so he knows when I take a shot in a game, I’ve been working on it in practice first so it’s not like I’m just doing it because I’m looking for my own,” he said. “And when you work on something (beforehand) you feel comfortable doing it in a game.”
As for his defence, Davis said it may have taken a while, but he’s at the point now where he’s not only comfortable carrying out his own assignments, he has taken it upon himself to fill a communication gap he has seen on the Raptors defence.
“Now I’m helping my teammates out more just talking more and being more vocal,” Davis said. “We need a vocal leader on defence because we have a lot of quiet guys.”
Just one more thing to distance himself from that slow start.