The rookie season Terence Davis has been working through had already reached unbelievable status well before the coronavirus pandemic hit.
An undrafted first-year playing substantial minutes on the roster of the defending NBA champions — even getting the odd start — certainly qualifies for the unbelievable category.
But then to have your first go-around at professional basketball stopped in its tracks and put on hold by the pandemic for almost four months is definitely out of the norm.
The stoppage was problematic for a 14-year vet like Kyle Lowry, let alone a first-year player still trying to navigate the trials and tribulations of an entirely new experience.
Davis though returned to supervised individual workouts last week in Naples, Fla. as the team prepares to enter the NBA bubble in at Disney World in Orlando next week, anxious to get going, again looking to continue what he started.
“I do come into this season, as you say, the second season, I would come into this more mature, being that I went through three-fourths of a season,” Davis said. “Just growing up, man, maturing, taking the steps in the right direction. These guys, Fred (VanVleet), Kyle (Lowry), Marc (Gasol), Norm (Powell), all these guys man, they make sure the young guys are where they need to be, because to them, it’s everything. These guys are defending their title. You wanna be a part of that, so definitely.”
And while he may still feel like this is his rookie year those veteran teammates he looks to for guidance and advice no longer view him that way, at least not from what Davis can see.
“I definitely don’t think so, man,” he said. “These guys, if I make a mistake, I’m not a rookie anymore. I think I heard someone say that. So definitely, man. These guys are in tune. I think (Gasol) is already in playoff mode right now. That right there’s your anchor, you get everyone in playoff mode. We’re locked in over here, man, for sure.”
Davis wound up playing in all 64 games the Raptors played, the only Raptor who can make that claim. He started two games and over the year averaged 17 minutes. Not bad for a guy who was passed over by every team in the league on draft day.
But Davis doesn’t measure himself that way. His entire approach is to earn and keep the trust of his coaching staff and his teammates so that there is no hesitation to put him in any situation that arises.
Raptors’ assistant coach Adrian Griffin says there’s no doubt in his mind, or any of the other coaches that Davis accomplished that goal.
“If you went back and watched some of our games, Coach Nurse has unbelievable trust in him and so does the entire coaching staff,” Griffin said. “ As I mentioned before, he started in a couple games, he started in the Charlotte game and had one of his career-highs, he had an excellent game at home where he shot the ball very well. He’s just a complete, all-around player and he’s still improving. And I think that’s the scary part about it, I think he’s already positioning himself as one of the elite scorers and shooters in this league as a 2-guard and he has a phenomenal attitude. He’s fun to work with, has a great work ethic with all our coaching staff.”
So yes, he has that trust now but he says he continues to work every day to expand on it and become a guy no one else on the team even thinks of as a rookie.
“I had to gain these guys’ trust and I would say it means a lot,” he said. “I wouldn’t say this is something that’s normal, but for me being an undrafted guy playing with the defending champions it’s just unbelievable. So I honestly don’t know what to say, it’s just like you can’t make it up. That’s something that you want as a young guy. You want these guys to be able to trust you and that’s something that I’m working towards every day. So I’m excited about the process, going to Orlando and really finishing out the season because we really have a chance to do it again, for sure.”
The one area Davis has yet to perform is in the playoffs. He’s very much looking forward to that chance once the Raptors get to Orlando.
GASOL LEANER, STRONGER
If there is one guy getting plenty of attention and second looks in the Raptors’ temporary home in Florida, it is big man Marc Gasol.
Or maybe we should say not-so-big Marc Gasol.
Yes, he’s still 6-foot-11 but Gasol has returned from Spain a leaner, stronger player than he was when he left.
Raptors assistant coach Adrian Griffin wasn’t even sure he was looking at the same player when he first came across him in Florida last week.
“I had to do a double take. I won’t lie,” Griffin said. “I was so impressed about the way he looks. He just looks phenomenal. I know that it’s not easy. As someone, myself, who as a player always struggled to maintain a certain weight, it’s not easy. It really isn’t. He could have been doing anything during the quarantine, during the pandemic. That shows you what kind of person he is, a high-character guy, that he took it upon himself to get in the best shape possible.”
And Griffin said that transformation could be the difference for the Raptors once they get to Orlando and start taking on the rest of the NBA.
“Truth be told, I think the team that wins this championship is going to be the team that’s in the best physical shape,” Griffin said. “You’re not going to have those months, ideally during an NBA season, where you can work yourself into shape. The team that comes in the best conditioning is going to give themselves a competitive advantage. My hat goes off to Marc. I kind of miss the big fella, though. He was just so likeable, but I’m getting used to the new Marc.”
— Mike Ganter
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