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BLAZERS FORWARD FLIES UNDER RADAR BUT KEEPS TEAM SOLID



TRIBUNE PHOTO: DAVID BLAIR - Ed Davis, in his sixth NBA season, has been a consistent performer for the Trail Blazers since his arrival in the offseason.Fan holding a sign in the stands during recent Trail Blazers game at Moda Center: “Everything’s better with Ed Davis.”

Indeed.

Of all the offseason acquisitions by president/general manager Neil Olshey during his near-complete makeover of the Portland roster, Davis might be the best pickup.

Al-Farouq Aminu, Noah Vonleh and Mason Plumlee are starting on the front line, but Davis’ contributions off the bench have been both plentiful and consistent.

The 6-10, 225-pound southpaw is averaging 7.2 points and a team-high 7.6 rebounds in 22.4 minutes per game. The sixth-year pro from North Carolina is shooting .653 from the field — that would rank second in the NBA behind the Clippers’ DeAndre Jordan (.694) if he had enough attempts to qualify. Davis also is tied for 11th in the league with 2.9 offensive rebounds per game despite playing far fewer minutes than anyone in the top 10.

Such has been Davis’ performance that coach Terry Stotts has often chosen to have him on the floor at the end of a close game.

“Ed knows his game,” Stotts says. “He is very efficient. He does what he does best — plays every possession at both ends. He is a great teammate. He does all the things you want from him.

“I don’t know if there was a true gauge of Ed because of his circumstances in Toronto, Memphis and the Lakers, but I always thought he was a quality big man. Maybe he has played better than people expected, but he’s doing what he has shown he can do.”

Consider this: Davis leads the NBA in individual offensive rating — an estimate of points produced (players) or scored (team) per 100 possessions — at 127.4. Behind him are Golden State’s Stephen Curry (126.2) and Andre Iguodala (123.7) and Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant (123.4).

“Yeah, man,” says Davis, mulling the esoteric stat. Then he grins: “Now I gotta go out and get some MVP votes.”

Davis is relentless on the offensive boards, a good defender and an effective scorer around the rim with both hands. He stays within himself and almost never takes a poor shot — he takes fewer than five attempts from the field per game, and many of them are put-backs. His one true weakness is foul shooting (.500), so he’ll never have to worry about Stotts choosing him to step to the line after an opponent’s technical foul.

“Ed’s energy is the same every day,” says the Blazers’ captain, point guard Damian Lillard. “He gets us a lot of extra offensive possessions. He’s tough. He competes on both ends of the floor. He’s low-maintenance. He doesn’t complain. He comes to work every day. He’s a great guy to play with.”

If Davis flies a bit under the radar, he doesn’t seem to mind.

“I just play hard,” he says. “I try to do all the little things, the stuff that doesn’t show up on the box score. I do it to help the team win and to make us better.”

Observes Lillard: “Sometimes (what Davis does) shows up on the box score, and sometimes it doesn’t. When it doesn’t, you need to make sure he knows you appreciate him. He’s huge for this team.”

Davis’ 2015-16 numbers are similar to those he has posted throughout his career. Coming into the season, he was averaging 7.2 points and 6.3 rebounds while shooting .556 from the field. He has never shot below 50 percent for a season.

Yet Davis — a soft-spoken, easy-going young man with a ready smile — has never found a home in the NBA. He is on his fourth team and has never stayed with one team more than two seasons. Stotts is his sixth coach in his six years in the league.

“That’s crazy, man,” says Davis, shaking his head. He counts them down, beginning with Stotts’ right-hand man, Jay Triano, who was his first coach as a rookie with Toronto in 2010-11.

“I had Jay and Dwane Casey in Toronto, Lionel Hollins and Dave Joerger in Miami, Byron Scott last year (with the Lakers) and now Terry,” Davis says. “I’ve bounced around a little bit, but coaches, they bounce around, too. My first year at Memphis, we made it to the conference finals, and the next year, we had a new coach. It’s a crazy business.”

Have the coaching changes made it difficult for Davis?

“A little,” he says. “I have a different game than the prototypical power forward today. Once a coach gets used to me and starts to play me more and I start to feel more comfortable, he’s gone.

“Hopefully, I’m here for a long time. I think Coach (Stotts) is going to be here for a while. This will be my last coach, hopefully.”

Davis has NBA pedigree. His father, Terry Davis, was a power forward who played 10 NBA seasons with Miami, Dallas, Washington and Denver from 1989-2001. Ed is a chip off the old block. The senior Davis was the exact size of his son — 6-10 and 225 — and also left-handed.

Terry and Ed’s mother, Angela Jones, split when Ed was in fifth grade. From that time, he lived with his mother in Richmond, Va. But Terry made his home in Richmond, too.

“He was always around,” Ed says of his father. “He’s one of the main reasons I’ve made it this far.

“Mom was a big influence. She was the one who took me to practice, cooked me dinner. She was always positive. My dad was the strict one, the one who always got on me and made things rough on me basketball-wise. When I had a bad game, my mom was the one to cheer me up. She helped me out a lot, too.”

Davis attributes much of the discipline he shows on the basketball court to attending a military school, Benedictine, his final two years of high school. It was an all-boys school that required students to wear uniforms and adhere to strict rules.

“It was tough, but you get used to it,” he says. “We had to go to formation in the morning. I was never big on that, but I did it. It wasn’t a boarding school. I got to go home at night and on weekends.

“It wasn’t that bad. When you go to an all-boys school, the teachers keep things a little looser. You can do things you can’t do when it’s co-ed.”

Benedictine won state championships both of Davis’ seasons there.

“We had a lot of D-I players,” he says. “We were one of the best teams ever to come out of there — from the city for sure, and from Virginia, period.”

Davis averaged 22 points, 14 rebounds and seven blocked shots and was named Virginia’s Mr. Basketball as a senior. He then played two seasons at North Carolina, averaging 13.4 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.78 blocks as a sophomore before a season-ending broken bone in his left wrist on Feb. 10.

When Davis arrived at North Carolina, coach Roy Williams told him to focus not on scoring but on doing the dirty work if he wanted to advance to the next level.

Says Davis: “When I got there, Coach (Williams) pulled me to the side and said, ‘Son, you want to make it to the NBA? If you want to chase your dreams, this is what you need to do.’ I wasn’t stubborn about it. I did it, and that’s why I’m here now.”

The experience playing for Williams was life-changing.

“I learned a lot,” Davis says. “From Day One, the discipline he has, the respect. He wants a lot out of you. He’s going to settle for nothing less. He treats his players like men. That’s the main thing I took from him — how he treats everyone.”

Davis was taken by Toronto with the 13th overall pick in the 2010 draft, setting into motion a career as a journeyman that took him to free agency after one season with the Lakers. After last season, Davis told agent Dan Fegan he was looking for stability.

“I told him I wanted to go to a young team, a place where I can grow and keep developing and have a chance to play,” he says. “I didn’t want to go somewhere and be stuck behind an All-Star.”

Davis had offers from “three or four other teams,” he says, but chose to sign a three-year, $20-million contract with Portland.

“This was a perfect situation for me,” he says. “I have no regrets, no complaints. Hopefully, I can make this my home and stay here the rest of my career.”

Davis shares a Forest Heights home with his fiancé, Kayla, who has been with him since their time together at North Carolina.

“I love it here, other than the rain,” he says. “You have to take the good with the bad. I fit right in. I love the city, I love my teammates, I love the coaches here.”

Ed and Kayla have no children, but that’s in the plans.

“Oh, yeah, 100 percent,” he says. “Need some little Eds running around, man. Hopefully we’ll have some boys.”

At 26, Davis is one of the oldest and most-experienced of the Blazers. He has found leadership to be one of his duties.

“I try to give (his younger teammates) some advice, some help with stuff off the court — life decisions and that sort of thing,” he says. “We have a lot of good players, like ‘Dame’ and CJ (McCollum). They can help them on the basketball side.

“My main thing is to help with financial stuff, advice can’t get from your family, because they’ve never been in the situation. I tell them things I have experienced. And for the guys on the bench, to stay ready. You never know when an injury will happen.”

The Blazers were preseason picks to finish near the bottom of the Western Conference. They were 11-16 after Wednesday’s 106-90 loss at OKC, the opener of a five-game road trip that takes them through Christmas. They’ve been competitive but have had a difficult time finishing close games, witness their 2-8 record in games decided by five points or fewer. Even so, they’re only a game and a half out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

“As we’ve gone along, we’ve learned we can compete with a lot of these teams,” Davis says. “We see where we’re heading and know what we can get to.

“The playoffs are not a far-fetched goal. They’re a realistic goal. Saying that back in September, everyone would have looked at us funny. Now, it’s not like that.”

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