Terence Davis
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Terence Davis, who entered NBA on his own terms, already putting stamp on Raptors

Leave a comment

Terence Davis was miserable.

He had just addressed 40-50 family members and friends on draft night 2019. Holding back tears, he explained he wouldn’t get picked. His mind raced. He thought about providing for his son, who was born six days earlier.

“I really became a man that night,” Davis said.

Davis also put himself in position to become a successful NBA player that night.

***

The NBA G League Elite Camp offers an opportunity for less-heralded draft prospects to work out for both NBA and minor-league teams. The top performers even get promoted to the NBA combine. Forty draft-eligible players got invited to last year’s NBA G League Elite Camp.

Davis didn’t make the cut. Snubbed from an event for players not good enough for the main event.

His agent eventually campaigned him in. When Davis arrived, his jersey didn’t even have his name on the back.

He made a name for himself, anyway. Davis played well, earned an invitation to the NBA combine then continued to team workouts. By draft night, he was 80% sure he’d get picked.

“I was supposed to be selected late first round, early second,” Davis said. “That’s what I was hearing from different teams, and my agent was hearing that as well.”

But the draft went deeper and deeper without Davis’ name being called. He said a few teams offered to draft him if he’d accept a two-way contract – the Timberwolves, Celtics and another team he couldn’t recall.

“I really washed them teams from my memory, honestly,” Davis said.

He doesn’t want to prove to those teams they should have valued him more?

“I want to prove to the league that I should have been selected,” Davis said.

“I’m always out to prove. That’s just how I am, how I’m wired. I’ve been underrated my whole life, the underdog.”

Born and raised in Mississippi, Davis became a high school football star. He surprised many by choosing to play basketball in college. Davis spent four years University of Mississippi, breaking out as a sophomore then growing into an All-SEC second-teamer as a senior.

So, Davis is willing to carve his own path.

That’s why he rejected getting drafted and signing a two-way deal. Davis didn’t want to give away his exclusive negotiating rights just to get paid a relatively low salary and spend time in the NBA’s minor league. He was better off as an undrafted free agent.

It’s a path more players should take. But it’s also difficult to break from the pack when every norm says players should celebrate getting drafted.

“I’m a different breed, man,” Davis said. “Honestly. I mean that in the humblest way ever. I really look at myself as a different breed.”

Still, Davis was uncertain after the draft. Even if he had more freedom as a free agent, teams just indicated their collective disinterest by not drafting him.

Soon enough, though, Nuggets president Tim Connelly called. Davis liked the Nuggets because they had no minor-league affiliate to stash him on. And Denver, Connelly said, liked Davis. Rejuvenated by Connelly’s faith in him, Davis perked up. He agreed to play for the Nuggets in summer league.

Davis quickly impressed during scrimmages in Denver. The Nuggets went to Las Vegas, and Davis led them with 22 points in their summer-league opening win over the Magic.

After the game, Davis – still wearing Denver gear – sat in the stands when his agent informed him the Raptors would sign him to an NBA contract with a fully guaranteed salary. Davis kept asking, “Is this real?”

Later that night, Davis called Nuggets summer-league coach Jordi Fernandez to express his appreciation. After he hung up, Fernandez called his wife and said, “If this job is worth it, it’s for moments like this.”

“It’s been one of the best moments in my probably NBA career,” said Fernandez, a Denver assistant. “Because I know you may think the big stories. Yeah, a big story is when a super-high draft pick or whatever, right? But to me, this is a big story, a kid that had to go in a different route. And he was all about the right things. And he makes it. Again, it makes our lives as coaches, that’s what makes it special.”

***

After finishing summer league with the Raptors, Davis joined Toronto players to work out in Los Angeles. According to Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, Davis was quite brash during pickup games. On one hand, VanVleet found it a little naïve and tried to put the youngster in his place. On the other hand, VanVleet – whose path to the NBA as undrafted player was similar to Davis’ – appreciated the confidence.

Now, VanVleet just watches and laughs when his teammate gets going.

“He’s talking to refs, and he’s talking trash to other players,” VanVleet said. “You would think he’s been around 15 years.”

Davis just looks like he belongs.

He’s already a rotation player on one of the NBA’s top teams. His 7.7 points per game are modest, but his contributions are often more subtle. Davis leads all rookies in real plus-minus (+4.32).

Here are the rookie leaders in real plus-minus (minimum: 100 minutes):

Davis isn’t as good as, say, Ja Morant. But this shows how well Davis fills his role.

At 6-foot-4 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan, Davis has the athleticism for practically any matchup. He’s a dogged defender and confident shooter. He’s making 42% of his 3-pointers on a high enough volume to spread the floor.

Davis could join a rare group of undrafted All-Rookie teamers: Yogi Ferrell, Langston Galloway, Gary Neal, Jamario Moon, Walter Herrmann, Jorge Garbajosa, Marquis Daniels, Udonis Haslem, J.R. Bremer, Chucky Atkins, Matt Maloney and Larry Stewart. Only Ferrell, Galloway, Daniels, Bremer, Stewart did it in their first professional season.

Yet, Davis got bypassed for Rising Stars.

Davis didn’t make a big stink. He brushed it off as just “another time that I don’t get selected for something.” Then, he scored 31 points in Toronto’s win over the Bulls yesterday.

What if Davis were producing like this but had the stature that comes with getting drafted?

“I would be in that Rising Stars game, no doubt,” Davis said. “No doubt. ”

He’s happy with his path, though.

A big advantage: Davis can hit free agency sooner. His contract includes an unguaranteed second season, but he’s headed toward free agency (likely restricted free agency) in 2021.

Of the 30 second-round picks last year:

  • Four rejected the required tender. Without getting paid a dime, they allow their team to retain their exclusive NBA negotiating rights.
  • Eight signed a two-way contract. They got their foot in the door to the NBA, but their salaries are relatively meager.
  • Seventeen signed a three- or four-year deal. Most of those contracts include a year or two or even three of unguaranteed minimum salary on the back end. So, if the player is performing well, his team will keep him for cheap. If he’s not performing well, he’ll get cut with no severance pay.

Only Talen Horton-Tucker, the No. 46 pick who went to the Lakers, signed a standard NBA contract for fewer than three seasons.

Horton-Tucker and Davis are earning just the rookie minimum ($898,310) this season. Seven second-rounders got between $1 million and $1.5 million. But they’re all locked up at least three seasons.

It’s easy to envision Davis earning about $5 million in his third season. The second-rounders who signed for that long will receive just $1,782,621.

Of course, that’s well down the road.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse was recently looking ahead, though not that quite far ahead. Nurse believes Davis missed Rising Stars because the guard is playing too little (16.8 minutes per game) to post eye-catching numbers. It’s the consequence of joining a good team.

“Maybe next year,” Nurse said. “Can he still do it next year?”

Of course. Rising Stars is for rookies and sophomores.

But considering how much he has already done to put himself on the map, it’s easy to forget Davis is in only his first season.

Kings TV play-by-play announcer Grant Napear resigns after “all lives matter” Tweet

Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sacramento television play-by-play announcer Grant Napear resigned on Tuesday amidst a backlash from former Kings’ players and many fans after Napear’s “all lives matter” comment on Twitter.

Napear had been the Kings’ play-by-play man since 1988, plus he was the host of a sports talk radio show on Sports 1140 in Sacramento. Napear lost both of those jobs.

“I want to thank the fans for their overwhelming love and support,” Napear said in a statement. “I will always remain a part of Kings nation in my heart.”

“His recent comments about the Black Lives Matter movement do not reflect the views or values of Bonneville International Corporation,” the media company that owns Sports 1140 said in a statement announcing the change. “The timing of Grant’s tweet was particularly insensitive. After reviewing the matter carefully, we have made the difficult decision to part ways with Grant.”

The controversy started with former Kings’ big man DeMarcus Cousins, in the wake of nationwide protests following the killing of George Floyd, asked Napear what he thought and got the “all lives matter” response.

“All lives matter” is a controversial phrase that has become a flashpoint. It’s a phrase used by those opposed to the Black Lives Matter movement to try and discredit it, to try and undercut and change the topic away from the much-needed discussion of racism and how black Americans are treated by the police — and other institutions — in this nation.

Cousins quickly responded that he expected this from Napear.

Chris Webber and Matt Barnes, two other former Kings, jumped in to comment about Napear.

“Closet racist” is a strong phrase, but Tom Ziller, the longtime NBA writer based out of Sacramento, said in his Tuesday newsletter “This element of Napear’s personality has been obvious to anyone who listened to his radio show even occasionally over the past 20 years.”

Napier took to Twitter to try and apologize.

On Monday he was put on leave from his radio show, and by Tuesday he had resigned as Kings’ play-by-play man and no longer was part of his radio show with former King Doug Christie.

Report: NBA season could last through Oct. 12

Spurs wing DeMar DeRozan and 76ers forward Tobias Harris
Cameron Pollack/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The NBA is reportedly targeting July 31 for resuming games.

Now, we also have a planned end date for the season.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The big question: What happens between July 31 and Oct. 12?

Most likely, 22 teams will return for more regular-season games, a play-in tournament then playoffs. It appears a last-ditch argument for all 30 teams continuing has stalled.

But that still leaves many questions within a 22-team structure. How many regular-season games will each team play? How many seeds will be up for grabs in the play-in tournament? How many teams will qualify for the play-in tournament. Will the the playoffs have 1-16 seeding?

And then there’s next season and beyond. The NBA will obviously delay the start of the next season. But will the league work back toward an October start for future seasons? Or will this be the beginning of regularly starting the season in December?

Still, as many questions remain unanswered, the timeline is coming into sharper focus.

Tilman Fertitta: ‘Such a disappointment’ Rockets faced trouble for Daryl Morey’s tweet

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey and owner Tilman Fertitta
Bill Baptist/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

When Rockets general manager Daryl Morey tweeted support for Hong Kong protesters (who are trying to maintain and expand their freedoms), Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta quickly distanced the organization. Though he never publicly condemned Morey, Fertitta emphasized that Morey was speaking as a private citizen and not for the organization.

But the winds have turned. The Knicks are facing criticism for not saying enough about the death of George Floyd. The Rockets – as apolitical as Fertitta says they should be – even released a statement on the death of Floyd:

How does Fertitta reconcile the different approaches?

Power Lunch:

Fertitta:

Speaking up of an issue in America and speaking up on an issue that’s somewhere else in the world are two different matters, OK? In America, we have free speech, and we can do whatever want to do and say whatever we want and not be penalize because of it. And that’s why we all love this country so much.

One hundred percent, I believe that you should not be a political organization, because we have 60 thousand employees and a hundred million customers, and we don’t always agree. It’s usually 50 percent one way and 50 percent this way.

But when it comes to an issue like this in America, you sure should speak out and say exactly what you want. And I encourage all my employees – from my basketball team to my restaurants to my hotels to my casinos – to speak out on this issue, and let’s make this world better and this country better that we live in that’s been great for so many of us.

I go back to what happened to Eric Garner in New York, which is a second home to me, and of course George Floyd, who is from Houston, Texas. And it’s inexcusable for two men to die like that, who did not appear to be putting up a fight. And I totally agree, and I understand the protests and the injustice out there.

And it’s really a shame that, because of a few bad people, that the distraction of protesting for the inequality, that we have to watch everything else. And we know this. There’s bad journalists. There’s bad CEOs. There’s a few bad cops. And there’s a few bad protesters. And it’s so disappointing, because I love that the protesting. That’s what makes America great.

And remember, we got in trouble, my team, earlier in the year because we commented about something, which was such a disapointment, because that’s what makes America great.

This is the most strongly – by far – Ferttita has supported Morey about the Hong Kong tweet. My question: Why now? When he tweeted, Morey was an American citizen who enjoyed the freedom of speech Fertitta espouses. Fertitta could have backed Morey like this at the time, even while maintaining a message that Morey didn’t speak for the organization.

Morey’s tweet cost the NBA, including the Rockets, a lot of money in China. Everyone quickly entered damage control. Fertitta appeared more focused on the financial ramifications than anything else.

Right now, it’s popular to stand for racial justice. Customers appreciate it. So, supposedly apolitical organizations like the Rockets are issuing statements on George Floyd.

That’s why I’m not looking to professional basketball teams for leadership on these issues. It’s easy when doing the right thing aligns with maximizing profits. When those things don’t align, it’s far messier.

Even in this interview, Fertitta struggled to keep his message consistent. He said both “Speaking up of an issue in America and speaking up on an issue that’s somewhere else in the world are two different matters” then later “let’s make this world better.” But after that slip into acknowledging global considerations, Fertitta jumped right back to “this country better that we live in that’s been great for so many of us.”

Some Americans focus on injustice in America. Some Americans are concerned with with injustice elsewhere. There’s not a major difference between those outlooks  – unless it screws up the money.

Brian Shaw reportedly to coach new G-League ‘Select Team’ of young stars

Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
Leave a comment

The NBA’s new G-League “Select Team” has already drawn some elite talent from the 2021 NBA Draft class such as Jalen Green (currently projected as a top-three pick), Daishen Nix (lottery pick), and Isaiah Todd (late first round/second round) into its specialized training program.

Who will be running that program and coaching the team? Former Nuggets coach Brian Shaw, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Shaw had a 14-year NBA playing career, winning three rings with the Shaq/Kobe Lakers. He went on to join Phil Jackson’s coaching staff with the Lakers before getting the head job in Denver, which lasted less than two seasons. He reportedly beat out David Fizdale and Sam Mitchell for the job (although they could have roles with the team).

The Select Team roster will have some top prospects — ones who decided to get paid (Green will make a reported $500,000) and skip college — plus a handful of veteran players as mentors. The goal is to get the young players NBA-level training and games (they will play exhibitions against other G-League teams but not be part of the standings).