Davis rolls with the punches
Center isn't happy about a recent fine or reduced playing time
When he looks back at his NBA career after his playing days are over, Dale Davis probably won't reflect fondly on the 2003-04 season.
Midway through the campaign, the Trail Blazer center has lost a lot of things Ñ his starting job, confidence in his game, a ton of money in fines and probably a bit of his good reputation throughout the league.
Davis made headlines on Jan. 23, having walked out of practice the previous day after a confrontation with General Manager John Nash over the loss of one game's salary. Davis says he didn't learn until then that the Blazers were docking him a game's pay Ñ more than $100,000 from his season salary of $9.06 million Ñ for missing the team flight Jan. 7 and the game at Minnesota the following night.
It was a lowlight in a forgettable season for Davis, a 13-year veteran who had been a starter most of his career, including the past four seasons in Portland. Last week, coach Maurice Cheeks decided to make a lineup change, going with Rasheed Wallace in the post and relegating Davis to a bench role.
Davis already was a bit disgruntled with his diminishing playing time, particularly in the fourth quarter and down the stretch of close games. He approached Cheeks about it a couple of weeks ago, he says.
'He said he was trying to figure out how to get me more minutes, especially late in the game,' Davis says. 'He was going over the possible rotations. He definitely was going to try to make that happen.'
Did it help?
'It did for a little while,' Davis says, 'but as of late, not really.'
It's hard to justify the 6-11 Davis deserving more playing time. He's getting 28.8 minutes while contributing 5.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. He has always been a dirty-work type of player and rarely has an offensive play run for him. He hasn't been much of a factor during his time on the floor.
'We haven't had a lot of consistent play from him,' Cheeks says. 'Sometimes he has been good, sometimes he has been bad.'
Cheeks says he understands why Davis often feels underappreciated.
'The way he plays, that can happen,' Cheeks says. 'He is not a scorer. He is a role player, which isn't glamorous. You can miss his contributions sometimes. If he is not getting his eight or nine rebounds a game, it looks like he is not the same Dale. He is still an important guy on this team, as a rebounder and a defender on the post.'
Davis suffered a serious groin injury late last season that caused him to miss Game 7 of the playoff series with Dallas.
'The injury was a major setback,' Davis says. 'It took me all summer to get it healed up. I wasn't able to do my normal summer workouts, and I started the season pretty slow.
'It has been tough to get into a flow, and then the rotations changed. When you are losing, I guess, they don't wait too long to see if I am going to come through.'
With the trade for Darius Miles, there is less playing time to dole out on the front line. In recent games, Davis' playing time has been in the 20- to 30-minute range, and that is not likely to increase unless someone gets hurt.
'I can't worry about it,' Davis says. 'I have a job to do. I don't agree with it, but that is what they feel they have to do to win. If it is going to help us win, I will go along with it.'
Davis isn't going along with the decision by Portland management to take a game's pay from him for missing the game at Minnesota. He says he will appeal it, along with subsequent fines for missing the flight and for walking out of practice on Jan. 22, to the NBA Players Association.
The missed game came during the snowstorm that enveloped Portland the first week of January. Davis lives in Forest Heights, a high-elevation area in Northwest Portland that was hit heavily by snowfall. He says he made every effort to make the team flight on Jan. 7 but was unable to get transportation to the airport in time. On game day, he spent several hours at Portland International Airport, but no flights were departing that day.
Portland President Steve Patterson and Nash contend Davis had ample time to prepare plans to make the flight on Jan. 7.
'We offered to send people to his home to get him out, which he turned down,' Patterson says. 'Do I think Dale put forth an effort to get out? Yeah, he did. But 30 other people in our traveling party made it. He didn't.
'I had plenty of trouble getting out of my house that day, but I parked the car down the street so I didn't have to negotiate a hill. We had warned all of our players two days earlier to be ready for what was coming. If you know you are going to have trouble getting out of your driveway, you take actions to avoid problems.
'Dale is a good guy and has had a good reputation for a lot of years in this league,' Patterson says. 'This is not a character issue. It was just a mistake. The guy missed the plane.
'But you make a mistake, you pay the price. It is spelled out clearly in the team rules that players who don't show up for a game (for unexcused reasons) will not be paid for that game. If you let him off, what happens the next go-round with him or another player?'
Cheeks says he does not feel that Davis, who turns 35 in March, is over the hill as a player.
'He is at that age where people assume you have lost a step,' Cheeks says. 'But I think Dale can play another four or five years in this league.'
Davis, who will make $10.1 million next season in the final year of his contract, doesn't want to be traded.
'At the same time, I feel like I can do more to help this team win,' he says. 'Maybe they don't think so. I'm not sure. My relationship with Mo (Cheeks) is OK, but it is a little up and down. My main concern is, if they are looking to rebuild or get younger and don't want me anymore, just let me know. At least I can say I am with this, or I am not.'
Several teams have spoken with Portland expressing interest in trading for Ruben Patterson, including New York, which has offered Shandon Anderson. Anderson, though, has a contract that extends through 2007, when he will make $8.5 million. And he is not as good a player as Patterson. 'We have been consistent in saying we don't want to take players who put us in a worse situation for salary-cap flexibility, unless there is a serious upgrade in talent,' Steve Patterson says. While Ruben Patterson isn't asking for a trade, sources say he would welcome one in the right situation.
Portland management is waiting to evaluate Qyntel Woods' play as backup point guard to determine what will be done about the team's 12th roster spot. If Blazer brass decides Woods can't get the job done, it may decide to make a trade that reaps a point guard in return. 'It is very possible we will make no trade (before the Feb. 19 deadline),' Nash says. 'If we were to make one, it conceivably could be a one-for-two deal.'
One player who benefits from the Jeff McInnis trade is Damon Stoudamire, who will get major playing time at point guard, at least in the short term. 'My minutes will go back to where they were at the beginning of the year, when I had a great stretch of ball,' Stoudamire says.
'I look forward to it. When a situations like this occurs, (Blazer officials) are saying they want you to do a little more, to be a little more aggressive with your game. That's fine. I want to try to extend myself sometimes without hurting people's feelings. They are going to allow me to put more of my personality on the team, and yell and curse at people and kind of be that general our team needs. And I don't have to worry about coming out of the game.'
Stoudamire says there wasn't an outward tension between him and McInnis, 'but it was always kind of hovering over us. There is no denying he wanted to be a starter. In his mind, maybe he felt he should have been, or should have been playing a lot more.'