You Play. To Win. The Game. One of the great football quotes of all-time, but one that also relates to every sport once you get past the Little League level. In the NBA, there are some players whose existence revolves around winning. They “get it.” They are the ones — Tim Duncan, Michael Jordan, Bill Russell, etc. — who end up with fistfuls of championship rings, and never seem to play on bad teams, even at their career low-points. On the flip side, there are those who never seem to win anything substantial. Talented, yes. Highly-paid, yes. But even if they play 15 years in the League, they won’t grasp what it’s really all about: Winning. Maybe it’s bad luck. Maybe it’s a character flaw. Maybe they just aren’t as good as we think they are.
Who are those players that perpetually find themselves catching more significant L’s than W’s? For the next couple weeks we’ll be calling them out one at a time:
Numbers: 28 years old, 10 NBA seasons, 14.3 points per game, 3.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists.
Highest high: Back-to-back playoff appearances with the Celtics in ’04 and ’05, where Davis averaged 12.2 points.
Lowest low: March 16, 2003. With six seconds to go in a Cavs/Jazz game that was no longer in question, Ricky had 28 points, 12 assists and nine rebounds in the box score. Trying to get the triple-double, he took an inbounds pass in the backcourt and intentionally missed a layup on the other team’s hoop to get that last rebound. It didn’t count. DeShawn Stevenson then fouled Ricky hard when he realized what had happened. After the game Jerry Sloan said, “This is not schoolyard basketball. Let him try to get it when the game means something. I was proud of DeShawn and I would have knocked him down harder. They can put me in jail for saying that, but that’s the way it is.”
History of losing
“Ricky Buckets” was a headliner on two of the worst NBA teams of the decade. He was the leading scorer (20.6 ppg) and had his best statistical season with those ’03 Cavs, who went 17-65. (Davis was a reserve the year before, when the Cavs won 29 games. When he became a starter, they got worse.) Then this past season, he was a starter for the 15-67 Miami Heat, the team’s second leading points-scorer behind Dwyane Wade. The two playoff appearances in ’04 and ’05 with Boston were the only times in Ricky’s career he’s been to the postseason. Since entering the League in ’98, only three times has he finished the season with a team that went above .500, and he was a backup on all three of those teams. He has feuded with coaches and teammates throughout his career — it’s widely believed that the Cavs traded Ricky so he couldn’t “poison” rookie LeBron James any further, and it’s also been rumored that the Celtics got rid of him for trying to undermine Paul Pierce‘s leadership. Once with Minnesota, he was suspended for leaving the bench and going back to the locker room after being taken out of the game. It should say something that on this summer’s free agent market, Davis is reportedly drawing little interest despite being a proven scorer in the League, someone who’s been relatively healthy over the years, and someone who won’t command a huge contract.
Will he ever be a winner?
Davis was at his best with the ’05 Celtics, when he came off the bench for the Atlantic Division champs and averaged 16 points per game. If his ONLY role is to come in and get buckets with the second unit, and you’ve got a team of veteran leaders who are clearly better players and a strong coach who won’t put up with any shenanigans, Ricky can be a contributor to a good team. True to his nickname, the guy can put up numbers, and sometimes you just have to let him go and do his thing. But if he’s one of your top guys, or one who’s imparting wisdom on the youngsters, get used to being in the Lottery.