Ed Davis won’t wow the casual fan with raw numbers — 1.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game aren’t, after all, particularly noteworthy.
But having him out for 12 games with a broken left fibula was enough for his Jazz teammates to realize what they were missing.
“All the things he does, you don’t see it on the box score, but it has a huge impact on the bench and on the team,” said Rudy Gobert, the man that Davis backs up. “It’s great to have him back.”
When asked specifically what Davis brings, Gobert rattled off a few of the old stand-bys, namely defensive presence and offensive rebounding. But the first thing he mentioned was, “The way he talks.”
And sure enough, Davis has a significant presence on the team just by using his veteran voice. That much was apparent following Friday’s practice, as the Jazz work to end a lackluster stretch that has seen them drop three in a row and five of six overall.
The offense has been beset by turnovers. That, in turn, has produced woeful transition defense. Davis noted the team had a good session, but was blunt about what must come next: “We've got some games that we've got to win.
“It feels like we’re in that fire right now, you know? So it could go either way. We could come out [of it] and people will be like, ‘Damn, they bounced back,’ or s--- can get ugly,” he added. “I’ve been in both situations. But we’re a veteran group, we’ve got a good coaching staff, guys who want to win. So we can still turn this thing around.”
Davis will play a role in that.
While he’s never been much of a scorer (his career-best is the 8.3 ppg he averaged for the Lakers in 2014-15), he does make a difference elsewhere.
Last season, he ranked second only to Gobert in ESPN’s Defensive Real Plus-Minus. And this year, well, those supposedly paltry rebounding numbers are actually pretty impressive when you consider they extrapolate out to 4.2 offensive rebounds and 14.6 total boards per 36 minutes. The latter number would be the second-best of his career.
“Ed is great. … He’s a selfless guy. He don’t care about anything — he just wants to play basketball,” said Royce O’Neale.
But after breaking his leg in what he called a “fluke injury” against the Kings back on Nov. 1, he couldn’t do that.
He didn’t even initially realize it was broken. Noting that he’s very in tune with his body, he recognized after making contact with a Kings player that “something something wasn't right,” but he figured it was just a bad bruise or a contusion, and tried to get back to playing in the third quarter, only for his leg to resist. An X-ray in the locker room confirmed he’d be out of action for at least four weeks.
So, he did what he could. After speaking with the team doctors, he set what would be considered a reasonable timetable for his return and immediately vowed to beat it (which he proudly noted he did). But while he was out, he also made it a point to throw himself into the team any way he could.
“Just staying involved. I was still traveling with the team, I was in every meeting, I watched every practice — everything,” Davis said. “So the only thing was, I just wasn't on the floor.”
He returned exactly four weeks later, playing in Memphis on Nov. 29, and he’s played in every game since.
Of course, those games haven’t been pretty. Still, he said, there was nothing to be done about those games now other than to learn from them.
As someone who noted on Media Day that he joined the Jazz in order to win a championship, he acknowledged that, “We’re down because we want to be in a better position than we’re in now.”
Still, he also is urging people not to panic, to try to find some perspective about it all.
“It's a long season. You can look at it as a good thing, like, you know, we're getting our struggles out early — you'd rather have this just happen now than in February, March, April,” he added. “But you can't look past it. And we're not blind to it.”
That attitude, said coach Quin Snyder, is part of what makes Davis so valuable, no matter what the stat sheet says.
“It kind of speaks volumes about who he is,” Snyder said. “I think he did his best to engage in that way even when he was hurt. It’s obviously harder when you’re not out there, because some of that interaction happens on the court. So the way that he stayed engaged puts him in a situation where he’s prepared. And he he has the respect of all his teammates and coaches.”
JAZZ VS. GRIZZLIES
At Vivint Smart Home Arena
Tipoff • Saturday, 8 p.m.
TV • ATTSN
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 12-10; Grizzlies 6-15
Last meeting • Jazz, 103-94 (Nov. 28)
About the Jazz • Point guard Mike Conley, who missed all of Wednesday’s loss to the Lakers with a hamstring injury, was a partial participant in Friday’s practice and is questionable for Saturday. … Utah has lost three games in a row, and five of six overall. … The Jazz ranks 20th and 21st, respectively, in opponents’ points off turnovers and opponents’ fast-break points.
About the Grizzlies • Star rookie Ja Morant, who has been week to week since aggravating a back injury vs. the Jazz on Nov. 28, practiced Friday, but has been ruled out for Saturday. … Memphis is coming off back-to-back losses, to Indiana and Chicago. … Former Jazz players Jae Crowder and Grayson Allen are averaging 10.8 and 7.1 ppg, respectively, for the Grizz.