Ed Davis didn’t envision this when he signed with the Utah Jazz this summer.
It’s now three consecutive Did Not Play — Coach’s Decisions he’s received, as Quin Snyder and the Jazz have moved to 21-year-old Tony Bradley in the rotation after Davis’ bench minutes weren’t working out.
After being regarded as one of the best backup centers in the NBA over the last couple of seasons, this year, Davis, 30, hasn’t shown that same level of production, averaging just 1.4 points in his 12 minutes per game. Scoring wasn’t exactly what Davis was known for, but the rebounding and defensive numbers have slipped, too. For whatever reason, Davis hasn’t fit well into Snyder’s system.
Bradley represents a bigger rolling threat and is a better screener, thanks to his size advantage over Davis: Bradley is 6-10, 248 lbs, while Davis is 6-9, 225. But benching a 10-year veteran who was recently signed to play a key role is a tough move — one that by all accounts, Davis is handling well.
“I’m as professional as you can be, as positive as you possibly can be, in this situation,” Davis told The Salt Lake Tribune. “Financially, I’m good. It’s just basketball,” he said. “I’m a happy person. I’m never negative, never down on my state. So I don’t really trip on those things. There are bigger things in life to worry about than getting traded or not playing.”
And he’s even been willing to help the young Bradley learn a thing or two about the NBA.
“Ed is a unique player as far as his ability to impact the game and impact the team in myriad ways,” Snyder said. “One of the things that he’s done is — I don’t know if it’s because they both went to North Carolina or not — but he’s been a mentor and someone that Tony listens to as a teacher.”
Davis knows that relationship is unusual. As he puts it, “A lot of people in that situation, they’d do the opposite, just because it is my minutes that he’s taking. But he comes to me with questions and I give him honest feedback. I’m one of the only guys in this locker room that can really relate to what he’s going through, so, you know, I’m pretty sure he values that. I try to help him out as much as I can."
There’s a reason Davis was Damian Lillard’s answer when he was asked about his favorite teammate ever in Portland.
For his part, Bradley has a lot to learn. His biggest roadblock to being a consistent positive on the court his his defensive positioning. He’s often a step late to where he needs to be on that end on the floor, which leads to baskets for the opposition, or just as frequently, fouls. Bradley averages 7.3 fouls per 36 minutes, far too high of a rate.
He’s working on it, though. After practice, Bradley can be seen working with Jazz coach Vince Legarza — Legarza throws up one, two, three pump-fakes, testing Bradley’s ability to stay on his feet and to “be the second jumper” in order to block a shot. It’s a test of his reactions, and also his focus.
“When he’s been locked in, he’s had an impact for us,” Rudy Gobert said. For him defensively, "I think it’s mostly about knowing the personnel, knowing the guy you’re trying to guard. Try to be there at the right spot at the right time. I also try to show your hands and then it’s on the officials to make the call. There are going to be bad calls sometimes. But you should try to stay consistent and smart.”
It seems to be paying dividends. Bradley committed only one foul in his 13 minutes on the court in Thursday’s win over the Bulls, and played solid defense to boot. The bench unit actually outscored the Bulls’, a rarity this season.
Meanwhile, Davis admits that “I’d be lying if I said I haven’t thought about other offers I had this summer.” While Davis has been a solid locker room presence, if he’s not contributing on the court due to a poor fit within Snyder’s system, he might be better utilized in another organization.
Davis makes $4.7 million this season and $5 million in 2020-21, a reasonable number for most teams to fit in their cap sheets. The NBA’s CBA allows for the Jazz to take on up to $8.2 million in returning salaries if they were to trade Davis to another team, money that might represent another bench piece.
And maintaining his sterling reputation around the NBA is important to Davis. “Some guys, they take it the wrong way. They start pouting and s---. And next thing you know, they’re out of the league,” Davis pointed out.
“You’ve just got to move forward and stay positive. You know, believe in yourself. I’m the same guy if I was starting, playing 30 minutes, and if I’m not playing."
JAZZ VS. MAGIC
At the Amway Center, Orlando
Tipoff • Saturday, 5:00 p.m. MT
TV • AT&T SportsNet
Radio • 1280 AM, 97.5 FM
Records • Jazz 22-12; Magic 15-19
Last meeting • Jazz, 109-102 (Dec. 17)
About the Jazz • Mike Conley is not traveling with the team on this road trip as he rehabs his hamstring injury... Jazz injury report is otherwise clean... Jazz are 9-2 when starting Joe Ingles, Bojan Bogdanovic, Donovan Mitchell, Royce O’Neale, and Rudy Gobert... Bogdanovic is averaging 20.1 points per game in his last 12 contests
About the Magic • Al-Farouq Aminu (knee), Jonathan Isaac (knee), and Michael Carter-Williams (shoulder) are all out for Saturday’s contest... Aaron Gordon is considered day-to-day and is listed as questionable for the first game of the Magic’s back-to-back against Miami on Friday... The Magic turn the ball over less than any other team in the NBA, but rank just 25th in offensive rating