The Lakers quickly added free agent forward Ed Davis, providing some much-needed depth to their thin front court. Davis quickly jumped on the opportunity, latching onto somewhere where he could escape the NBA’s version of purgatory in Memphis where he suddenly became a benchwarmer.
So as much as Davis gushed about the Lakers’ storied championship history or his private phone conversation with Kobe Bryant, it became clear that Davis turned down more lucrative offers for a two-year, $2 million deal with hopes he can bolster his career.
“There is opportunity where I can play and help this team win,” said Davis, whom the Lakers introduced on Wednesday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo.
Davis averaged around five points and four rebounds in 15 minutes through two seasons with Memphis, a drop off when he netted a career-high 9.7 points and 6.7 rebounds in 24.5 minutes in his third season in Toronto. It did not help that Davis found himself stuck behind a bloated Grizzlies frontline in All-Stars Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph.
“It definitely was a challenge, but I took it as a learning experience,” said Davis, who relished both playing against Gasol and Randolph in practice. They’re such good players and learning from them every night helped me out a lot.”
Still, the Lakers have added heavy frontcourt pieces that feature rookie Julius Randle, veteran forward Carlos Boozer, a young bruiser in Jordan Hill and a stretch forward in Ryan Kelly. But Davis downplayed concerns about a potential logjam, arguing he can play at both power forward and center.
“All of us do different things and bring different things to the table on different nights against different opponents,” said Davis, who likened Randle to Randolph. “It’ll vary every night.”
The Lakers also have the heavy task in bolstering a defensive unit that finished last in nearly every statistical category last season, including ranking 29th total team defense (109.2 points per game), 24th in defensive field goal percentage (46.8) and 30th in fast-break points allowed (16.7).
“It starts with the defensive mindset,” Davis said. “First, that we’re going to shut people down and not try to outscore them.”
Former Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni received lots of criticism in that department, though the Lakers’ defensive woes arguably stemmed from overlapping injuries and role players unaccustomed toward playing big roles. Byron Scott is perceived to be the Lakers’ favored candidate. But that process that has taken nearly three months without any definitive end date, leaving Davis to concede it’s hard to know what his current role will entail.
“It’s tough to say without a coach,” Davis said of his playing time. “Just going to work in training camp and earn everything. I’m going to be ready.”
Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak did not provide much clarity to the issue. He introduced Davis and held his No. 21 jersey that Kupchak noted he also wore at North Carolina. But Kupchak ducked out of the Lakers’ press conference shortly afterwards without speaking any further to reporters.
“We’re happy to add a young player with a very promising future,” Kupchak said, “who’s going to work and continue to develop in this league.”
That will hinge both on how much playing time Davis earns and how much he takes advantage of those circumstances.
“I felt these past four years, I got a lot stronger and grew a lot mentally and in just understanding the game,” Davis said. “It is a big jump from college to the pros. I’m going to keep working every day and continue to build my game and get better.”
Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org