The appreciation for the Lakers grew as they granted Ed Davis a significant role. So did Davis’ affection for Lakers coach Byron Scott, general manager Mitch Kupchak and his teammates.
Yet, Davis went against his hopes that he would re-sign with the Lakers at a more lucrative contract than the $1 million he made last season. Instead, he agreed to a three-year deal worth $20 million with no team or player options with the Portland Trail Blazers. The reasons went deeper beyond any monetary or basketball reasons. Also chalk it up to a case of timing.
“They wanted me to come back,” Davis said of the Lakers in a phone interview with Los Angeles News Group. “But I felt like this was the right decision for me. I didn’t really want to wait around. I was comfortable with everything there. I wanted to go back. Nothing went bad or anything.”
So what happened?
The Lakers wanted to re-sign Davis after he posted 8.3 points per game as well as career-highs in field-goal percentage (60.1), rebounding (7.6), blocked shots (1.2) and assists (1.2) in his fifth NBA season, providing a rare positive development amid a 21-61 record in the 2014-15 season. Even when Davis declined his $1.1 million player option in hopes for a better deal, the Lakers sounded amenable toward keeping him. But the Lakers still put higher priority in landing a marquee free agent, spending the first two days of the free agency sweepstakes meeting with Portland’s LaMarcus Aldridge, Detroit’s Greg Monroe and the Clippers’ Deandre Jordan.
Monroe has since agreed to a three-year, $50 million deal with Milwaukee. The Lakers landed a second meeting with Aldridge despite facing negative reviews in their first meeting. Jordan does not plan to decide his future until after meeting with the Clippers on Thursday evening. That holding pattern left Davis without clarity on when and for how much the Lakers would re-sign him.
“I think that played a big part of it,” Davis said. “They want to have that cap space open for one of those guys. I felt Portland would help me with my career down the road. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.”
After all, the Lakers have $23 million available in cap space, and $18.8 million of it would be needed if they land a top free agent. Meanwhile, Davis hoped for a contract that fit two scenarios. Either he would agree to a two-or-three year deal around $7-8 million per season, or he would accept a one-year deal worth $10 million. The Lakers could not fit Davis’ asking price if they landed a marquee player. Subsequently, Davis felt uneasy about waiting around how those chips would fall with an offer already presented to him.
“It was a tough thing,” Davis said. “But it’s about finding the right deal at the right time and getting the financial part and security.”
After also fielding interest from New York, Detroit, Golden State and Boston, Davis narrowed in on the Trail Blazers for other reasons.
Davis gushed about All-Star point guard Damian Lillard, the city of Portland and the team’s passionate fanbase. Davis also sounded optimistic about having a significant role either to provide frontcourt depth behind Aldridge and Robin Lopez, or to mitigate their absence should any of them leave via free agency.
“No matter who is there, I’m going to fight every day for playing time. I’m confident in myself,” Davis said. “I’m going to find a way on the court. I’m not worried about what they’re doing. I’m just focused on myself on how I can help the team and get better.”
Davis credited part of that development to his lone season with the Lakers. After the Toronto Raptors selected him 13th overall in the 2010 NBA draft, Davis experienced fluctuating roles in Toronto (2010-2013) and Memphis (2013-14). Davis then declined a multi-year extension worth $20 million during his last season with Memphis before signing with the Lakers last summer. He agreed to a two-year deal worth $2 million, including a player option for the second year. That later left Davis grateful, mindful that his elevated role made up for lost earnings.
“They gave me the opportunity to play and contribute,” Davis said of the Lakers. “They gave me a fair shot from day one. I have nothing but love for guys over there, especially with coach Scott and [general manager] Mitch Kupchak. But this was a decision I had to make. I wish them all the success and the best. They were nothing but great to me with all the coaches and all the players. So I definitely enjoyed my time playing for the Lakers and I want to thank the fans for all of their support.”
Davis then sounded sentimental as he reflected on his recent past. He then sounded joyful as he looked ahead to his immediate future.
“I wanted to come back,” Davis said. “But I had to make this decision.”