Friday, January 27, 2006

Ricky Ricky

If you remember back to the summer of 2002, Ricky Davis signed an offer sheet with the Minnesota Timberwolves. After much discussion, the Cavaliers decided to match the offer sheet and keep Davis for the next six years ... or so they thought.
This was pre-LeBron James, after all, and Davis was the closest thing to a great player the Cavs had.
Well, we kind of know the rest of the story. LeBron arrived, Davis had a hard time relinqushing his centerpiece status to the rookie, and was traded to the Celtics in December 2003.
In Boston, Davis, one of the league's great immature knuckleheads (wrong rim), developed into a solid sixth man and now brings just about everything current LeBron sidekick Larry Hughes does, save maybe for passing skills.
Now Davis has come full circle from the summer of '02. He is a member of the Timberwolves, traded in a seven-player swap yesterday.
Part of Davis' problem in Cleveland might have been being given too much leash by a franchise desperate for anything positive. He saw himself as a rising star in the league, and honestly felt he was as good as LeBron.
In Boston, he was hip-checked by Paul Pierce into his proper place: a capable supporting cast member. Once he accepted that role, he flourished.
One still has to wonder, however, why Boston thought acquiring injruy-plagued and overpaid Wally Szczerbiak was better than keeping Davis. There might still be some personailty issues there.
But Davis will head to another team with another all-encompassing superstar to keep him in check. What Pierce started in Boston, Kevin Garnett will be able to continue in Minnesota. There is every reason to believe Garnett will keep Davis' knucklehead tendencies in check and keep making him a productive supporting cast player.
It's in the job description of a superstar and team leader: keep your knuckleheads in line. LeBron couldn't have done it with Davis since no one takes an assertive rookie seriously. But LeBron has a new puppy to housebreak in Damon Jones.
Jones, like Davis, hasn't been properly disciplined in Cleveland. The more I watch him, the more I think Shaq had a great deal to do with the excellent season Jones produced last year in Miami, making Jones afraid to let the big guy down. Left to his own devices, Jones has no idea how to play within a team. Shaq got him to play within a team last year, and LeBron needs to do that this year.
LeBron is friends with Jones, who reportedly hasn't made a lot of friends in Cleveland due to his self-promoting and outspoken nature. But maybe LeBron needs to be Jones' teammate first and his friend second.
If LeBron doesn't fill the Shaq role in Jones' life, we might have another Ricky Davis situation on our hands. And if Jones goes to another team with another superstar and becomes a solid player again, it won't be a great reflection on LeBron's leadership in the Cavs' locker room.

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