NBA

Ed Davis’s power has Raptors saying, ‘Andrea Who?’

TORONTO — The Globe and Mail

Ed Davis, right, is averaging 31.4 minutes a game as a starter with the Toronto Raptors, compared to 15.4 minutes off the bench. (FRED THORNHILL/REUTERS)

There are some parts of his three-year NBA career that Ed Davis would just as soon like to forget.

Start with the lockout-shortened 2011-12 season.

In Davis’s mind it’s gone, wiped off the map, kaput.

“I don’t know,” Davis said on Thursday, when asked what adjustments he has made to his game this year compared to last season.

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“I forgot about last year,” he continued. “I don’t even know.”

Davis might have been joking around when he uttered the comments, after the Raptors practised for Friday night’s game against the Charlotte Bobcats at the Air Canada Centre.

It was hard to tell. Davis made them with a straight face.

But then again, the truncated 2011-12 NBA season was extremely forgettable for Davis, who often looked out of place as he averaged 6.3 points and 6.6 rebounds in 66 games.

This season, with injuries again forcing the hand of Raptors coach Dwane Casey, Davis has seen more court time than was anticipated, and the results have been encouraging.

The 6-foot-10, 228-pound Davis is playing with a new-found confidence, using his strength and athleticism to make more pronounced forays to the offensive basket and his length to make a difference at the defensive end.

Since starting power forward Andrea Bargnani was lost to the team last month with a torn right elbow ligament and strained right wrist, Davis has stepped in and the Raptors haven’t missed a beat.

In fact, when Bargnani is ready to return – perhaps by the end of January – it is quite possible that the former No.1 overall draft pick will have to bide his time on the bench watching Davis.

Casey admits that it will be very hard to steal away Davis’s starting minutes once the likes of Bargnani and rookie centre Jonas Valanciunas (broken finger) are healthy enough to play.

“It’s gong to be very difficult [to keep Davis from the starting rotation],” Casey acknowledged. “He’s earned it. Again, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.

“But unless he does something, just goes backwards – which I don’t see him doing – it’s going to be very difficult to get him out of there and also difficult to keep him off the floor.”

Bargnani was injured Dec. 10 in a 92-74 loss to the Portland Trail Blazers, as the Raptors’ record dipped to 4-18.

Davis was handed the starting job and perhaps it is no coincidence that the Raptors’ fortunes swung mightily, as they won nine of their next 13 games.

That includes a workmanlike 90-72 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday, a game in which Davis scored 17 points and added nine rebounds.

“He’s been consistent,” Casey said of Davis, Toronto’s first pick (13th overall) in the 2010 NBA draft. “He’s taken advantage of the opportunity to step in and start and run with it. He’s earned that position right now, playing strong, playing aggressive – still making a few mistakes.

“I’m on him about guys ducking in on him in the low post, not being as assertive as much as he can be. But overall his improved play has been a big plus to everyone.”

In the 14 games he has started at power forward, including the past 13 in a row, Davis is averaging 11.9 points a game and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 56.2 per cent from the floor.

On the season, Davis is averaging 8.4 points and 6.2 rebounds, which leads the team.

And in a starting role, his court time has shot up to an average of 31.4 minutes a game compared to 15.4 minutes off the bench, which can take a toll on a body that’s not used to so much work.

“I did a good job this summer just working on my body, trying to stay physically in shape,” Davis said. “Still now, I’m lifting every day and being 100 per cent every day I’m out there.”

The Raptors will face a Bobcats team that has won just nine times this season and is 2-8 in its past 10.

Still, the Raptors are not good enough to take anything for granted, as witnessed by their 98-97 loss to Charlotte back on Nov. 21.

“We owe Charlotte,” Casey said. “They spanked us up there at Charlotte.”

Rookie forward Terrence Ross, who has missed the past two games with a sore ankle, practised on Thursday and is expected to be available for the game.

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