Raptors center Antonio Davis was in Washington a couple of weeks ago, reminiscing about the high school coach who thought he had no future in basketball, when a reporter approached with good news. "Did you hear you're starting in the All-Star Game?" he asked the 32-year-old Davis.
Davis looked for a moment like a figure in a wax museum. "I don't believe it," said Davis, who had been surprised enough a day earlier, when he was named as a replacement for the injured 76ers center, Theo Ratliff. Two days later he was playing 20 minutes, scoring eight points and grabbing nine rebounds while helping the East to its 111-110 upset.
It's the kind of story you don't hear often. Most All-Stars are first-round picks who were handed guaranteed, multimillion-dollar contracts—which is to say they were given every chance to prove they could play. The 6'9", 230-pound Davis came from the other side of the tracks. After the Pacers picked him out of UTEP in the second round of the 1990 draft, he played two years in Greece and another in Italy before coming to the States for good in 1993. "One thing I'm proud of is never giving up," he says.
After five years of steadily improving play off the bench with the Pacers, Davis asked the team to give him an opportunity to start. To satisfy that wish, Indiana amicably traded him to Toronto for high schooler Jonathan Bender before last season. At week's end Davis was averaging career highs in points (13-5 per game), rebounds (10.9) and blocked shots (2.04).
This summer Davis plans to opt out of the last two seasons of his seven-year, $38.5 million contract. He will seek what his agent, Bill Duffy, calls " Brian Grant money"—the seven-year, $85.7 million contract that Grant received from the Heat in his sign-and-trade deal—before deciding whether to stay in Toronto or to sign elsewhere.
Whatever happens this summer, he will again run the big man camp he started three years ago in his hometown of Oakland. It lasts three days and is free for 25 local high school and college players. "This is a way for me to teach guys all the fundamentals that I didn't have when I got to college—a drop-step, a right-hand jump hook, how to dribble in the post" Davis says.
Helping them reminds him of the pivotal moment of his career, when as a senior he asked his coach at McClymonds High for advice on college recruiting. "He basically told me I was not good enough to play Division I," Davis recalls. "He was just trying to be honest, but that discouraged me a lot. Maybe it was what I needed to make me work harder."
Outside the Box Score
86ed by the Stalling 76ers
With the Sixers down by five points with 1:12 to play on Feb. 13 in Milwaukee, Allen Iverson scored six straight points to give Philadelphia a one-point lead. After inbounding the ball with 13.4 seconds left, the 76ers sewed up their victory with brilliant teamwork. They stitched together 10 passes before one of the Bucks could get close enough to the man with the ball to foul. "The best stall I've seen in a long time," said Milwaukee guard Ray Allen. Only .3 of a second remained when Aaron McKie made his free throws to seal the 107-104 win.
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