Off `taxi squad,' Davis giving Wizards a lift

Shooting, experience shore up backcourt

November 27, 2001|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

WASHINGTON - The first few weeks of this season were among some of the most difficult for Hubert Davis in his 10-year pro career. He was on the NBA's unofficial taxi squad, the injured list, watching younger players struggle in their new roles with the Washington Wizards.

As the Wizards were in the midst of what became an eight-game losing streak, Davis was activated, took the place of point guard Tyronn Lue (bruised hand) on the roster and, eventually, some of shooting guard Courtney Alexander's playing time in coach Doug Collins' rotation.

"It's fun to be out there," Davis, 31, said yesterday after practice at MCI Center. "I just wanted the opportunity to go out there on the court and help the team. ... I did a lot of stuff [in terms of conditioning and shooting] on my own. I've been in this league 10 years. I know that when you're activated, you have to be ready to step on the court."

Davis has not helped the Wizards reverse their disappointing start. Coming off an 88-84, overtime win at home against Boston on Saturday, Washington takes a 3-9 record to Cleveland's Gund Arena tonight to play the Cavaliers (4-10). Still, the veteran from North Carolina has given Collins some stability in the backcourt.

Now Collins hopes Davis will be able to provide something even more important: another experienced shooting guard to allow Michael Jordan to play fewer minutes than the team-high 38.6 he is averaging. Jordan has played 40 minutes or more in five straight games, including 45 against the Celtics.

"Eventually, I'm hoping that once we get T-Lue back [from the injured list], I will be able to use Hubert some at the 2 [shooting guard]," said Collins. "I've got to get Michael's minutes down. We've got four games in five days. We've got to get Michael's minutes down to 34 or 35, if I have to chain him down. If his minutes stay over 40, we'll never get him through the season."

In going to a more veteran lineup, particularly in the fourth quarter, Collins has relied on a group that includes Jordan, Christian Laettner, Popeye Jones and Davis. Though his shooting went cold against Boston - 0-for-6 on threes and four of 14 overall - Davis has been one of the few players who has taken some pressure off Jordan.

Davis scored a season-high 21 points in 33 minutes against Indiana on Thanksgiving night, 18 points in 27 minutes the previous game against Charlotte, and knocked down a couple of big threes in an attempted second-half comeback against Utah on Nov. 16, the day he was activated.

"Hubert is a professional," Jordan said of his fellow Tar Heel. "He stood aside to see if the young guys could adapt quickly and see if we could them get out of the blocks quick. We were not able to do that, and we called on Hubie. Like a consummate pro, it was like everything was clicking.

"He stepped in and has taken a lot of minutes. He had to be prepared. He's been in that situation before, and I think right now he's been a valuable component for us. His versatility allowed us to go with a lot of different lineups. Now, as you see, he gives us that fifth experienced guy in fourth quarter."

Except against Boston, Davis has shot the ball extremely well from the outside. He hit seven of 12 shots, including four of six on threes, against Charlotte. He was seven of 13 - six of 10 three-pointers - against Indiana. Davis is shooting 20 of 43 overall and 12 of 25 on threes.

Despite the team's record since he became a Wizard in February as part of the deal that sent Juwan Howard to Dallas, it has been a happy homecoming for Davis. After spending four years in New York, one in Toronto and nearly four with the Mavericks, Davis is finally playing near family and friends in Northern Virginia.

"It's incredible," he said. "My dad still lives here, my sister, my wife's parents are here. Twenty minutes from my high school. Seeing all kinds of friends from the past. Just never thought I'd be back here, playing professional basketball. It's a real dream for me."

NOTES: The Wizards activated rookie center Brendan Haywood for tonight's game. Haywood, another former Tar Heel, has been out since tearing ligaments in his thumb in the preseason. Rookie power forward Bobby Simmons is on the injured list with patella tendinitis, otherwise known as "jumper's knee."

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