Ricky Davis is a young and talented 6-foot-7, 195-pound swingman. Last season, the 24-year-old led the Cleveland Cavaliers in minutes played (39.6), field goals attempted (1,470) and made (602), points scored (20.6), 3-point percentage (.363), assists (5.5) and steals (1.58). Coach John Lucas and his successor, Keith Smart, gave Davis the green light that enabled him to come up with single-game career highs of 45 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds. But Cleveland won only 17 games and lost 65.
Davis was reunited with coach Paul Silas this season, with whom he had a rocky relationship in Charlotte as a rookie, and appeared to have settled into playing more of a team game (although Silas suspended him for a game for unspecified reasons). Davis' numbers were down from last season's, but he appeared to be playing quite well. In the Cavs' game with Detroit last week (heard on ESPN Radio), Davis did much of the ball-handling -- which freed rookie sensation LeBron James to work off baseline screens without the ball and get open for perimeter shots and drives to the hoop. Davis didn't take a shot until the end of the first period, when he missed a 15-foot jumper after isolating his man at the top of the circle. He finished the game with 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists and worked hard defending the Pistons' Chauncey Billups. His overall play helped the Cavs win a big game.
On Monday, Davis, along with Chris Mihm, Michael Stewart and a second pick, were traded to the Boston Celtics for Eric Williams, Tony Battie and Kedrick Brown. It was not a trade that coach Jim O'Brien and his staff were thrilled about.
The Celts had just put together a five-game winning streak -- which began with back-to-back road wins at Denver and Utah -- to even their record at 12-12. This week's league statistics showed Boston to have the best field-goal percentage defense (.415) and highest shooting percentage (.449) in the Eastern Conference. The coaches and players were justifiably proud of their recent surge. But with the trade, the Celts lost their strongest locker room presence and most physical player (Williams), their most experienced big-man defender (Battie) and a solid spot defender (Brown). Team morale took a big hit.
Now, Obie and his staff must resuscitate the team's spirit and find a way to work in their new members as they prepare to play Antoine Walker and the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday. Davis is the key component. After the mandatory physical exams were completed on Tuesday morning, and before the first practice was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, O'Brien planned to sit down with Davis and lay it out for him. But the practice was postponed because the players involved in the trade arrived too late in Cleveland to have their physicals, and the deal could not be finalized until that happened.
At the first opportunity, Obie will tell Davis that he's heard all the reports about his problems at Charlotte, Miami and Cleveland, but that his slate was wiped clean. He let Davis know that he'll be treated with the same respect that all his players receive -- that he expects the same back from him -- and that he hopes Davis has a happy and successful career as a Celtic. Obie will put it on Ricky to be responsible for his part in the process. But before that one-on-one took place, the coach held a team meeting, with the new players in attendance, and restored the psyche of his squad. He told them that, as much as they would miss their former teammates, their reconstructed team has the potential to be even better, and they all should strive hard to make that happen. Obie said that he felt good with the results of that session.
Now he has a game to prepare for and must get his new players into the flow of the Celtics' game plan. He'll start with Davis.
"The first thing I'll do is to teach Ricky the basics of our passing game and explain our pick-and-roll setups for him," O'Brien said. "That's the easiest and quickest way to get him involved with a game coming up tomorrow. In the beginning, I'll work him into a perimeter rotation with Paul (Pierce), Jiri (Welsh) and Mike James -- so that we'll have three of them on the court at all times."
"From what I've seen, he has the capability of becoming a good defender within our system," O'Brien added. "But I don't know yet if he'll play as hard as we demand, or if he's able to pressure the ball and willing to give up his body to take charges."
O'Brien is going about this disruption the right way. He can't bemoan his losses. "My job is to coach the team I have," he said. He put the responsibility for making the adjustment on the new players. He and his staff will help them in any way they can, but it's up to Davis, Mihm and Stewart to fit the demands of their new team. It is not for the team to make allowances to placate them.
This is a tough, stressful time for an NBA coach. Once a trade is made, the responsibility for making it work out falls on his shoulders. Changing horses in midstream is as hard today as it was during the westward expansion of our great country. But the Celtics have acquired a couple of young stallions. If they can be broken properly, and gentled into the herd, the team might be better at roundup time.
Dr. Jack Ramsay, an NBA analyst for ESPN, coached the Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA championship. A member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, he is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. Click here to send a question for Dr. Jack for possible use on ESPNEWS.