PORTLAND — For the first time since the 2015-16 season, Ed Davis’ game was on full display in Tuesday night’s 103-93 home-opening victory versus the Pelicans at the Moda Center. With Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum struggling on offense and Jusuf Nurkić picking up three fouls in the first six minutes, the Trail Blazers needed someone to fill the void. That someone was Davis.
The 6-11 power forward in his eighth season out of North Carolina crashed the offensive glass, finished a couple putbacks and flexed after a completed and-1 on the way to finishing with 12 points and 10 rebounds in 21 minutes.
After an injury-plagued 2016-17 campaign, Tuesday night’s game was the first time in a year that fans at the Moda Center saw the real Ed Davis, which honored a vow he made in the last meaningful game played in Portland last season.
“Ed told me last year I came off the court after we got swept after Game 4 (versus Golden State), when he shook my hand he said ‘You going to see a different me next year,’” said Damian Lillard. “It was already in his mind. We already saw it in his mind what he was going to do to impact the team this year.”
As it turns out, Davis’ teammates are also seeing more of him this season, literally, as the vet has taken to using a little tough vanity to motivate himself and anyone else who might be working out alongside him.
“Just coming into the (practice) facility all summer long and seeing him in there with his shirt off, we started calling him Shirt Off Ed,” said Lillard. “He in there doing pushups and pullups, working out hard. He was working out in middle school gyms and elementary school gyms because ours was closed, so he was getting it in every morning. I saw the commitment, I saw that he was trying to take action.”
That offseason action has paid off early in the season, with Davis averaging 7.7 points on 67 percent shooting, 9.0 rebounds and 1.0 blocks in just 16.7 minutes per game. Were it not for his performance Tuesday night, Portland’s streak of home-opening victories might have very well come to an end.
“I’m just not strictly a rebounder,” said Davis. “I know that’s what y’all probably think, but I got more in my package than I guess what I’ve been showing these last couple of years. I’m just trying to come out, play hard and try to help the team out however that might be.”
After the first four games of the season, Davis is among the league leaders in offensive rating and both offensive and defensive rebounding percentage, serving as early proof that the work he put in this summer was time well spent, though his teammates that have seen “Shirt Off Ed” in the weight room could have already told you that.”
“I know Dame started it one day because I had my shirt off in the weight room — that’s me and Noah (Vonleh’s) thing,” said Davis of the origins of Shirt Off Ed. “I work hard for my body man, so I’ve got to make sure people can see it.”