Story by LAUREN DEANE
Photos provided by KELLEN McCOY and DAVIIN DAVIS
The NBA’s 2011 lockout has forced former Weber State University (WSU) basketball star Daviin Davis to consider alternate playing options in overseas competition.
“The lockout has had a huge impact on American players overseas,” said Kellen McCoy, a 2009 WSU graduate who is now coaching at Emporia State University in Kansas.
“My friend D-Will (Daviin Davis) is still overseas playing, he is having a really hard time finding a job even though he just got off a great season,” McCoy said in a telephone interview. McCoy used to play for Boras Baskets in Sweden’s first league in 2010-2011.
According to Eurobasket.com, Davis had an impressive season playing for Finland last year. He averaged 11.7 points and 4.4 rebounds per game. On top of that, he was awarded a starting position in five season games and came off the bench with significant minutes in all the other matchups. Even after being so successful in the 2009-2010 season, he is still facing the dilemma of not getting signed overseas this season.
The overseas season started in mid-October 2011. “It was the end of September and I wasn’t getting any offers to play [overseas],” Davis said in a Skype interview. “Most teams do all the signing weeks before the season begins so they can start practicing and molding the team. The teams from the division I was in last year had no interest in me.”
Davis said because of the lack of interest shown in him, he had to attend multiple tryouts for different teams all over Europe. Some of them were in better divisions — overseas play is grouped similar to the NCAA’s three separate divisions — and some were not. Although he was sending out game tapes, no one had an interest in hiring him. So he went to Latvia in hopes of getting signed. He was finally signed by Valmiera in Latvia.
The reason why Americans playing overseas are being impacted so much by the NBA lockout is because there are set rules for each team and division. Each team is only allowed to sign two American players per season for its squad. Also, contracts for Americans are written for one year only. This is to ensure the two players signed are the absolute best competitors the team can commit to that season.
Davis said the main players from the NBA who are signing contracts oversees right now are “the bench riders,” or practice players. Practice players are participants on the team who do not play a key role during games against their opponents. They generally don’t get very much, if any, playing time. However, they are vital to any team because they make the key players better and are ready to play in case of an unexpected injury. Another key role they play is to practice as an element of the scout team — players pretend to be their opponents during practice to make sure the key players get repetition defending their opposition and attacking their future opponent’s weaknesses.
The teams and NBA players will agree to sign year-long contracts overseas. The coaches abroad are using this year with the ex-NBA players to enhance the skill of their local and long-term athletes. “People get better by practicing and competing against an opponent that is at a higher skill level than they are,” McCoy said. “The coaches in Europe will be using the lockout to benefit their program.”
The advantage to the NBA players signing overseas is they can stay in shape to get back on an NBA team when play returns. McCoy said these two reasons are why both the overseas teams and ex-NBA players are benefiting from the lockout.
According to ESPN.com, 63 confirmed contracts had been signed between European teams and last year’s NBA players as of Oct. 26. “These bench riders are impacting the availability for jobs in Europe and are making a lot of athletes unemployed,” Davis said.
Davis went to more then a dozen tryouts this year in an attempt to get signed abroad. “Unfortunately, no one else [would] sign me, so I had to take a contract with Latvia this year.”
Latvia is in a lower division, has less talent and will provide him with less money and benefits than he had last season. Davis said it is the “worst” team he has competed for since starting his professional career in 2009-2010. Even though the team isn’t as good, he said he still felt “relieved and blessed” that Latvia decided to sign him on Oct. 4, 2011.
McCoy said his friends in the NBA have told him the negotiations between the players and owners are still at a standstill.
“The owners are on first base and the players are on third. There is no way they are going to come to any kind of conclusion soon,” McCoy said. “This will cause the bigger and better players to sign overseas as well [as the bench riders] and will completely change the overseas dynamic.”
Davis has played four games this season with the Latvian team, Valmiera. He came off the bench with significant minutes in the first two games and earned a starting position in the last two. Overall, Davis has averaged 27.5 minutes, 6.75 points, 3.5 rebounds and one block.
“I am looking forward to another great year no matter what team I am with. I will use this year to get better and improve the weak points in my game,” Davis said. “I am glad to finally be on a team, but I can’t wait for the lockout to end so my friends can get jobs overseas again and I can play on the teams I am talented enough to compete for.”