Terence Davis is approaching the NBA's return to play with a veteran's mindset.
The Raptors guard was enjoying a standout rookie campaign when the NBA suspended the 2019-20 season in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Having put in three-quarters of a season before the shutdown, and having earned the trust of his veteran teammates, Davis said he'll be looking to be counted on when the league starts up again next month at the Walt Disney World resort near Orlando, Fla.
"I would come into this more mature, being that I went through three-fourths of a season," Davis said Thursday on a videoconference. "Just growing up, maturing, taking the steps in the right direction."
The Raptors signed Davis in the off-season after he went unselected at the 2019 NBA draft, and he fit in immediately with the defending NBA champions. He averaged 7.7 points a night on 46.3 per cent shooting while leaning on veterans like Kyle Lowry, Fred VanVleet and Marc Gasol.
"Any time Kyle, Fred, those guys talk to me I'm listening, I'm all ears because they're vets," Davis said. "Kyle is 14 years in, Fred is a young vet — I look at him like a vet — and he's a different kind of guy, especially in the pick-and-roll. He's mastered it, pretty much.
"So any time they're talking I'm listening. And they definitely give me pointers because they want to see their young guys come up. There's no hate over here and we all love each other. So any time they're talking I'm listening."
He said the team leaders don't look at him like a rookie anymore, and while that might mean he has less leeway for error, it also shows the confidence his teammates have in him.
"I had to gain these guys' trust and I would say it means a lot," Davis said. "I wouldn't say this is something that’s normal, but for me being an undrafted guy playing with the defending champions it’s just unbelievable.
"That's something that you want as a young guy. You want these guys to be able to trust you and that's something that I'm working towards every day. So I'm excited about the process, going to Orlando and really finishing out the season because we really have a chance to do it again."
Still, Davis knows areas of his game need work if he wants to see a lot of playing time once playoff games begin. He said he wants to improve his play in the pick-and-roll and work on creating his own shot, but added improvements on defence could catch the eye of head coach Nick Nurse.
"I would say just the trust on the defensive end, really. Because that's really what wins ball games," Davis said. "The little things on the defensive end, being in gaps, showing your length, boxing out, tag and pursue, all of the four pillars that you really take pride in. Just showing him those things and really sticking to it. I think everything else will take care of itself."
The Raptors have been training in Fort Myers, Fla., since June 22 in preparation for the league's planned return in Orlando. Florida has been hit hard by a rise in cases of the novel coronavirus of late, including a record 10,109 new cases reported Thursday.
"We know it's all around us but we're doing a great job and the organization's doing a wonderful job of taking proper precautions," Davis said. "Making sure we're wearing our masks and having hand sanitizer or gloves if we have to. So we're doing the right thing to stay safe and make sure everyone is safe."
One thing Davis won't get to experience in the second part of his rookie year is the thrill of soaking in the noise of home fans, or the satisfaction of shutting up a hostile crowd on the road, during the playoffs. All games in Orlando will be played in empty venues.
"It'll be different for me," Davis said. "I play off crowd energy, even if we're on the road. Like, if we make a bucket I like to hear the crowd go quiet. It's just part of the game, you know? So it's going to be different for everyone playing without fans. Because you really don't know how much fans have an impact on things until there are no fans."
The Raptors are scheduled to return to action Aug. 1 against the Los Angeles Lakers. They will play eight games for playoff seeding before the post-season begins.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 2, 2020.