With the Nuggets playing this evening on ESPN, I was able to catch up with Antonio Davis in a phone interview to get some thoughts on tonight's Timberwolves vs Nuggets game in Q&A form. He's an NBA analyst for ESPN and appears regularly on SportsCenter, NBA Tonight, NBA Coast to Coast and across other ESPN programming.
Davis played in the NBA from 1993-2006 and was a second round pick of the Indiana Pacers (45th overall) out of the University of Texas at El Paso in 1990. He played overseas until the 1993-94 season when he joined the Pacers and played there until the conclusion of the 1998-99 season. He averaged 10 points and 7.5 rebounds over his 13 year career. I will always remember him best as a member of the "Davis Brothers" with teammate Dale Davis. They formed a good one-two punch as Dale started and Antonio regularly came off the bench for the Pacers.
Nate Timmons: With you being a big man that played under different coaches and different systems, what do you think the Nuggets big men have to learn under new coach Brian Shaw and how hard is it to adjust to new defensive systems?
Antonio Davis: Under Brian Shaw, if you look at the coaching staffs he learned from - speaking of Phil Jackson and even Frank Vogel - you're going to have to learn how to protect the paint and be in a position, at all times, to be that last line of defense. I don't know if it's an adjustment, I just think that it's going to be specified all the time and he's not going to accept that you aren't that last guy and you aren't protecting the paint in the ways in which you're supposed to; whether it's: defensive rebounding, blocking shots, or just being there for your teammates. I don't think there's a system out there that players won't adjust to, once they learn it and figure out why they are trying to run it. And Coach Shaw, he's learned from some of the best coaches, so he's going to take what he has and build a system around that and the players that he has. He has some bigs out there that will be able to run the system that he has.
NT: What do you think of Denver's big men? Looking at JaVale McGee, Timofey Mozgov, J.J. Hickson, and Kenenth Faried.
AD: I was impressed with Mozgov the other day [against the Lakers]. I always felt that he was going to be a good, serviceable big, even when he was in New York. I've always known that it was going to be a matter of time and maybe the right situation for him to get the opportunity to grow and be used the right way.
J.J. Hickson has kind of revived himself. He's been one of those hard-working guys, I saw him in Portland come back and help that team in the paint with scoring around the basket and defending the basket. The same thing with JaVale and Manimal, they both are high-energy guys. Their talents may be a little specific right now, but you just got to find a way to use all those guys to deal with the tasks at hand: offensive rebounding, getting extra possessions, and defending the paint.
NT: Some people didn't expect Minnesota to be as good as they are, what have you seen out of them?
AD: They have shown a lot. The addition of Kevin Martin has really helped them out a ton. He has been a big time contributor and he has been huge for them. And then to have Corey Brewer come in ... I always talk about guys starting from the bench because when you look at this team it's obvious that Kevin Love and some of the other guys are going to be your top contributors whether it's scoring or being a big part of your offense.
The Nuggets have their hands full. It's one of those teams that has talent at every position. Love is a difficult match-up for them for a lot of different reasons. It's going to take a team effort of controlling Ricky Rubio, making sure Love doesn't get off, and make sure whoever comes off the bench is not going to score 15 points.
NT: Would you have looked forward to covering a big man like Nikola Pekovic back when you were playing?
AD: No. [Laughs] I used to tease people all the time, that was kind of the norm when I was playing. You'd look up and you'd have to play David Robinson, Hakeem Olajuwon, and Patrick Ewing all within a matter of a week and a half. It was just the norm to face big guys like Pekovic.
NT: What do you think about the match-up between Ty Lawson and Ricky Rubio? Lawson is among the leaders in scoring for point guards and Rubio is obviously the big assist guy.
AD: It's kind of an opposite ends of the spectrum [match-up] in a way. I talked about it the other day when we were talking about the Clippers and having Chris Paul who is more of a floor general and then OKC, which has Russell Westbrook who is, I think, a score-first type of point guard. I think that's what you're going to have tonight. Lawson is going to look to score the basketball and he can. He's athletic, definitely has skill, and he's strong inside about attacking the rim. Ricky Rubio is going to have his hands full as far as defending him and making sure you push him to your bigs who are shot blockers. On the same hand, Lawson is going to have to figure out how to slow down Ricky Rubio who controls the offense and had 16 assists the other night.
NT: I appreciate your time. I used to love watching you play back with the Pacers with the "Davis Brothers".
AD: Thanks man, I appreciate that. That was a good time, we did a lot of good things.
Big thanks to Antonio for the call and talking a little Nuggets. I absolutely loved 90s NBA ball and it was cool to speak with a man that really typified that era. Some info on tonight's national broadcast: Mike Breen has the call tonight with one-time Nugget Jon Barry at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN and WatchESPN. Kia NBA Countdown with Sage Steele, Jalen Rose and Bill Simmons begins at 7:30 p.m. Watch it, record it, and let's talk Nuggets.
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