— NBA (@NBA) February 2, 2020
A statement game is when a player or a team sets out to perform to a higher standard than usual, in an effort to prove a point – to make a statement – and put the world on notice.
Given the nature of who Terence Davis Jr. is, it’s no surprise that he wanted to go out and make a statement of his own after being snubbed from participating in the Rising Stars game at NBA All-Star Weekend 2020. He is Mr. Make ‘Em Believe, after all.
Who better to make his victim than the host team of All-Star weekend 2020, the Chicago Bulls? The Bulls, to their own right, have one of their own American Rising Stars this year in Wendell Carter Jr. Whether Terence of Wendell was more deserving to be there is a whole other topic, but with Carter’s limited production left on the sidelines this afternoon as Davis exploded for 31 points right in front of him, it seems as though the pendulum is swinging in the undrafted rookie’s favour.
The Raptors got off to a quick start against the Bulls right from the get-go. Kyle Lowry set the tone for the game, knocking down his first two looks from deep and putting the 6ix up six quickly. Such efficient offense would continue through the first 3 minutes and 53 seconds of the game, where Toronto found themselves up 17-8, having only missed two of their eight shots. From there, Chicago would catch fire and go on a 13-2 run. The defense looked sluggish, the offense was stalling, and the Raptors were stuck two to a team that they truly should have been decimating.
That was when the fun started. With 3 minutes and 32 seconds remaining in the quarter, Terence Davis Jr. subbed in for Fred VanVleet, and immediately breathed life back into the game. He knocked down a couple of threes, and put the Raptors up three by the end of the quarter.
Unlike what most rookies might do in this social media age, Davis didn’t choose to take any jabs at guys who he thought he was better than.
— 🅾️ (@TerenceDavisJr) January 31, 2020
He kept his head up, and chose to take the veteran’s route, exploding as soon as he got onto the court instead.
He continued to showcase his scoring abilities through the rest of the game, dropping buckets on Thaddeus Young – the man whom he credits for gaining his interest in basketball.
When Terence Davis Jr. was 15 years old, he attended a summer camp that Thaddeus Young hosted for high-potential basketball prospects, which OG Anunoby played at as well.
Young says that he always knew OG would be a pro because “you could just see the potential he had”, but that Terence Davis “just worked himself here”. That he did, and he’s just kept on working since.
Today, Young got to see just how far his prodigy has come. Just over a minute into the fourth quarter, Davis hit his fourth three of the game, turning a hope that he could potentially get his first NBA 30-piece into a real possibility. You could tell that he felt it too. All of Scotiabank Arena felt it. Less than a minute later, he hit another three, before driving through the teeth of the defense to make a couple of layups, bringing his point total to 28.
Imagine this: your whole life, you’ve been a two-sport athlete. You played basketball and football because you had a passion, and with your athleticism, you were really damn good at both of them. Now, you’re faced with a decision; with twenty Division 1 offers to play football, and five to play basketball, which one do you choose? Your friends tell you that football is the way to go, and that you have the potential to be one of the best players in the world, but basketball is where your heart is. You decide to hoop. Each year after the college season is over, you make the decision to go back to the NCAA and play at Ole Miss again because you don’t think you’re ready to make the leap to the big leagues. Turns out, you never are, but your days in college have run out. You declare for the NBA draft, but nobody wants to give you more than a two-way deal. Now what? People tell you that you screwed up your life. That you had it all, and that you lost it all. That you should’ve played football instead. Then comes a call from Tim Connelly and the Denver Nuggets to play in Summer League.
Obviously, the rest is history. That’s the story of Terence Davis Jr.
With four-and-a-half minutes to go in the fourth quarter today, that same kid was standing at the 45 degree mark on the court of the defending world champions with the ball in his hands. NBA Champion, Fred VanVleet, who has been through much of the same as Davis stood to his left, urging him to go get a bucket; to get that 30 points; to Make ‘Em Believe. Make the neighborhood guys who said that he should’ve played football, understand that this is where he is supposed to be. Make the assistant coaches around the league who scrolled by his name on the voting ballot, understand that Chicago is where he deserves to be.
That was when he hit his defender with a quick dribble pullup from long range and saw the ball fall through the rim, swooshing the mesh up through the basket, as the jumbo tron at Scotiabank Arena flipped the digits next to his name from 28 to 31.
With that shot, Davis became the rookie with the third highest career-high – outscoring the likes of Zion Williamson, Ja Morant, and RJ Barrett.
In his post-game interview, Nick Nurse said, “I always think about the games where I play him six minutes and wonder what the hell I’m doing when he’s playing like that.” To be fair, a lot of us fans do too, but I don’t suppose we’ll see too many more of those nights moving forward.
At the end of the day, it’s not a huge deal if Davis plays in the Rising Stars game or not. Like Fred VanVleet said, “None of [the other Raptors] have ever played in it, so what difference does it make? Welcome to the party.” Unlike any of the other rookies in Chicago, Terence Davis will have the opportunity to contribute to a team that’s poised to go deep in the playoffs, and that’s worth so much more.