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Player Preview: What now for Terence Davis and the Raptors?

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After an exciting rookie season, the Raptors’ second-year player Terence Davis was arrested for assault. What the team and player do next will likely cast a pall over the season.

Boston Celtics v Toronto Raptors - Game Five Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

The problem I’m having with writing about Terence Davis is that the word “I” keeps coming up before “Davis.” This is absolutely not the way to handle this, yet here I go again putting myself in the story even though it has nothing to do with me. I’m just a guy at home watching the Raptors play basketball on TV. I have no tangible stake in Davis’ basketball career or life, or that of the life of the woman he allegedly assaulted, or that of his child’s life. I had wanted Davis to be a good player for the Raptors — an organization I also have no tangible stake in, only an emotional one — but now what do I want? What could any of us want here? Some sense of justice or closure, I assume. But what does that look like?

Setting all that aside, there’s another problem of language here, using the word “allegedly” to keep the door open on the idea that this is all some made-up story, that the woman in question is trying to get back at Davis, trying to derail his life and career somehow. No matter how cautiously this is framed, it always carries a faint “how dare she?” about it, a desire to blame or ignore the victim seemingly never too far away. (There will be at least one comment in this regard after this post sits on the site for the day.) This application of “allegedly” is done for legal reasons, of course — nothing has been proven yet — but it also implies that the “alleged” domestic assault victim is fine. There’s no problem and nothing to see here, everyone should just carry on. Except, I don’t know, this doesn’t sound like a fine situation to me. Does it sound fine to you?

But again, that “I” comes up, so let’s try to reframe this. The Raptors have made it clear they don’t plan on doing anything out of the ordinary with Davis for now — at least not publically. He’s with the team in Tampa for training camp, playing in preseason games, and generally doing what he can to get ready for the coming season. This strict un-reality has been enforced by Toronto’s carefully organized silence on the matter (the same cone that formed around the Adrian Griffin allegations over the summer). Of course, Davis has not been allowed anywhere near a camera or microphone; of course, the team’s lead officials — coach, general manager, president — have said they’re looking into it, that it is indeed a very serious situation, that they’re waiting for the legal process to play itself out; and of course, there’s nothing to be done right now. Is that true, though?

The Raptors’ assumed helplessness is tough to watch — and not a little bit gross — but in truth, I don’t have any answers here. And I don’t know how this situation is supposed to resolve itself. When the arrest news first broke, I assumed the Raptors would have to cut Davis, if only to move on from the toxic cloud that was sure to stink up the team’s culture. This alone would not solve anything — not for Davis, and certainly not for the mother of his child — but it would at least keep the Raptors, and the team’s fans, out of it. Toronto has, after all, spent years talking up its thoughtful and progressive franchise values, with Masai Ujiri himself trumpeted the idea of believing women, believing in women, hiring women, and so on. But now I have to ask — if only to shift the perspective once again: how do those women in the Raptors organization feel now?

Here’s where we end up in practical terms: Davis is likely to play regular season games for the Raptors this year, and in at least one contest he’ll play the part of the hero. Afterwards, while no media can gather in any locker rooms as of yet, there will be a desire to speak to Davis, to ask him how it felt to be the star on the night, help his team win a game, and play up to a potential that could still be growing. And Davis will settle in front of the camera, ring light on his face, along with a smile, and dutifully answer those questions. But that’s it, that’s the only thing he’ll answer to or for. Then the interview will end. On to the next one.

This is not about me at all, and I don’t know about you: but none of this feels right.