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Ed Davis and Noah Vonleh Forged Bond During Portland Stint

The Athletic’s Moke Hamilton examines Vonleh’s career challenges and how former Portland teammate Ed Davis convinced him to bet on himself.

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NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Cleveland Cavaliers David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Big men Noah Vonleh and Ed Davis have been on the move a fair bit in their respective careers. The Athletic’s Moke Hamilton examines their relationship, forged during their time together in Portland:

Although he would spend just two years in Portland, had his experience there not happened, Vonleh would have never had the opportunity to forge one of the most important relationships of his life — that with Ed Davis.

Neither knew it at the time, but Davis, who was selected with the 13th overall pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, is as talented, yet just as transient as Vonleh has been. In Portland, the two big men immediately hit it off when Vonleh, fresh on the scene, sought counsel from the veteran.

“It started out early, our first year, he came to Richmond and came to my camp and stayed at my house for a week,” Davis said. Since then, Davis has become a bit of a big brother to Vonleh as he has navigated a career that has since included stops in Chicago, and now, New York. The two have remained close and discussed both the opportunity that Vonleh believed awaited in Chicago and the surprised one that presented itself when David Fizdale’s Knicks presented a unique opportunity.

Davis encouraged Vonleh to take a non-guaranteed deal with the Knicks, believing that Fizdale would give him a fair opportunity to earn minutes. Thus far, Vonleh has responded - averaging 9.7 rebounds in only 16 minutes per game. Davis always had believed in Vonleh, and never thought he should have been traded away from the Blazers in the first place:

As much as it pained Davis — he stills holds the trade against the Trail Blazers organization to this very day — he tried to help Vonleh see the opportunity he’d find in Chicago as a blessing even though he knew he’d miss his little brother.

“The pro is you get a new experience and a new opportunity,” Davis recalled telling Vonleh.

“Sometimes, you get drafted to a team and it’s just not the right fit or you get drafted and this general manager drafted you and they had this coach here and then all of a sudden this GM gets fired and there’s a new coach. They might not play you and then draft somebody in your position,” Davis said in an attempt to explain the transience of young players who show immense promise.

“For Noah, it happened to him.

“Charlotte, they wanted to get Batum, a good player. (Vonleh) came to Portland, played well and they didn’t do right by him,” Davis said. “They gave him away him to Chicago — a team that wasn’t trying to win that already had bigs. Portland just didn’t do right by him, long story short. It’s obvious, he’s definitely an NBA player and he’ll continue to show that, but like I said, Portland didn’t do right by him.”

Did the Blazers do right by Vonleh? On one hand, it’s a business - and Portland shed some tax obligation with the move. Or should they have held on to him and tried to develop him further?