- The Washington Times - Friday, January 11, 2002

Hubert Davis has a lot of reasons to have an omnipresent smile these days. He's an expecting parent who loves to talk about fatherhood. Mention his favorite football team, the Washington Redskins, and he'll join the discussion gleefully. And on top of that, he's contributing in a big way to the burgeoning success of the Washington Wizards.

Life is good. And if you really want to see Davis light up, mention the eventual return to the lineup of starting shooting guard Richard Hamilton.

"We need Rip in a bad, bad way," Davis said through a smile. "You can't replace him. And Rip can run all day. I used to be able to run like that."

There aren't many guys out there who can run like Hamilton, the 6-foot-7 shooting guard generously listed at 193 pounds in the team's media guide. Hamilton has missed seven games with a partial tear of his right groin but has started some light running and could be back as early as next week.

Until that time comes, the shooting guard duties will continue to fall to Davis.

As with Popeye Jones, who is filling in at power forward for injured Christian Laettner, Davis is part of the team's 30-and-over club guys who would much rather come off the bench at this stage of their careers.

"I think Hubert is more comfortable coming off of the bench for us," Wizards coach Doug Collins said. "But that just goes to show you how valuable he's been to us this year. Injuries are part of the game. We're hoping to get Richard and Christian back soon to get to full strength. But the contribution we've gotten from Hubert has been tremendous."

Since being activated from the injured list Nov. 11, Davis has averaged 8.8 points in 24 games. However, since stepping into the starting lineup, he has boosted his scoring in the last seven games to 11.5 points.

Over that stretch, he has been particularly dangerous from long range, connecting on 15 of 27 (55.5 percent) from behind the 3-point line. Most recently, Davis erupted for 14 points in the third quarter of the team's 96-88 victory over the Los Angeles Clippers on Tuesday. Davis' surge allowed the Wizards to turn what had been a two-point halftime deficit into a 70-58 advantage.

"He's a scorer, and we try to run plays for him," swingman Michael Jordan said. "I think we kind of caught them off guard because the focus was on me. He really carried us in the third quarter and got us right where we needed to be."

Although he is happy to be contributing, Davis is brutally honest when comparing himself to Hamilton.

"The bottom line is, I'm not as good as Rip," Davis said. "Rip has gotten very good, and when he's in the lineup we're a better team, no question."

Hamilton's absence has forced the Wizards to rely on Davis at shooting guard for long periods. Before Hamilton's injury, Davis never exceeded 38 minutes. But since Hamilton was injured Dec. 21, Davis has played 38 or more minutes in seven of the last eight games.

And as a shooting guard, Hamilton usually has to guard some of the NBA's most athletic players. It won't get any easier when the Wizards (18-14) try to extend their current winning streak to five games tonight at Central Division-leading Milwaukee (19-13). Davis will be assigned to shooting guard Ray Allen.

Rather than fretting over that, Davis put a positive spin on it.

"We're really excited about the next two games, going to Milwaukee and then coming home and playing a tough Minnesota Timberwolves team," he said. "It's going to be a good test for us, and it should be a lot of fun,"

Note Wizards center Brendan Haywood was one of 19 players named Wednesday to the rookie team in the Rookie Challenge at the NBA All-Star Game in Philadelphia. Along with players like Memphis' Shane Battier and Indiana's Jamaal Tinsley, Haywood, who was named the league's top rookie during December, will face a team led by last year's Rookie of the Year, Orlando Magic forward Mike Miller. The game will be played Feb. 9 at First Union Center.

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