PORTLAND — Ricky Davis knew something was wrong with his left knee. He had constant pain and couldn’t get any push off the leg. And for someone who made his living as a scorer, that wasn’t good.

He was told it was tendinitis, but felt it was worse.

And it was. After he was let go by the NBA’s Los Angeles Clippers in 2010, after he played a year in Turkey, Davis went to see a specialist. He was told he had a torn patella, the flat triangular bone that protects the knee joint.

Surgery followed. Davis went on to play in China and later France. And now, feeling healthy for the first time in many years, the 32-year-old Davis is beginning his journey back to the NBA with the Maine Red Claws.

While he knows he can make more money overseas, Davis said the NBA Development League is his best chance to get back to basketball’s highest level.

“I’m going to get my chance to show people I’m injury-free,’’ said Davis before Saturday’s Red Claws game. “I’ve been playing good and I’m ready to go back.’’

He had been working out in Los Angeles and Minnesota – “A lot of core work to keep my body strong and shooting the ball, just staying ready,’’ he said – while waiting for an opportunity to play. The Red Claws selected him from the D-League’s Available Player Pool on Dec. 28.

“This worked out great,’’ said Davis. “I played in Boston (one of the Red Claws’ NBA affiliates) before. I loved it there. I had some of my best times in Boston.’’

Davis, who played 12 years in the NBA, knows that expectations will be high from the fans. A first-round draft pick (21st overall) by Charlotte in 1998, he averaged 13.5 points, 3.3 assists and 3.5 rebounds in 736 games for six teams. His best scoring season was in 2002-03 when he averaged 20.6 points for Cleveland.

“I feel, based on the type of explosive player I can be, every where, every night, they expect something from me,’’ he said. “I like the pressure.’’

Of course, Davis is remembered by basketball fans for something other than his scoring ability.

On March 16, 2003, while playing for Cleveland, he tried to inflate his rebounding stats so he could get his first career triple-double.

The video has had a long shelf life on YouTube and other spots on the Internet.

“Oh yeah, it’s everywhere,’’ said Davis, laughing. “People get on me all the time. But that’s OK.’’

It’s really all pretty simple to Davis. If the Red Claws start winning, and he’s a part of that success, then the NBA will notice.

Early on, while the team continues to struggle, with four consecutive losses, Davis has shown his leadership qualities, often directing players to defensive assignments or giving advice to younger players.

“He’s definitely a leader,’’ said point guard Kenny Hayes. “He’s already got on me for something. I called a head-tap (an offensive play) and he didn’t hear me. He came up to me and told me I had to make sure everyone heard me.’’

The leadership role is something Davis now embraces. While known primarily as a scorer, Davis said his time playing overseas, with different rules and styles, helped him mature as a player and person.

“I went overseas and it definitely humbled my game to an all-around game, as opposed to just scoring and scoring and scoring,’’ he said. “I’m getting in there and was able to do things I didn’t do in the past, make the open play, make the right play. It’s helped me now being 100 percent. I can score and make the right plays.’’

Davis said that despite the rough start, he sees good things in this team.

“As long as we keep believing in each other, we’ll be all right,’’ he said. “We’ve just got to continue to work hard.’’

After three games, Davis is still looking to get into the flow of the Red Claws’ offense. He’s only averaging 5.3 points and two rebounds a game with three steals, a blocked shot and 3.7 assists.

Hayes knows that time will come.

“Once he gets the flow and hang of us,’’ said Hayes, “I think he’s going to be really good.’’

Staff Writer Mike Lowe can be contacted at 791-6422 or at: [email protected]

Twitter: MikeLowePPH