Davis’s game is growing on them
Hidden by the ascent of Rajon Rondo and the major contribution of Shaquille O’Neal is the development of Glen “Big Baby’’ Davis. He has been Glen “Grown Man’’ Davis during the Celtics’ 13-game winning streak.
Davis scored in double figures for the 10th time in the last 11 games yesterday, tallying 18 in the Celtics’ 99-88 win over the Pacers at TD Garden, destroying Indiana’s defense with 10 points in the fourth quarter, all on jumpers.
Davis’s jumper has become a primary part of his arsenal, so much so that it’s allowed coach Doc Rivers to increase his minutes and his role in the offense. Davis canned those five jumpers in a 5-minute-30-second span as the Celtics pulled away from the pesky Pacers, and he launched each shot with more confidence.
His numbers this season reflect a more polished and focused player. Sure, Davis still will make Rivers chuckle with his share of bizarre injuries, such as taking a shot to the head yesterday, but he is becoming a more dependable asset.
His contributions yesterday were overshadowed by Paul Pierce’s triple double and the 11-point first quarter spurt by O’Neal. But Davis’s importance to the Celtics cannot be ignored. In hitting 8 of 14 shots, Davis increased his shooting percentage to 50 percent this season. Last season, Davis shot 43.7 percent.
Davis’s increased minutes and activity near the basket have encouraged Rivers to use him as the primary backup to O’Neal and Kevin Garnett, a role he lost last year to Rasheed Wallace. Wallace’s presence affected Davis’s confidence; he felt as if president Danny Ainge had told him he wasn’t good enough to be a dependable sixth man.
But Wallace’s retirement has become an afterthought because of Davis seamlessly accepting the added responsibility.
“The consistency? Yeah, I feel it coming,’’ Davis said in a subdued, reflective voice. “It’s about grabbing it and making something out of it. A lot of people realize things but it’s you [being able to make] a change. You can’t just want to make a change, you have to make a change.
“I want to be a consistent player in this league. Just trying to make my stamp on the game. I’m trying to be more versatile with my game.’’
Rivers has been notoriously hard on Davis, making jokes about his weight even when Davis has trimmed down considerably. Before this summer, Rivers told Davis to take 1,000 jumpers per day and even took a trip to Las Vegas to watch in person.
Davis’s jumper was flat and erratic last season and he often launched it when he had no other recourse. Opponents still haven’t caught on to its increased effectiveness, so he was allowed to release it freely yesterday. And while Pierce was busy distributing down the stretch, Davis took over the scoring load and looked comfortable doing it.
And when he is making shots, the floor completely opens up, because Davis’s post game still is his most feared weapon. Although he is undersized, he uses his bulk to create space and draw fouls. When the jumper is falling, he can bring lumbering centers to the perimeter. Yesterday, it was Roy Hibbert who couldn’t keep up.
“[The jumper] helps, because I can guard the centers, and when you can guard the centers and turn around and stretch the floor out, it helps because they can’t cover from that far. You want Kevin to be the post guy and me to be the popper. We have a team that’s real versatile and can use a lot of guys. And I want to be more versatile.’’
Rivers is finally beginning to replace the wisecracks with compliments. Davis is one of the few young big men he has, and at age 24 he is only going to improve. So respect is due.
Davis is going to bring quirkiness and a fun-loving personality to the table, but his work ethic is unquestioned. He said he took 5,000 shots a day on those sweltering days in Las Vegas, and Rivers nodded in approval.
“Baby, he doesn’t have long arms, and if you remember his first two years, he struggles finishing and still does,’’ Rivers said. “Today he caught Hibbert a couple of times under the basket and couldn’t get to the basket.
“We just told him to take 1,000 shots a day and your game will be from the elbows and the corners. We need you to be efficient offensively and you will be with your jump shot. And he has been.’’
Gary Washburn can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.