By Rich Levine
I can't wrap my brain around Glen Davis right now.
That's actually a pretty good set up for a joke (I know Doc would take the bait), but this is no laughing matter. This is serious, like KG's face as it's being smashed into the basket support.
I'm sitting here trying to understand why Big Baby said what he did at Celtics Media Day. What he meant. Where his motives lie. And nothing really makes sense.
You know that dizzy, helpless feeling you get after you've spent too much time trying to piece together the plots of the Back to the Future trilogy? (Oh, that's just me?) OK, well, it's beyond frustrating, and that's where I'm at.
Most of the confusion actually stems from a conversation I had with Davis about 10 minutes before the quotes that got all the attention, so before we get to the controversial statement, here's what happened before the cameras arrived and Davis went off.
The question was about his jump shot, which was deadly down the stretch in 2009 but disappeared entirely last season. It's not that Davis lost his touch either; he was just never in a position to use it. But with the addition of Shaq and Jermaine O'Neal, you'd expect this year to be different, so I wanted to know, despite his year-long sabbatical, if he had the jumper ready to go.
"Most definitely," he said. "That was one of my most focal points this summer. Last year, with the addition of Rasheed Wallace I had to go to the five position, but this year we have power at the five position and a lot of guys that can play the forward spots, so I can go back to my natural position where, the year Kevin went out, I really found a groove."
He was upbeat and optimistic, and I didn't blame him.
Last year was a tough one for Davis. He'd found success in this league one way, but the Celtics didn't need that player anymore. They needed him on the block, and for the most part, at least publicly, he never spoke out. He stayed quiet (except for that night in Detroit), sucked it up (not going to make joke about that night in Detroit), and to his credit did a great job. He embraced the change, crashed the boards and probably played harder on a nightly basis than anyone on that team.
But by the end of the season, his frustration was clearly mounting. For some reason, I always remember something Davis said before Game Seven of the Finals in L.A. Perk had already been ruled out, and, whether or not Baby started, he was still in line for a big bump in playing time.
When asked how he'd approach this opportunity, Davis said:
"I'm not a threat out there. And I know I can be a threat. I know what kind of player I am. The Lakers know what kind of player I am, but they really haven't seen me. I haven't hit a lot of jumpers this series. I have hit a lot of jumpers this year. But I can hit an open jumper, and they're giving it to me. I'm gonna be real aggressive. I'm either gonna be aggressive and Doc pulls me out of the game because I'm being too aggressive or I'm gonna be aggressive and hit my shots. I'm not about to sit here, and think about what I should have did. I'm gonna go out do what I should do."
That's a guy who's ready to break out. He felt shackled by his role on last year's team, so in speaking with him on Monday, I wasn't surprised to hear the excitement in his voice as he talked about getting back to his natural position; the place where he found his groove.
I walked around a little bit more, gawked at Shaq for a while, and then left Media Day feeling great about Glen Davis.
Happy. Motivated. Focused.
I got home, and turned on my computer to this:
"I gotta find out what my role is.," Davis told reporters when asked about the O'Neal effect. "With Rasheed last year, I had to become a center. Now? I don't know. Do I become a power forward? Do I go back to playing the 4? We'll see.
"It's difficult because, as a player, you kind of don't understand where the organization is going or what they are doing. No matter what I do I can play great it's still not enough. I'm just here to help the team wherever possible, any way I can. Whenever I find my role, I'll do it to the max, the only way I can."
I don't know. There's so much that doesn't make sense.
First of all, forget for a second that Davis actually does know his role and consider if there's really any question to begin with. Given the roster, how else would he fit in on this team? And given the circumstances, how else should the Celtics have handled the past few seasons? It's not like they asked him to move to center in 2009 and then backup point guard in 2010. He's a power forward who was asked to play center for one season and now, a year later, is being moved back to his natural position. It's that simple. Davis is a role player. That's the way it works. And the truth is, it doesn't matter what position Davis is playing, his role is always the same: Come off the bench and bring energy and rebounding. Sure, there will be times where you are expected to hit some jump shots other times, when you're not. But that's always second priority at best.
OK, now remember that Davis actually does know and understand his role, and ask yourself: "Why did he say it?" Your guess is as good as mine.
Maybe this was just a "Randy Moss at the Podium" moment. Maybe Davis has a lot of pent-up feelings from last season that festered over the summer, and he wanted to get them all out before the season got underway. Like Randy, maybe he got going on an emotional topic, couldn't stop himself and ended up saying way too much, or maybe, like Randy, Baby's just feeling under appreciated and wants a little love. Maybe he's worried about not having a firm identity as he heads into free agency next summer (although, versatile big man has a nice ring to it). Or maybe, as Doc Rivers implied, Davis just likes people talking about him.
If so, mission accomplished. But there's one more far important mission, if he chooses to accept it, on the horizon for Davis this year.
Just play basketball.