Posted Oct 14 2009 7:15PM
At one point or another, it seemed that the summertime rumor mill had Glen Davis linked with almost every other team in the NBA.
San Antonio, New Orleans, Detroit, to name a few. Every morning he could wake up and stick another pin into the map and begin to plot out the next stop in his career.
"It's just the way it is with free agency," said the 6-foot-9 forward. "In one way, a lot of things are out of your hands and you could end up starting over. But all along, the place that I wanted to be was right back here with the Boston Celtics.
"I think it's pretty natural for any athlete to want to stay with the team that brought you into the league and gave you that chance. In my case, this is where I was part of a championship in my rookie season. This is where I think I can contribute to more. Just wearing the Celtics jersey is something that feels comfortable."
Davis will have to fit even more comfortably into that jersey in order to earn all of the $6 million in his new contract, due to a weight clause in the two-year deal. Last season, he was listed at 289 pounds.
"It's not something I'm thinking about," Davis said. "They'll tell me the time and the place when I have to step on the scale and that's when we'll take care of that. It's a lot of money, so I have a lot of motivation. But it's not something that I can't do. I've been putting in the work."
The efforts have not gone unnoticed by the Celtics, who significantly added to their depth on the front line during the offseason with free agent signings of Rasheed Wallace and Shelden Williams and also have Brian Scalabrine splitting time at both forward spots.
It's not just a matter of there being a little less of "Big Baby" physically, but also evidence that he's giving more mentally.
"I guess part of it is just that all young guys grow up and you hope they mature," said Coach Doc Rivers. "I don't know if he is more motivated, but it seems Baby came to camp with more of an understanding of what it takes to keep getting better, to be successful."
Being in better shape when camp opened was the jumpstart Davis needed.
"His conditioning and his subtle weight loss has allowed him to move his feet again," Rivers said. "I thought one thing Baby did well last year was he made shots. But to me he took a huge step back in his foot movement and his rebounding. In the playoffs he didn't get many rebounds. The Rashard Lewises and the [Hedo] Turkoglus beat him off the dribble. He learned that last summer and came into camp in very good shape and he's been doing a very good job defensively."
Part of Davis' offseason regimen included hand-to-hand combat training in Boston and Houston. It helped him in the striving to become more nimble.
"I had to work on my footwork if I'm going to become a great player," Davis said. "It's something that I talked to Doc about and something that he really wanted me to concentrate on. It's what we need on this team, guys who not only score, but can rebound and can play defense and do all the things for the team. It's a lot about doing things with my head, concentrate, trying to think, trying to find my niche on this team."
With Kevin Garnett sidelined by his knee injury, Davis moved into the starting lineup and played more than 36 minutes a game for the Celtics in the playoffs, averaging 15.8 points and 5.6 rebounds. He was not at all shy about his offense and, of course, his 18-foot jumper to beat the clock gave the Celtics a 95-94 win in Game 4 against Orlando, evening the series at 2-2.
Davis is now back to coming off the bench and through the Celtics' first four preseason games averaged 10 points and 4.8 rebounds in 22.5 minutes. His longest stint was 27 minutes at New Jersey with 18 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocked shots.
"The thing is, they know that I can play," Davis said. "They know that I'm versatile. They know I can shoot. They know I can pass. They know I can do a lot of things. But as far as being consistent in the way that I condition myself, that's one thing I knew I had to improve. I took it upon myself to be in the best shape possible. That will give me a chance to play and that will give me a chance to excel.
"I think I'm past the point of having to prove that I belong in the league and that I can play in the league. Now it's about just playing the game and doing anything I can to get us back to winning another championship.
"Last year taught me that you have to be prepared for anything. We were the defending champs and then K.G. goes down and I had to step up in the playoffs. Hopefully, that doesn't happen and everybody's healthy all year. But you never know what's around the corner.
"Last year I wasn't ready. I didn't come into camp in shape. I didn't have the right discipline. Now I want to be ready for anything."
With less Big Baby stepping onto the scale and more stepping onto the court.
Fran Blinebury has covered the NBA since 1977. You can e-mail him here.
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