Denton: Davis Resembling a True Leader
By John Denton
October 23, 2012
ORLANDO – Watch Glen "Big Baby’’ Davis play this preseason and he looks like a leader on the court what with the way he’s carried the offense for long stretches so far.
Watch Davis working with the younger players, leading the way in drills and encouraging others along the bench with his Teddy Bear-like, gregarious nature, and again he looks every bit like the leader the Magic hoped he would become.
Finally, at long last, it seems as if ``Big Baby’’ is all grown up.
Finally given the chance to lead a team on the floor and in the locker room, Davis has held himself to higher standards than he’s ever lived up to before. He’s even wondered himself if he’d ever fulfill his massive potential and become the type of player that the new-look Magic could count on to be a steady force night-in and night out.
``What can he do when someone gives him the opportunity?’’ asked Davis, whose Magic (2-4) face the Grizzlies (3-3) in Memphis on Wednesday night. ``Through my whole career I’ve managed to stay relevant in some type of way. I just thank God for the opportunity. I know the ups and downs that come with it, but in my path I’ve had a lot of influential people show me the way and make me understand what it’s going to take. I’ve seen it and now it’s time to go out there and walk the walk.’’
``Walk the walk,’’ has been a key phrase for Davis as he prepared to lead the Magic into this season. The loveable and loquacious power forward has never had a problem talking a good game what with his charismatic nature and ability to make others around him laugh. But it’s backing up that bold talk with actions where he has stumbled from time to time in his NBA career.
But this preseason has a much different look and feel to it as it concerns Davis. His 18.8 points a game lead the Magic, while his 6.8 rebounds are second on the team. He’s taking good shots and shooting 54.4 percent from the floor. And rather than settling for too many jumpers, he’s attacking bigger centers and getting to the free throw line an average of eight times a game in the preseason so far.
And he’s been equally impressive off the floor while working with rookie power forwards Andrew Nicholson and Kyle O’Quinn and second-year centers Nikola Vucevic and Gustavo Ayon. Magic rookie head coach Jacque Vaughn likes to say he could care less about Davis’ sometimes rocky past and is only looking ahead to what the 6-foot-9, 290-pounder will accomplish in the coming weeks and months.
``The great thing is Glen’s past with me is the present. When you say past with him, I have no idea what that was,’’ Vaughn said. ``The day that I introduced myself to Glen was the day that our relationship started.
``He’s been great in practice and great in the games,’’ Vaughn continued. ``He’s really giving a consistent effort on both ends of the floor. We’ll continue to have conversations about his leadership. He’s a big part of what we do and we have young bigs in our locker room, so not only his presence big on the floor, but also on the bench and in the locker room while he’s around the guys. It’s a lot to ask of one individual, but the impression that I got was that he wanted to shoulder that responsibility so I’m going to give it to him.’’
Davis’ motivation for the season ahead is unlike any other because he is in a position now where much is being expected of him for the first time in his career. In Boston for his first four years in the NBA, Davis was mostly buried behind Kevin Garnett, P.J. Brown and Leon Powe.
He came to Orlando last season hoping to finally earn a starting job, but he was beaten out by sweet-shooting power forward Ryan Anderson. That demotion behind Anderson threw him into a loop for the first three months of last season, so much so that at one point Davis said he couldn’t wait for the season to be over so he could start anew. He was once booed and his temper repeatedly bubbled over with former head coach Stan Van Gundy.
But when Dwight Howard went down with a back injury that required season-ending surgery, Davis stepped in and played some of the best basketball of his career. He averaged a double-double over the last month of the regular season and then led the team in the playoffs against the Indiana Pacers by averaging 19 points and 9.2 rebounds in five postseason games.
The question, of course, is can Davis do the same thing over the course of a full season? It’s a question he’s repeatedly asked himself as a way of motivation.
``You've seen glimpses. You’ve seen the playoffs. You’ve seen me in a roll when I’m told to just play and nobody is telling me when to shoot. Nobody’s telling you to do this or that, only to go out there and be you,’’ he said with conviction.
``You’ve seen glimpses and now it’s an opportunity to see a whole different human being,’’ Davis continued. ``I can’t predict the future, but I know right now that I’m going to do everything that it takes to be that guy. Accepting the good and bad criticism, holding players accountable, not being complacent and making sure we as players are doing everything the coaches ask of us. That’s my oath to this team.’’
Strong words indeed, but Davis said he is mentally and physically up to the task this season for the Magic. He feels that Orlando can be much better than the experts think in large part of the chemistry that exists between Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, Hedo Turkoglu and himself. Davis and Redick have already proven themselves to be Orlando’s most lethal duo this preseason what with the way they have expertly run the pick-and-roll time and again to pick teams apart.
Through five preseason games, Davis has scored at least 13 points in every game. He was especially good against Cleveland and Indiana, battering Anderson Varejao and Roy Hibbert for 27 and 21 points. Those matchups against bigger players and ones who are considered elite defenders have only proven to stoke Davis’ competitive fire.
``Every time I play (someone like Hibbert) I’m trying to go hard. That’s against anybody who is on that level that I’m trying to get to,’’ Davis said. ``I want to be a part of that elite group. And the only way to do that is to come in here every day and approach the game with a sense of urgency and do like Jacque says, walk the walk.’’
Vaughn has taken note of that bond between Davis and Redick and plans to incorporate it heavily into the offense this season.
``They really understand where each other is going to be,’’ Vaughn said. ``They’re unselfish with one another, which bodes well because the guy who is unselfish setting the back screen might get the shot. It’s no coincidence because they’ve done it over and over this preseason. It’s something that I have to be aware of as a coach with the minutes and rotations and utilize that (pick-and-roll play). They do have a great connection on the floor.’’
And Davis has a great connection to this team because of the opportunity ahead of him. He realizes that it’s not often in the NBA that a player is given a chance to be the leading scorer, given a chance to be the leader around the younger players and given a chance to be a go-to guy a team depends on. In some ways, Davis knows it’s like a now-or-never proposition for him in the NBA.
``You think about how many chances you get at an opportunity to do something like this? You’ve got to seize the moment,’’ he said. ``I’ve been around the league for a few years now and I’ve seen a lot of great players play and I know what to do and what is takes to win. So I know the dos and the don’ts. This is my opportunity and I’m letting it all hang out.’’
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John Denton writes for OrlandoMagic.com. John has covered the Magic since 1997. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @JohnDenton555.
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