Denton: Glen Davis Returns to Action
By John Denton
Nov. 23, 2013
MIAMI – Stitched up over the right eye from a cut that required two stitches and drenched in sweat from 27 minutes that he never expected to play, Orlando Magic power forward Glen ``Big Baby’’ Davis was a surprisingly happy man on Saturday night.
His Orlando Magic had just fallen short against the Miami Heat, losing 101-99 following a LeBron James jump shot in the final 15 seconds, but Davis still had every reason to be beaming in the visitor’s locker room.
Off more than 10 months because of a fractured foot that required two surgical procedures, the always fiery Davis returned to action Saturday night and sent an emotional jolt through his Magic teammates with his grit and determination.
Davis scored 20 points, none bigger than the clutch three-point play over Miami forward Chris Bosh with 37 seconds to play that tied the game at 99-all. James once again broke the Magic’s hearts with a game-winning shot, but nothing was going to ruin what was a stirring night for the 6-foot-9 Davis.
``Being out (almost) 11 months, it’s strain on you mentally and I just thank God because without Him, mentally I would have been broken down,’’ Davis said after Saturday’s game. ``Throughout the whole year there were times when I broke down and was frustrated. I just thank God for letting me put my frustrations out here on the court tonight. That’s what it’s all about.’’
Davis was aggressive throughout and buoyed a Magic offense with this fearlessness attacking the rim. He made seven of 13 shots and six of eight free throws. He refused to come out of the game late in the fourth quarter because of the cut over his eye, instead playing with a bandage over the eyebrow.
Even though Davis had been out since last January, the fight and spirit that the veteran power forward played with throughout surprised no one on the Magic’s roster.
``He knows how to play. It’s not like he hasn’t been preparing,’’ Magic veteran point guard Jameer Nelson said. ``He’s been doing an exceptional job of getting himself back into shape. He’s in good shape. So there was no doubt that he couldn’t play the amount of minutes that he played. And he played them well, and I expected him to do that.’’
Added Magic guard Arron Afflalo: ``Glen’s been healthy awhile now and he’s been playing in practice, so it’s not like he just jumped in there. Knowing Glen, his intensity is always up. So I don’t think the intensity of the game made him overexert himself. I thought he played extremely well tonight. Twenty points and five rebounds in his first game, that’s really impressive.’’
Davis entered Saturday’s game with 4 minutes remaining in the first period, and had an immediate impact. He buried two jumpers and then had a running hook shot over Miami shot-blocker Chris Anderson as the shot clock expired. He showed no sign of fatigue late in the game and had 11 points and four rebounds in the second half alone. Maybe it was even more impressive that the performance came against the mighty Heat.
``I wouldn’t want to come back against no other team; this was a great game to come back and play,’’ Davis said with a wide smile. ``I’m just happy to be back, whether we played the NBA champs or if we played the Pelicans or something. I’m just happy to play basketball and show the world that I can contribute to a team. I’m just happy that I’m back.’’
Upon returning to practice this past week, Davis quietly worried how his body and reactions would respond to being back. But soon after getting back on the floor, Davis’ nerves were calmed by his ability to seamlessly fall back into the game he’s played since he was a child. He said the soreness in his body actually was welcomed and he knew he was fully back with the first bone-jarring screen that he set to free up a teammate on the offensive end of the floor.
``I’ve been doing this all my life. Yeah, I’ve had some rusty moments, but my feeling as far as how to play the game is still there,’’ Davis said. I still have that passion to win.’’
Davis’ performance in practice was good enough for the Magic to activate him Saturday night. He worked out with the team on Monday and Tuesday and again on Thursday and Friday, and assured head coach Jacque Vaughn that he was ready to play.
The Magic got Davis back at a time when they are about to enter their toughest stretch of games of the season. Orlando hosts Phoenix on Sunday at 6 p.m. at the Amway Center. The Magic then play in Atlanta on Tuesday and host the Philadelphia (Wednesday) and San Antonio (Friday).
Davis fractured the fifth metatarsal in his left foot on Jan. 30 early in a loss in New York and soon after had surgery to repair the bone. A second procedure was needed in July to stabilize the bone and it knocked Davis out of training camp and the preseason. But he impressed Vaughn with his play in practice this week.
``My nature is to put guys back on the floor when they have a certain comfort and a rhythm level,’’ Vaughn said. ``I wouldn’t even consider putting him out there or activating him if I didn’t feel he hadn’t practiced well or responded well after practice.’’
Davis said that while there are some nerves, his excitement over returning trumped any jitters he might be experiencing. He said all of the waiting and remaining patient while the bone in his foot healed was the hardest part of the time away from basketball.
``I’ve been waiting a long time. Whatever my teammates need me to do that’s what I’m here to do. It’s exciting for me,’’ he said. ``It’s been a process and you’ve got to let your body heal and make sure that you do the necessary things to get back on the court. And here we are.’’
Davis was in the midst of a career year last season – he was averaging career highs in points, rebounds, assists and minutes played – before suffering a shoulder injury and then the season-ending foot injury. He played a pivotal role in the Magic getting off to a surprising 12-13 start last season, but the team’s defense fell off dramatically after the rugged power forward went down injured. Getting him back healthy should be a boon for Orlando’s defense, Vaughn said.
``He does a little bit of everything,’’ Vaughn said. ``He gives you an immediate toughness when he’s in the game. And then his knowledge of where to be and where to help his teammates. Each guy needs each other and (Davis) is a guy that you can depend on, especially on the defensive end of the floor.’’
Davis worked diligently in the past couple of months to shed weight in order to lighten the load on his surgically repaired foot. He reported on Saturday that there was no pain in the foot during the Magic practices. As far as how many minutes he can handle, Davis cracked ``whatever minutes that (Vaughn) gives me, I’ll take it.’’
He also stressed that just simply being back around his teammates and able to once again contribute to the Magic takes a major weight off of him. Davis stressed that he’s the happiest when he on the basketball court.
``One thing that is at home with me is being on the court,’’ he said. ``No matter what is going on or how everything is, being on the court helps me.
``I’m lighter as far as my weight and my body feels great,’’ he continued. ``The training staff and the strength coach have done the best job possible to get me back on the floor. Hopefully (conditioning) won’t be a major issue.’’
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