ORLANDO, Fla. — Glen Davis began 2013 with his left shoulder in a sling. He ended it looking as if his head had been placed in a vise.
Unlike Nikola Vucevic, Davis was fine physically Tuesday night after the Orlando Magic suffered a 94-81 loss to the Golden State Warriors. The pain was more of the mental variety as he ached to find the right words to describe his level of frustration.
It hurt to see Vucevic limp off in the first quarter with a recurrence of the sprained left ankle he came down with earlier in the month. It hurt to end a six-game homestand in the same manner it began, by shooting less than 40 percent and being held to a score in the low 80s.
But it was more than that to Davis, who finished with only 10 points and three rebounds — numbers which won’t suffice should Vucevic be lost for an extended length of time.
"There’s a lot of learning to do. There’s so much learning to do," he said. "I feel like we make steps and then we take steps backward. That’s everybody in every direction."
The Magic, which had thrived in victories over Detroit and Atlanta by getting points in the paint in bunches, settled for too many jump shots even when Vucevic was still on the floor. That included Arron Afflalo, whose run of six games with more than 20 points came to a grinding halt.
Despite getting not much in the way of 3-point shooting from either Stephen Curry or Klay Thompson, the Warriors firmly established command by halftime.
"We were pretty fortunate that they only made six 3s," Magic coach Jacque Vaughn said. "They had a lot of good looks early that they could have made and normally make. It is a different style that we normally don’t see. But you’ve got to give them credit for playing the way they do."
The Magic were outrebounded 42-23 through three quarters before Warriors coach Mark Jackson gave his starters the rest of the game off. The margin was all too reminiscent of what took place when the Magic went 0-4 without Vucevic and were soundly whipped on the glass in all of those losses.
"Obviously he’s a guy that helps us out a lot on the floor," said forward Tobias Harris, who pulled down a team-high nine rebounds but missed nine of 11 shots. "But as a team, if he goes down, we’ve got to pick each other up and still play ball. That’s basketball. That’s the NBA."
"Nik’s a big part of this team," Davis said. "We’re just going to have to make it work. It sucks, but injuries happen."
Davis knows that all too well. The sprained shoulder from last December was followed a month later by a fractured left foot which prevented him from playing in a game again until Nov. 23 at Miami.
Those setbacks, compounded by a 4-11 record over the past month, caused the veteran forward to speak his mind, albeit in somewhat hushed tones.
"Teams that are at the bottom of the totem pole, they always practice bad habits," Davis said. "The level of consistency is not there. If we’re going to be a team that’s going to grow and one day be something, there’s no more moral victories, no more mistakes. Be there. Accountability, everywhere — from the coach, from everybody. And that’s what has to happen for us to be a team to be, ‘OK, we’ll take the Magic seriously.’
"This is not Disney World, you know what I mean? People think this is Disney World when they come here (and we’re) 10-21. Yeah, the East sucks, but at the same time, we haven’t been competing at all when the East is sucking."
The conference has only three teams with winning records, and the Magic have beaten one of them twice (Atlanta). Yet they’ve struggled to make any sort of headway.
"At the end of the day, we’ve got to stay tough and understand," Davis said. "I feel like sometimes we get bored with the journey. It’s a tough process. You can’t get bored with the journey, can’t get bored with the process, what we’re trying to do. That’s it."
At least that’s it for 2013. The journey through the year ahead can’t be any rougher.